Three phases of the Electric driven vehiclePhase 3: The FutureSo, where next? Whats happening over the next few years inthe world of Electric Cars?The truth is - nobody seems to really know! A LOT OF PEOPLEwant the Electric Car to succeed for all sorts of reasons - reducedcarbon emissions, we are running out of oil etc.The problem is - battery technology and overall infrastructureseems to need to come a long way before the Electric Car isseen in any great numbers around the Cities and Country roads. That much said, there are quite a few plans for All-Electric Vehicles and plug in Hybrids like the Prius which you cannot plug in at the moment) and almost all from mainstream manufacturers. You know - I really cant see into my crystal ball very clearly! We seem to be in a world of "marketing hype" - stuff made up to sound good and get people all excited over stuff thats not there and may never be made. They seem to have a future - except we wont really see how it pans out until years have come and gone. My guess is that people who drive Toyota Priuss at themoment will switch to plug-in versions when they come out.But, in the meantime I think that hopefully Electric Vans for city deliveries andElectric Bicycles will be the majority of what we see around with a growing numberof electric cars like the Nissan LEAF or PHEVs.UNTIL ... Oil starts to REALLY jump back up in price and people stop driving LONG distances. But still need somesort of city transport. Maybe then ... the time of the Electric Car will have really arrived!
Tapping the earth’s greatest free energy source, the sunThe main exciting thing that struck me about solar electric cars is the great races that they have. Solar electriccar racing is all over the globe but the two biggest are in Australia and North AmericaWhen I heard about these races I knew that there had to be optimism for a solar powered car as the whole pointin racing is improving what you have and working long and hard to get an edge over the competition. I thinkthat that’s the kind of thing that leads to breakthroughs, so there’s plenty of hope for the future of solar electriccars! Can I buy one? There aren’t any purely solar powered cars out there to buy commercially at the moment. Heaps are beingmade but it’s more of a DIY electric car job for enthusiasts.Venturi has solar panels on their Astrolab and Eclectic cars. The Astrolab is supposed to be a sports car and theeclectic is more of a golf cart than a car but it’s great that you can get it in the first place! They both howeverarent available to buy yet.You can get a solar panel for your Zap Xebra as an extra but that’s only to add a small bit of range and it can’trely fully on it. They’ll also be available on the new Toyota Prius, but only to power the air conditioning!Is the range good enough?At the moment it’s nowhere near where it needs to be. It could be used as an add-on to your electric car to get abit more range but unless you’re a die-hard solar power fanatic you probably won’t be driving a fully solarpowered car anytime soon. One thing I thought was interesting was the idea of having solar panels at home andcharging from that.Are they fast? The ones designed for racing can travel faster than 60 mph (lets be honest its not a 120mph electric car thatwould burn up a track but its pretty good for solar power) but the solar panels on those cars cost so much you’dprobably need to put a second mortgage on your house! Most fully solar vehicles are pretty slow as the amountof energy they get isn’t the greatest at the moment, which is part of the reason that they’re so slick and strangelooking so that they can minimise the wind resistance.Why should I get a solar car?Well the main reason would be technically free completely clean energy from the sun! You could argue that themanufacture of the solar cells damages the environment but that’s nowhere near as much as what a petrol cardoes in its lifetime and they are working on improving it too. Even just having a solar panel on your electric carto give it a small boost is one of the great advantages of electric car that will definitely pay you back over time sowhy not?I think a great thing for the future from what I’ve researched would be to have solar panels on the roofs ofbuildings in towns and houses all over the country and have your electric car charge from that energy. This wayyou won’t have to deal with the weight or air resistance of a solar panel and it can be placed to get the bestenergy from the sun possible. Otherwise solar powered cars are still pretty much a DIY job but who knows what breakthroughs are aroundthe corner!
Conclusion: are electric cars the future?A view from the UKIt is the next big bet of the motor industry.Nissans commitment to producing an all-electric family car - and from 2013 manufacturing it in Britain - showsthat electric is firmly the future of motoring. But only part of the future.The Nissan Leaf, initially produced in Japan, is expected to hit British showrooms next March.That is expected to be three months or so later than the first mass-produced electric cars arrive on UKforecourts: the Peugeot iOn and the Citroen C-Zero which are expected to go on sale by December atWhat makes the Leaf different - apart from the fact that it will be partly British - is the volume that Nissanexpects to produce, and the size of the car.The Peugeot and Citroen models - essentially identical cars as they have the same French owner - are very muchpitched at being a small runaround for the city. The Leaf is aiming at the small family market.And while PSA - Peugeot and Citroens owner - says it will look at producing around 15,000 vehicles a yearinitially, Nissan is aiming at many as 60,000 units a year by 2012.When Nissans Sunderland factory starts firing up in three years’ time, 50,000 Leafs a year could be British built.But will all-electric be the winning new car technology of the future?Enough of the worlds major car manufacturers are pouring investment into hybrid technology to suggest aninteresting battle during the next ten years.Despite its recent problems, Toyota has proved with the Prius that petrol-electric is a flexible option that mayattract far more of the market.All electric cars have a range of up to 100 miles. Hybrids can run on electric in town and then get on themotorway to Scotland with a full tank of petrol. General Motors is also going down the hybrid rather than the all-electric route.If green is the issue for many consumers, some manufacturers argue that neither all-electric nor hybrid isactually the answer.The nirvana for smaller cars is to market them with carbon dioxide emissions of less than 100g/km. Somecarmakers argue that there are still so many efficiencies to be found in the production of the combustion engineand the design of cars that conventional diesel or petrol-fed cars could in the future be easily marketed asenvironmentally-friendly.And will consumers wear the cost of all-electric?Industry estimates suggest that an all-electric car with its expensive lithium-ion battery will cost up £25,000 evenafter Government incentive subsidies of £5000.
The manufacturers say the cars would effectively retail at the equivalent of the customer paying £500 a month -not so different to the running costs of a conventional motor when you factor in the cost of fuel, vehicle taxationand other expenses.But then there is the problem of how you "fill up" your electric car. Easy if you pop it on the charger in your owngarage. But these electric cars will initially be targeted at city dwellers which generally do not have such a luxury.What will be needed and what is envisaged is electric connection points on the corner of streets, or in car parksor at supermarkets. None of this infrastructure currently exists and it will need the political will and investment tomake it happen.Ultimately, reality dictates that there will need to be a mix of car technologies in the future.It is a plain fact that if in 20 years we are all running around in all-electric cars, then we simply will not be ableto produce enough electricity to power the cars.We would have to build many, many more power stations and probably have to start burning more coal in powergenerators to feed the demand for all this electricity. How green would your green car be then?The future of motoring is all-electric. And it is hybrid, and until the worlds oil reserves run out some time at theend of the century, it will also be conventional, albeit cleaner, petrol and diesel.The fun (and the pain) for the motor industry in the coming decade is the question of which particulartechnologies prove most popular.