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Is The Future of Cars Electric?

We’ve been told that the future is bright; we’ve even been told that the future is orange, but when it comes to cars is the future electric? Should we be turning our backs on the increasingly old-school petrol driven cars and be fully embracing electric cars so as to future-proof ourselves?

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It isn’t uncommon for the US to lead the way when it comes to technology, and particularly California. The home base of the behemoth Google, not to mention the hundreds and thousands of start-ups in Silicon Valley, when it comes to the future Californians should know their tablet-form onions. And if you’re looking to California for guidance then the suggestions are that electric cars are very much the next step.
Charging stations and points for electric cars have been a common sighting in The Golden State for some time, but earlier this month the region took the next step. The first public EV charging station that supports all models of electric vehicles has now opened in San Diego, all the more reason to buy an electric car. The charge point, located at the Fashion Valley Mall, can charge the batteries of cars that operate on any of the three existing connection systems to about 80 per cent in around 20 minutes.

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In the UK, charging points remain few and far between and for the most point limited to slow performing charging stations dotted around the big cities. If you drive around London regularly then you’ll have a lot less trouble keeping your car charged than you will in North Yorkshire say, where you’ll have to cross your fingers that you can make it from York to Scarborough in one charge.
The plus point, I suppose, is that our concerns have shifted from the vehicles themselves to how to keep them running. Thanks to celebrity endorsements and a greater range being produced by manufacturers, electric cars are no longer the concept fads they were once supposed to be. Just this year the BMW has gone all guns blazing with UK television advertising to herald the arrival of their i8 and i3 vehicles. Neither comes cheap, but they each mark a significant departure from the staid conservative nature of the Toyota Prius.
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As more vehicles come on to the market, an electric future on the road appears to be inevitable, although not quite a here and now solution. If you live out in the country then you may want to hang fire before putting all your eggs in a snazzy new electro-basket to save being stuck on a darkened ‘B’ road in the middle of the night, but if you’re in the city then perhaps the time has come to embrace the electric car future.

This article was written by guest blogger Hiten Solanki

Toyota INSECT Unveiled at Consumer Electronics Show

Toyota recently unveiled a new concept car at CEATEC 2012, Japan’s largest consumer electronics show.  The INSECT is a single passenger EV but might better be thought of as a very capable smartphone on wheels.  The concept car facilitates and integrates very practical applications such as the ability to recommend a restaurant or turn on your home air conditioning system in anticipation of your arrival.  By utilizing Microsoft’s Kinect technology, facial and body movements will prompt a greeting by flashing the front lights and opening the door as you approach.  Current battery technology limits this car from moving beyond a concept, but it certainly provides a great starting point for discussion about the future of consumer electronics in vehicles.

Traditionally, consumers compare power, carrying capacity and fuel efficiency within a given price range.  By creating this concept, Toyota may have recognized a consumer flashpoint.  As people spend more time in their cars, their need to be connected while in their vehicles will grow and the weight placed on a car’s integration of mobile devices may significantly increase.  In fact, the average British motorist now spends three full years of their life driving.   That is an astounding amount of time spent behind the wheel.

By 2016, it is predicted that roughly 50 percent of new vehicles sold globally will be connected to the internet.  There are of course a number of challenges to consider.

  • Currently there is no single industry standard system for integrating mobile devices into a vehicle.
  • Should manufacturers strive for internet in the car or car in the internet by integrating the car into the cloud?
  • How can consumer electronics be incorporated ergonomically and without compromising driver safety?

Learn about these and other issues at the 6th International Conference on Consumer Electronics 4 Vehicles, 28-30 January in Stuttgart, Germany.

For more information about Toyota’s INSECT click here


Will Hornick is the Managing Editor of Automotive IQ

“Electric vehicles will be a force to reckon with by 2015”

The headline above is a statement of a report conducted by Frost and Sullivan, a global technology consulting major, in 2010 to determine what the state of affairs will be in a few years from now in the automobile industry. Now, that’s a bold statement. Although the incentives for developing technologies that bring EVs into the mainstream are many, the hurdles have always seemed simply too overwhelming to overcome.

Electric Vehicles Will Become Connected Vehicles

Now it appears as though someone has waved a magic wand powerful enough to turn the automobile industry, worth billions of dollars annually, on its head. We didn’t have to look too far to locate the wand. It is right there in the same report and is called ‘telematics’. Telematics is an application of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) to automobiles. Let’s have a look at how telematics is set to change the industry norms by reengineering electric vehicles into connected vehicles.

Connected Vehicles and the Fuel Crisis

The world is facing a fossil fuel crisis. The facts are obvious. These fuels take millions of years to replenish themselves. But since our demand for these fuels is increasing, we may run out of supply by the next century. As scarcity increases and wars are waged for the control of fuel, prices are skyrocketing and consumers are bearing the brunt.

The average man is finding their fossil fuel powered car increasingly expensive and longs for a more affordable solution. Moreover, burning fossil fuels is as bad for the environment as it is for the wallet. The pollution that such fuel causes is a big source of carbon emissions, which is responsible for the gaping hole in the ozone layer becoming even larger. There are both fiscal and environmental imperatives to coming up with a solution.

Electric vehicles were touted as a possible replacement for fossil fuel driven cars. But the first attempt to commercialize them failed miserably for the following reasons:

Range anxiety:
The customers were clueless with regard to how far they could go with their vehicles. These vehicles did have a limit to how far they could be driven. Based on their capacity, they were termed as neighborhood, city, all terrain or performance vehicles. Moreover, the driver was uncertain as to how long they could travel before the charge would be over and they would become immobile.

Charging difficulties and time:
The infrastructure for charging these vehicles was, and still is, abysmal. There was a lack of information about the location and availability of charging points. Moreover, the time taken for charging was too long. What to do if you were in a hurry? Even if you were at home, you had to ensure that you put the vehicle to charge and this could be a problem in case of unexpected trips or if you were not really disciplined or organized in your schedule.

There was an electrical battery on board and the driver had no information about how the engine was functioning. Since the technology was very new, people feared that they might be electrocuted in their vehicles.

Bulky batteries:
The size of these batteries was huge, further limiting their fuel efficiency and therefore their range. The size of these batteries has significantly reduced today and the problem is almost solved.

But if you consider the fact that adding more range to these vehicles still entails incremental costs, you will know why the development of telematics is so important. Since you cannot go very long on a single charge, the charging mechanism simply has to be made more efficient.

The Big Solution in Electronics

Telematics is capable of eliminating virtually all of these issues, which have crippled the successful commercial application of EVs. Let’s see how connected vehicles deliver cheap and environment friendly solutions to the world.

Find out more about Wireless Technology as an Antidote to Range Anxiety by downloading the pdf-document here.

Electric vehicles complete a 27.000km emission-free round-the-world tour

Members of Swiss team Zerotracer in front of the United Nations (UN) offices in Geneva, after they completed a 27,000 km round the world trip. Electric vehicles from Australia, Germany and Switzerland completed a pioneering 27,000 kilometre “emissions free” round-the-world trip on Thursday, after 188 days on the road and at sea.

Electric vehicles from Australia, Germany and Switzerland completed a pioneering 27,000 kilometre “emissions free” round-the-world trip on Thursday, after 188 days on the road and at sea.

The three-wheeler dubbed “TREV” from Adelaide, a German electric scooter and a “Monotracer” high-tech motorcycle glided silently into the UN’s European headquarters about six months after they headed eastwards around the world.

Organiser Louis Palmer, a Swiss schoolteacher who made headlines with his 18-month pioneering world tour in a solar-powered “taxi” three years ago, said the three experimental vehicles spent 80 days on the road.

“We made it around the world in 80 days, we made it back here after 17 countries and 29,000 kilometres. We can’t believe it,” the clean car champion said.

The UN-backed “Zero Race” stopped off at the World Climate Conference in Cancun, Mexico last December, after touring through Europe, Russia, China, Canada and the United States, before heading back through Morocco and Spain about a month behind schedule.

“This shows what we are trying to preach, that it can be done. Cars powered by clean renewable energy can be as effective as petrol-driven vehicles but without emissions,” said Sylvie Motard of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

However, the crews admitted they sometimes had trouble charging the vehicles even if they avoided major breakdowns.

“It was very hard in some places, certainly for our team members in Russia China,” said Alexandra James, one of the 12 volunteers who took their turn driving the bright green Australian two-seater TREV.

“They were wiring straight into the power supply in certain situations because it was the only way to get a reliable power source — it was a challenge,” James, a manager at the South Australia Technology Industry Association, told AFP.

“We had to visit a lot of interesting places — the fire stations have been fantastic.”

With some grid supplies on their way potentially being generated by high carbon sources such as coal, each team bought as much power as they consumed from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power, to claim an emissions-free tour.

TREV — also Two Seater Renewable Energy Vehicle — was built by students at the University of South Australia and will carry on as an education tool.

James and Christine Haydon, an electronics teacher at Tafe Regency Park college, took on the last leg from Morocco, six months after 57 year-old Adelaide electrical engineer Jason Jones and his son set out from Geneva.

“We all work full time, so we had to take on legs with a team of 12 people. That way everyone got to drive,” said Haydon.

One of the biggest problems turned out to be the South Australia licence plate – just TREV — especially with Russian border guards.

“We had a lot of trouble with the number plate because people around the world want to have numbers and when we didn’t have numbers it was a problem,” said James.

(c) 2011 AFP

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