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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

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Fuel Cells Are Back in the News…Are They Here to Stay?

A few years ago, the major car manufacturers were all bringing fuel cell concept cars to the auto show circuit. There was a lot of excitement in the press and amongst consumers. The environmental benefits and potential of having a car that achieved great fuel efficiency without the need for a long recharge was attractive. And then, suddenly those concept cars disappeared from the public eye.

However, universities and car companies were still at it. One of the most interesting concepts is to use a hydrogen fuel cell as part of a hybrid electric vehicle. By utilizing a fuel cell, the hybrid would run clean even when it is not running on battery and fill up times would be comparable to a traditional car. By utilizing this range extender concept, the expensive and sizeable battery of a pure EV would be unnecessary which would dramatically reduce the cost of an alternative powertrain.

Automotive IQ recently performed a market survey to determine whether the auto industry thinks fuel cells are viable as a range extender concept. 80% of respondents said yes. Below is a graphic representing the timeframe that respondents believe is likely for fuel cells to achieve a significant market share. To view the full results of our survey click here.

When will fuel cells gain market share?

 

Will Hornick is the Managing Editor of Automotive IQ

Tesla Model S Not So Super in East Coast Winter Weather?

Browsing through the NY Times’ Automobiles section, a review of Tesla’s Model S 416 hp supercar caught my attention. Tesla has been very successful on the West Coast of the Unites States in implementing a network of charging stations for its attractive looking electric vehicles. Recently, Tesla has opened up its Supercharger stations on the East Coast along a stretch of the I-95 corridor between Washington and Boston. Given how well the system is working out West, this seemed like a logical next step for improving electric vehicle charging infrastructures.

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

The test did not go so well for NY Times writer John M. Broder. In the below freezing temperatures of an East Coast winter day, the lithium-ion battery powered vehicle did not reach its EPA rated 265 miles/per charge leaving the test driver no option but to turn off the heater and drive 10 mph under the speed limit. Later in the trip, the car needed the assistance of a tow truck to get to the next closest charging point.

The article was published on February 8th to almost immediate criticism and controversy. Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, Tweeted that the article was a ‘Fake’ and accused the author of not charging the car to its max, taking a long detour and driving at high speed and vowing to publish the vehicle data logs of the journey (Tesla claims that it does not log data on its customers without their written permission but for all media test drives they turn on the feature).

Mr. Broder responded with an article rebutting the claims of the Tesla CEO. His “long detour” was apparently a brief stop in Manhattan that added 2 miles to his journey.  The author admitted that he did not keep the partially-charged car plugged in overnight on his trip not realizing the effect that the cold weather would have on the battery. Mr. Broder wrote,
 “This evaluation was intended to demonstrate its practicality as a “normal use,” no-compromise car, as Tesla markets it. Now that Tesla is striving to be a mass-market automaker, it cannot realistically expect all 20,000 buyers a year (the Model S sales goal) to be electric-car acolytes who will plug in at every Walmart stop.”

Regardless of the outcome of the data logs, what is clear is that this 416 hp supercar cannot be driven like a BMW M5 if you still expect to arrive at your destination in one go. It also puts the spotlight on the challenges that exist for lithium-ion batteries. Increasing their range per charge is an important issue that will help determine how successful the current generation of EVs will be at gaining a share of the automobile market. Another factor is their cost – much of which comes from the battery pack as the production process of lithium-ion batteries is still not completely automated or optimized for high quantities.

Original article from the NY Times: Click Here

Response from Mr. Broder: Click Here

If you are interested in learning more about battery production for EVs and HEVs, Automotive IQ interviewed a German expert in production management. To read the interview, click here.

We are also hosting a conference on Smart EV and HEV Battery Production from April 22-24, 2013.

Find out more information about the conference and access lots of free relevant content by following this link

Will Hornick is the Managing Editor of Automotive IQ

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