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What if the Electric Cars Don’t Have to Plug in Anymore?

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What if the Electric Cars Don’t Have to Plug in Anymore?

OK to UnPlug shade

The electric cars are the next hot thing in the market and if the batteries would not die fast, they might get a chance in drag racing or Formula-E kind of things

What you can expect from an electric car is its luxury driving experience with higher performance and utmost quietness – off course – without sacrificing the range. In modern ages, Tesla Model S has shown quite impressive improvements in electric vehicles segment but when it comes to make these EVs even more attractive to the average car buyers – the race to find the next breakthrough is still on.
Last week in the Indianapolis, the 2014 Electric Drive Transportation Association event was organised to discuss the topics regarding all aspects of Electric Vehicles and the future car technologies. Some of the highlights were as:

• These electric cars need to be in the racing events if they are going to be considered as cool cars. Here we are not talking about them participating in the Formula-E – which is a 10-city electric car racing tour – organised by the FIA an international racing body, but here we are talking about the battery powered drag rail under development by the drag-racing icon “Big Daddy” Don Garlits who says this engine would have a range at least three times more than of conventional Top Fuel car but would cost as much as half of that.

• The companies are multiplying at a rapid pace that provide electric cars with lower cost yet fast charging installations. It usually takes about half an hour to refill an electric car’s battery to 80 percent using fast chargers, where a full charge would take only an hour though. The power consumption of these power chargers has also been reduced considerably as the early ones operate at 50 kW or above but the new lower-powered fast chargers take only 25 kW and costs as much as one-third less. Hopefully the spread of this fast-charging infrastructure with low-cost chargers will help those drivers who unfortunately don’t have access to a work or home outlet. A survey conducted by Consumers Union and the Union of Concerned Scientists last year showed that those unfortunate drivers are almost the half of all drivers using an electric vehicle.
• There are several companies working on developing an infrastructure with wireless charging capabilities. It will still take a year or more for the standards to make wireless charging affordable and off course, universal. The advocates also are pretty sure that once these standards are settled for good, the installation of these wireless pads should not be expensive than installing a full scale standard electric-car charger.

In the initial stage, these wireless chargers are likely to be fit into the warehouses for the forklifts and in the city busses perhaps. But it does not end here, on the broader spectrum, these chargers are going to be put along the roadways so when the electric vehicles should stop at red lights, they will get an opportunity to charge. The batteries in the future would also lose weight and size and the price would also get lower.

• Three of Japanese auto industry big shots – Honda, Hyundai and Toyota – are in collaboration with the state of California and the Federal Department of Energy to build out the hydrogen economy. All of these three auto manufacturers are planning to roll out fuel-cell vehicles any time within the next two years and the California state with the financial support from the Department of Energy seems highly committed to build hydrogen station worth of £0.88 billion.

These fuel cell cars will use hydrogen which will be stored onboard, and then there will be a chemical reaction which will generate a steady flow of electricity. To provide extra energy for acceleration, a hybrid sized battery will be used which will also store the energy from deceleration and braking to boost the efficiency. The time to refill a hydrogen tank would take almost the same time as the conventional fuel tank takes.
• The gravest problem that fuel cell have always encountered is the “chicken and egg story” – wondering how? – well the business will not build any stations until they see the customers buy the fuel cell cars, whereas, the consumers will not be buying any of these cars until unless they are sure of enough stations to fuel them up. The solution is quite simple as offered by the California Fuel Cell Partnership in a study that in both of the above mentioned problems, the fuel stations have to come first.

In June, Hyundai is going to launch the Tucson powered by fuel cell whereas the Toyota and Honda will take about six months. To get thing going, California State has already built nine fuel stations, under construction are nineteen and the financed stations number has reached to fifty. Toyota has plans to introduce fuel cell vehicles in other parts of the country too.

• The Department of Energy (DOE) on the other hand is studying other prospect of fuel cell vehicles – the ones with plug in capability – that use the smaller fuel cells only for the purpose of extending the range, the battery size will thereby be smaller in size and refill will take lesser time but the range will be longer.

In the end, one thing is evident enough, the electric vehicles are the next hot cake and they will become even hotter in the coming years.

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Elliot Whipp is working and contributing to Ideal Engines and Gearboxes.

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