As oil prices are soaring and there’s no relief in sight, drivers try to save and gas-guzzling vehicles have become unsalable. Prompted to act or to disappear, all major auto-manufacturers have come up with their own models of electric and semi-electric cars. The first electric vehicles that will be manufactured on a grand scale could be launched as early as 2010. Next to an increased demand for cars which consume no gasoline, the prospect of severe punishments for high fleet emissions made auto-manufacturers rethink their attitude towards cars which are driven by electricity. Especially the EU’s plan to force auto-manufacturers to reduce the average carbon dioxide emissions from all new cars sold in the EU from 2012 on to 130 grams. Unless the fleet average emissions meet this overambitious target, hefty fines will follow. On Monday, France and Germany agreed to soften the European Commission’s plans and to give manufacturers a bit more “breathing room” while introducing cleaner technologies. The agreement demands that both – auto-manufacturers which produce larger luxury cars and those which produce smaller vehicles – have to contribute to cuts.
General Motors came up with the Chevy Volt which combines a lithium-ion battery – which will be the only power source for a range up to 40 miles – with gas or ethanol which will recharge the battery when empty to extend the range up to 640 miles. Unless driving more than 40 miles a day the Chevy Volt won’t use any gasoline and produce zero emissions. Nissan’s futuristic concept car “Pivo 2” is powered by a lithium-ion battery. Daimler is going to release an electric, rechargeable version of its micro-car “Smart” in the UK.
Europe’s largest car producer Volkswagen plans to launch an eco-friendly version of its future Up! city car using lithium-ion batteries from Sanyo until 2010 and to be the first car company to provide a carbon-free, safe and affordable grand-scale electric car.
The biggest challenge is to make batteries more efficient and to extend the range of electric cars so that they can compete with established gasoline driven cars at a competitive price. To bridge the time until batteries have sufficient capacities, most electric cars which have already been launched are lease vehicles so that the drivers don’t have the financial risk and are provided with the latest battery technology.
More about the electric car’s comeback: