Electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are well-known alternatives to traditional gasoline engines because of the quiet, smooth operation and less maintenance. Notable vehicles in this segment include Toyota Prius Prime, Volkswagen e-Golf, Toyota Prius, Ford C-Max and the Tesla Model S. However, a 2016 sales report by CleanTechnica states… (Featured image is for representational purpose and has been sourced from https://pixabay.com/en/electric-charge-road-sign-sign-2301604/ )
Electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are well-known alternatives to traditional gasoline engines because of the quiet, smooth operation and less maintenance. Notable vehicles in this segment include Toyota Prius Prime, Volkswagen e-Golf, Toyota Prius, Ford C-Max and the Tesla Model S. However, a 2016 sales report by CleanTechnica states that Tesla is a market leader in the United Sates for different electrical/PHEV cars, with two of its models figuring among the top three.
Challenges in Innovation
The biggest drawback faced by electric and plug-in vehicles is the limitation on battery capacity and the maintenance of charging stations. These challenges render electric vehicles less effective, making them operational only for short distance transportation. There are various measures implemented by automobile companies to counter these challenges. Interestingly, renewable energy sources like solar are being used to power these charging stations. Also, devices such as Range extenders are proving useful for extended travel range.
Tesla is working towards enhancing the capacity of its batteries and making NAV (navigation) smarter. The automaker has set up a Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, for mass volume production of high capacity lithium-ion batteries. The production is expected to peak by 2018. This Gigafactory is also expected to help Tesla equalize the cost of its plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles and running cost of internal combustion engines [ICEs].
Tesla published a patent application US 20170030728A1 which aims to better range estimates for its electric vehicles. Its NAV system uses “hindsight energy consumption” technology to help vehicles locate a user, understand the route and assess battery running time. It will prompt the user for a recharge accordingly and ensure that the user isn’t stranded as long as instructions are followed. The automaker is also working towards developing a charging metal-air battery technology that can facilitate longer range and is granted a patent US 9559532B2 in this space.
Other leading automotive manufacturers are also bridging the gap in the Electric/ PHEV segment to take on Tesla. Toyota’s Prius series, a full hybrid electric automobile has been in the market since 1997. Toyota iQ EV, known as Scion iQ in US markets was launched in 2011 Geneva motor show. The carmaker has also announced the launch of a “virtual company” by 2020 to examine and develop EVs with a range of “more than 300 km (186 miles) on a single charge”.
In a 2017 published patent application US 20170028854A1, Toyota focuses on allowing its electric cars to recharge while in motion via road embedded wireless chargers. The patent focuses on technology that allows the car to detect a charging marker and determine the location of charger transmitters embedded in a road. The patent also teaches the alignment of a charge transmitter with vehicle charge receivers for efficient wireless charging contact. This concept has also been attempted at labs and universities around the world.
South Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) is developing charge-on-the-go technology in the Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV) space.
Freescale Semiconductor has introduced an innovative concept in this domain. The company has devised a method to generate power within a vehicle’s tire while it is rolling. In a 2017 published US 20170040911A1.
Freescale Semiconductor illustrates that electricity generated in a tire can be used to power a tire pressure sensor module. This concept was first introduced by Goodyear, an American tire manufacturer, at the 85th Geneva International Motor Show in 2015. The company introduced its concept BH03 tire at the Geneva International Motor Show, and the tire is designed to be ‘ultra-black’ and thus absorb as much heat as possible. While driving, the friction between the tire and the road, along with the ‘squeezing’ and movement of the piezoelectric material as it rolls, generates a small electric voltage.
Honda has also entered the green car segment with battery-powered and PHEV variants of Honda Clarity. The carmaker has introduced dynamic charging of vehicles from hardware embedded into or over the road. This is expected to create invisible train tracks for EVs to use and help them drive continuously through wirelessly charging. Honda mentioned this in a research paper presented at SAE. The automaker has tested the system for dynamic charging with a charging power of 180 kW (DC 600 V, 300 A) at a speed of 155 km/h (96 mph).
American automotive manufacturer Ford published a patent application US 20170088003A1 in 2017. This applicaion describes a method by which any electrified vehicle with an onboard internal-combustion engine can automatically start the engine remotely in order to recharge its battery. In the event of a user parking the vehicle and forgetting to recharge it, the vehicle will automatically start the engine to begin a charge cycle and inform the driver about the same via a message.
Ford plans to increase the power capacity of its EV via its new Metal Oxygen Battery System. As described in its patent application US 20170040655A1, Ford is looking at high density metal oxygen batteries that are expected to be more efficient and have higher capacity than traditional Lithium-ion batteries.
What lies ahead?
Various companies are planning to introduce electric vehicles by 2020. The weighted average of multiple market forecasts predict a market share of 8.2% for EVs in 2020. Majority automakers, which includes the like of GM and Volkswagen, have vowed to launch more than one fully electric car by 2020. Audi too has confirmed to begin production of its first all-electric SUV “E-Tron Quattro” at its Brussels plant in 2018. Porsche’s Mission E-electric concept introduced in 2015 has its production version and is expected to go on sale in 2019. British manufacturer Aston Martin has teamed up with Chinese LeEco to develop a production version of its all-electric Aston Martin RapidE Concept by 2018. It appears that going are the days of petrol/ diesel vehicles, and battery operated electric vehicles are going to feature in every home in the next decade.
(Featured image is for representational purpose and has been sourced from https://pixabay.com/en/electric-charge-road-sign-sign-2301604/ )