Parade of emissions-free electric cars in 2011
Posted on January 5th, 2011

By Philip Fernando, Former Deputy Editor Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka

 A new genre of electric cars slicker and emissions-free have arrived in thousands as the two largest manufacturers USA and China as well as many others blaze the trail of greener technology. ‘A highly charged’ motoring decade is on us, most car enthusiasts predict. The idea of recharging an electric car at home at minimal cost and never again having to visit a filling station is enticing. The swanky sales pitch is compelling as manufacturers show off their new wares.

 The battery-powered Nissan Leaf or Renault Fluence, vouch they can give you 160km (100 miles) or so, before the battery is recharged overnight. The Chevrolet Volt’s battery has less than half that range, but it carries a tiny petrol generator to get the battery charged, which gives the car another 480km.

 Meanwhile, China announced recently that the annual production of electric vehicles will hit one million units by 2020 heralding the emergence of world’s largest auto market for new energy vehicles.

Outsmarting the petrol car

The pioneers, Toyota Prius hybrid and the Elon Musk’s Tesla all-electric sports cars of a decade ago suddenly seemed dated. There are some newer dexterous micro cars with just two seats and ranges of only around 50km for short runs on city streets.

 Carmakers are working to outsmart the combination of cheapness and efficiency that a petrol-powered car offered the average car buyer. Methods to shorten the recharging time of the car battery with better technology like super recharges are being planned.

There are also attempts to provide the accessories and outlets to service the new cars in order to reach the optimum economies of scale leading to mass production.

 Is the showroom patter misleading? Some have posed the question. As salesmen will be quick to point out, 98 percent of the time people in the West do only short runs-the daily commute, trips to the shops and to pick up the children-all well within the range of most electric cars.

 But that final two percent of journeys presumably includes longer trips when people pile into a car and head off either on vacation or a family event. And even the relatively short ranges, a cold or rainy days, wet night when lots of electrical systems are running and the vehicle is laden with passengers and luggage, a car may lose around a third of its promised range.

Critical assessment

EV generation is a huge leap forward for the car industry, but many are calling for a critical assessment of the proponents’ claims about how green the technology is and whether the cost of subsidizing each new car-about $ 7,500 in UK and higher in USA are worth the cost.

 According to Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, replacing all of Britain’s cars with subsidised electric cars would cost the taxpayer Sterling Pounds150 billion and with Britain’s current fuel mix, cut Co2 emissions from cars in UK by about two percent. For the same money, Britain could replace its entire power-generation stock with solar cells and cut its emissions by a third, he argued.

 A universal carbon tax as the most efficient way to cut greenhouse-gas emissions is still a decade away. Copenhagen summit just adopted broad policy lines. Guidelines were debated intensely at the Cancun conference recently.

 Electric cars plus the carbon tax seemed the way to go. Until such time the world opts for such a move, electric cars would be subsidized. The electric cars are a good way of reducing emissions; but a carbon tax would enable them to flourish.

Meanwhile, Shenzhen city in China plans to have 35,000 electric cars on its roads within three years. There is no stopping that trend once the electric vehicles arrive in all their splendour. We are now witnessing a paradigm shift in transportation.

2 Responses to “Parade of emissions-free electric cars in 2011”

  1. douglas Says:

    This is great news. Better late than never. The car manufacturers must devote fully on this project and do away with petrol cars. But will the petroleum companies sbotage it? It will happen. So watch.

    Instead of Petrol Filling Stations, some entrepreneurs can come up with an idea of having “Battery Stations” where car owners can change the battery and leave the own battery to charge, but of course, paying for the charged one.The cost could be assessed on the electricity consumed to charge the changed battery. Convert all lthe petrol filling stations to “Battery Changing Stations”.

    This may look crazy. But let someone give serious thinking. Anything is possible.

  2. A. Sooriarachi Says:

    I agree it is a good idea to have battery swapping stands at all petrol stations once the electric car becomes commonly use. When swapping the energy drained battery it could be graded and valued by rhe station manager with a meter and offset it against the cost of the charged battery installed. Today we spend about 5 to 10 minutes at a petrol station, but the battery swapping method could be a much quicker and cleaner process.

    I think SriLanka should go straight into manufacturing electric cars with Chinese help and also invest sufficiently on research into battery technology so that they could invent a super battery using Sri Lanka’s own scientists.

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