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Overcoming the Cost Factor May Fuel the Growth of Electric Vehicles

published: 2010-04-02 15:07

In recent years, there has been ongoing development of electric vehicle (EV) technology; yet, there is an air of uncertainty in the market regarding the outlook of this industry.

According to EnergyTrend, the price of a EV is still too high, which may deter its acceptance in the market. However, if issues regarding the price factor, batteries overheating, and power sustainability can be overcome, coupled accessible charging stations, EVs are expected to see widespread adoption.

According to EnergyTrend, a battery electric vehicle, by definition, means that it is completely powered by electricity generated from batteries and incorporates the use of a motor and a motor drive control system. As the EV does not use liquid fuel, it eliminates the roar of the engine and smoke from the exhaust pipe – complying with the eco-friendly requirements as it is lighter, more energy-efficient, and extends a longer driving range. However, because of the weight and battery itself, the development goal of automakers is to reduce the overall weight of the EV.

Apart from the weight factor, EnergyTrend pointed out that EVs require a lot of peripheral support to run smoothly on the road; in particular, the battery-charging equipment – such equipment needs to be available not only in homes and work places, battery-charging stations also need to be set up along the roadside, or installed in existing gas stations. The availability of battery-charging equipment will be crucial to the popularity of EVs.

EnergyTrend added that the key factor in the popularity of EVs lies in the cost – the cost of an EV is still extremely high, with its rechargeable batteries accounting for about 40% to 50% of its total cost. Whether the vehicle uses nickel-metal hydride batteries or lithium-ion batteries, battery cost still accounts for a substantial part of its total cost.

Batteries used in EVs are under strict specifications: the batteries must have a high energy density, high power density, high state of charge and depth of discharge performance, long service life, and at the lowest possible cost. The performance of Ni-MH batteries is better than that of lead-acid batteries, however, Ni-MH batteries still fall behind in criteria such as rapid charge and discharge capacity, power density, and energy density.

In 2002, General Motors (GM) recalled and destroyed all the EV1 series of electric vehicles because of their high costs and low market acceptance. However, at the end of 2007, Japanese automaker Nissan Motor announced at the Tokyo Auto Show that it will begin mass production of EVs in 2012, and will launch them in regions such as Japan and Europe.

To solve the problems faced by EVs, Nissan adopts two approaches simultaneously: 1. Nissan attempts to improve the cost structure and efficiency of the production through the design of the batteries, the auto-body structure, and the transmission structure; 2. Nissan is actively collaborating with governments of several countries to build infrastructure required for EV-charging equipment. For example, Nissan Greater Tokyo is cooperating with Tokyo Metropolitan Government to set up hundreds of battery charging stations. Once these related issues are solved, EVs will gradually gain increasing popularity.

With the support from governments across many countries, conventional automakers such as Nissan, Renault, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Mercedes Benz, and BMW, have actively begun their design and manufacturing of EVs. Moreover, Ecotricity company Westfield, Delta Motorsport, Lightning and other small independent automakers have also followed suit in manufacturing EVs. Taiwan's Yulon Motor Co. also tapped into the all-electric vehicle market by launching its own brand LUXGEN, with China Resources Enterprise, Limited (CRE) responsible for its key design.

According to EnergyTrend, compact EVs are suitable for short-range transportation purposes, that is, short distance travel of no more than 100km through places in the city such as airport, science parks or industrial parks, and resorts. On the other hand, fleet EVs, such as buses, should be adopted by government agencies as the more eco-friendly alternatives of public transportation as these vehicles reduce the carbon dioxide emission in metropolitan areas.

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