Early adopters of electric cars helping car manufacturers go forward
Electric cars now permeate every auto show in the world. Recall the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit last January. And witness the large Electric Avenue display with a Ride & Drive feature in the basement of Cobo Center.
For the auto sector stock record, notice that all of the companies mentioned are pubclicly traded as well. Think Ford (NYSE: F), General Motors (NYSE: GM), Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) and Nissan (PINK: NSANY).
There must be a distinction, though, between full electrics and those with internal combustion or equivalent engines. Full electric rely solely on battery power. Once the power is gone, there no way to drive the car except to recharge; no different than running out of gasoline.
On the other end of the spectrum you have the hybrids. Even there, distinction must be made. For example, the Toyota Prius is a hybrid, but it uses the electric drive in parallel with a small IC engine. Point is, the IC engine drives the wheels directly as does the electric motor.
The Chevrolet Volt brings a unique engineering approach to the mix. The Volt is a true electric vehcile. The only difference between it and the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla is that the engine is serial; meaning it is used merely to recharge the batteries, never to drive the wheels directly. In this respect, the engine is considered range extending.
Taken to the next phase of tech evolution, the Chevy Volt has the potential to replace its range extending engine with ore efficient powerplants, including nat-gas, diesels, split-cycle air hybrid of Scuderi and external combustion like the steam engine of Cyclone Power.
The next stage will need to extend driving range. Some technology will have to include ultra-capacitors. These store and release energy at a much higher rate that lithium-ion batteries.
Likewise, electrolytes need to be improved so as to increase the rate of charge and discharge. The zinc-air battery has the most potential to reduce cost as well as increase energy density, especially with nano-scaled electrode materials.
The hydrogen fuel cell, though, seems to be the best overall balance between energy, supply and infrastructure. Having driven the GM Hydro-Gen, I dare say the experience was quiet but powerful and impressive.
Prices are high right now for all EV cars, but with broader adoption and increased demands, EVs will become more competitively priced over time; at least hopefully. Fact is, if it doesn’t, more efficient power plants will compete on price and efficiency like the Scuderi and the Cyclone engine technologies. So, the industry best wake up that fact, unless they plan on hiding those technologies.
Now for a dose of reality. Those early adopters are not as clean as they want themselves and others to believe. It’s not all their fault, though. Fact is, a coal-fired electric plant is likely providing the energy to recharge the electric vehicle, demonstrating a simple truth: there is no vehicle that is absolutely environmentally neutral.
Still, thank an early adopter, because our automotive future depends on them right now.
More About the Reporter: After 39 years in the auto industry as a design engineer, Frank Sherosky now trades stocks, futures, and writes articles, books and ebooks via authorfrank.com. He may be contacted here by email: [email protected]
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