Between the Germans and the Japanese, the automotive technology to change over to electric cars seems to be on our doorstep.
Under the premise that taxis are driven hard, up to 20 hours a day, and must handle both bad roads and bad drivers, electric-vehicle infrastructure provider Better Place and Tokyo’s largest taxi company, Nihon Kotsu, commenced a battery swap test 6 months ago with 4 taxis in Tokyo, where each cab racks up 170 to 180 miles a day over 18 hours of service a day, the Litmus test equivalent of urban guerrilla warfare for cars under grueling conditions
Electric taxis are ideal for dense urban environments, as they use little energy while stopped in traffic and produce no vehicular emissions. The drawback, though, is the lengthy recharge time–which is what the battery switching stations are meant to address.
We all know that battery packs are the weakest link in electric vehicles. Not only are they heavy and expensive, but they take a long time to recharge and on average can only provide around 100 miles per charge, actually the test Taxi batteries only last for 56 miles as the test is based on developing an infrastructure of switching out the lithium-ion battery, which takes only 60 seconds, faster than filling up a gastank at the gas station. Even though this development is promising for the future of the electric car and the end of the gas guzzling and polluting combustion engine, the technology still does not have mass appeal beyond the environmentally committed individual.
Until a German company last Tuesday, on October 26, announced…
375 Miles at average 55mph on One 6 minute Charge
A German-based company has changed all that with a Battery adapted Audi A2, capable of driving up to 375 miles at average highway speeds of 55mph.
That’s roughly the equivalent of driving from Fernandina Beach to Miami Florida, without a recharge.
And it doesn’t end there. The company responsible for the battery pack, DBM Energy, claims a battery pack efficiency of 97 percent and a recharge time of around 6 minutes when charged from a direct current source. Now that is about the equivalent of a normal gas station fill up.
What’s even more impressive is that the DBM Audi A2 retained its four original seats with room to spare. Even with the heater running, the modified A2 with fully usable trunk arrived with spare electricity in the “tank.” At the end of the historic test drive on Tuesday, DBM’s 27 year old company CEO Mirko Hannemann, who drove the car for the seven hours it took between the German cities of Munich and Berlin, even offered to charge up the cellphones of the waiting journalists with the remaining power left in the car.
Funded as part of a joint venture between a private German utility company Lekker Energie and the German Economy Ministry, the prototype battery offers a glimpse into the rapidly developing future of the electric car. Don’t think for however that this is a one-off, specially build battery pack. DBM’s battery technology, called KOLIBRI AlphaPolymer, is already in use in the everyday application of warehouses, where forklift trucks running on the same battery pack are capable of 28 hours of continuous operation before recharging is required.
While no one could be pinned down on pricing for the battery, the company did say that it would be more powerful and cheaper than ‘conventional’ lithium ion batteries. Hannemann even went so far as to suggest that his company was ready to begin mass production of the batteries now
So where are we with Electric Cars?
Well we know that Jaguar can build an electric speedmonster with the C-X75 reaching 0-60 in 3.4 sec and a topspeed of 205Mph but cannot put a price tag on it that can sustain any reasonable production line; that Mercedes has build a limited electric hatchback production vehicle for Germany, France and the Netherlands, that has a 93 mph top speed and goes 124 miles before needing a recharge. We also know that Japan is hot on the tail with developing a recharge infra-structure for electric vehicles (EV’s). And yet I’m still a little cautious of battery technologies offering ultra-fast recharge and a magnitude of range improvement on other battery chemistry types.
Especially when remembering last year August’s Government Motors (GM) claim that its Chevy Volt would accomplish a staggering 230 mpg in city traffic before recharging. The claim turned out to be another government manipulation as the EPA had to come up with “a new methodology for determining a draft fuel economy standard for extended-range EVs like the Volt”. Nevertheless the recently market introduced Volt, with its one-of-a-kind powertrain, has a place in the world of greener automotive development as a development stage between fuel combustion and electric recharge. How long that place will commercially be viable depends largely on this latest German battery development.
If the battery technology is truly as revolutionary as this historical journey hints and the battery packs from DBM are ready for the arduous duties of daily abuse at the hands of electric car drivers worldwide, it is conceivable that this could be the first answer to range anxiety. If so, the Chevy Volt may find itself in the position of the music industry’s 8-Track in the 1970s, as a shortlived stepping stone between reel tape and cassette tape, none of which is manufactured anymore as CDs and MP3 replaced them and in turn got replaced by Smartphones for entertainment and music.
Only time will tell, but the heat is on.