Lynne C. Myers
Science and Technology Division
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE CALIFORNIA FACTOR
WHAT IS AN ELECTRIC VEHICLE?
THE PROS AND CONS OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES
A. Lead-Acid Batteries
B. Nickel-Cadmium and Nickel-Iron
F. Zinc-Air and Aluminium-Air
G. Fuel Cells
ELECTRIC VEHICLES ON THE MARKET IN
The electric vehicle is seen by many as
the best near-term hope for an emission-free automobile. Not widely realized, however, is
the fact that electric vehicles have been around as long as their gasoline-powered
counterparts. The very first automobiles were powered by steam engines similar to those
used in steam locomotives. Coal, or some other fuel, was used to produce compressed steam,
which in turn pushed a cylinder and moved the car. This technology was very cumbersome,
potentially dangerous (boiler explosions), and required special know-how to keep it
working; as a result, the steam-powered car was short-lived.
Gasoline and electricity both offered a
convenient, portable fuel that could be easily turned into mechanical energy using a
simple motor or engine. In the early years of the automobile industry, these two
technologies competed for supremacy and in the mid to late 1800s, electric vehicles were
It is reported that a Scottish inventor,
Robert Davidson, developed the first prototype electric vehicle in 1837. The first
four-wheeled electric vehicle was constructed in 1891 in Des Moines, Iowa. The vehicle,
which could accommodate 12 passengers, apparently required 24 storage battery cells,
took ten hours to charge, and could run for 13 hours, reaching a top speed of 22.5 km per
hour. This vehicle was, however, never mass-produced; that honour belongs to the Electrobat,
manufactured by a Philadelphia-based company. Between the years 1895 and 1920, nearly 50
companies were in the business of manufacturing electric vehicles.(1) By 1900, 38% of new American automobiles were electrically powered,(2) and by 1912, there were some 34,000 electric vehicles
registered in the U.S.
As is the case today, however, battery
technology proved to be the one design feature stopping electric vehicles from keeping up
with the competition. The on-board storage of gasoline provided more power, over longer
distances, with less weight penalty than electric storage batteries. With the invention of
the electric starter in 1912, and the availability of a cheap, plentiful supply of
gasoline, gasoline-powered vehicles took over virtually the entire new car market,
especially in the United States, where the last electric vehicles for general use were
produced in 1940.(3)
The history of electric vehicle
development in North America has been an up and down affair. Despite the market domination
of the gasoline-powered automobile, automakers around the world have consistently retained
at least small programs aimed at developing a competitive electric vehicle. In the 1960s,
rising concern over air pollution in car-clogged cities prompted the major car
manufacturers to attempt to produce a competitive electric vehicle. Their efforts were
again curtailed, however, due to the high cost of these vehicles and the lack of demand.
Although the oil crises of the 1970s once more revived interest in this technology, events
again conspired to reduce activity drastically in the 1980s as gasoline prices stabilized
and gasoline-powered cars became much less polluting and much more fuel-efficient.
Electric vehicles seemed destined never to break out of the "chicken and egg"
cycle. People would not buy them because they were too expensive, and car makers would not
mass produce them (and thus bring down the price) because demand was so low.
The re-introduction of the electric
vehicle into the market in recent years has been prompted primarily to meet regulatory
requirements in California and a number of other states for zero emission vehicles (ZEVs)
to make up a given percentage of the fleet sold by each manufacturer over a specified
period of time. Further details of the regulatory requirements are presented in the
section of this report entitled "The California Factor."
As a result of these recent developments,
the electric vehicle once more appears to be on the threshold of breaking into the market.
There are about 4,000 electric vehicles in use today in the U.S., most of which are
conversions made from existing cars. It is expected, however, that vehicles that are
factory-equipped to use electricity as a fuel will begin to appear in greater numbers
starting with the 1997-98 models.
THE CALIFORNIA FACTOR
In California, 1990 amendments to the California
Clean Air Act included the stipulation that, by 1998, 2% of all cars offered for sale
by any auto manufacturer doing business in California must be "zero-emission"
vehicles (ZEVs). This quota would rise to 5% by 2001 and 10% by 2003. The electric vehicle
is currently the only real contender for the ZEV role. It should be remembered, however,
that the electric vehicle is not a truly zero-emission vehicle. The electricity used to
charge the batteries of these vehicles must be generated by some energy source. If this
source is electricity produced at an oil, coal or natural gas power plant, emissions are
produced; these can only be displaced from smoggy urban areas with lots of traffic, to
more remote, less polluted areas. Only if the electricity is produced from a non
air-polluting source such as nuclear, solar, or wind energy, can the electric vehicle be
viewed as being truly "zero emission."
The California requirements, which have
subsequently been adopted by a number of other states, have pushed automakers to redouble
their efforts to develop and market mass-produced electric vehicles. The California
new-car demand is over 900,000 vehicles per year, offering a potential market for some
18,000 electric vehicles for 1998 (2% of the total). This is a market that auto
manufacturers cannot afford to ignore, and that would be large enough to permit
mass-production. Legislators in California hope that these new requirements will break the
"chicken and egg" cycle. While many view this approach, which provides a market
impetus for an environmentally friendly technology, as positive, not everyone is
enthusiastic about the perceived "undue haste" with which this generation of
automobiles is being brought to market.
In a recent article, a group of
researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reviewed the total
environmental and economic effects of the manufacture and use of electric vehicles made
from a variety of materials and using a range of battery technologies. They also compared
the electric-car mandate with alternative approaches for reducing air pollution. They
concluded the following:
Highway-worthy electric vehicles for mass
consumption have neither been produced nor tested in significant volumes over the range of
likely driving conditions. Their reliability over a standard warranty period, such as 3
years and 50,000 miles (80,468 km), is unknown. Electric vehicles for actual road use are
still highly experimental.(4)
The authors go on to comment that electric
vehicles will actually contribute very little to the improvement of urban air quality and
will be very costly. They suggest other measures that would be much more cost-effective at
achieving the desired reduction in vehicle emissions.
In our judgement, the electric vehicle
policy defined by the California Air Resources Board is neither cost-effective nor
practical. Electric vehicles will not contribute meaningfully to cleaner air if they are
introduced as now proposed; over the next decade their effect will be imperceptible
compared with other major improvements in automotive and other combustion technologies.
Furthermore, even if it could be justified on environmental grounds, the technology of
electric vehicles is still far from meeting the needs of a mass consumer market and it is
unclear when, if ever, it will do so. Finally, the projected costs of implementing the
California electric vehicle policy are enormous, requiring subsidies as high as $10,000 to
$20,000 U.S. per vehicle.(5)
The authors suggest that Californians
would derive more benefit from a range of measures that would produce immediate results
more cheaply than would electric vehicles. For example, they suggest a program to buy up
and remove the most severely polluting vehicles from the road - among 7 to 10% of older
model cars are responsible for producing 50% of on-road hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide
emissions; disincentives to driving, such as higher parking fees; promotion of
car-pooling; and more use of buses.
California regulators counter that they
had to break the "chicken and egg" cycle in which development of electric
vehicles was hampered by inadequate demand, and demand remained low because EVs (electric
vehicles) were not available. By regulating their introduction in significant numbers,
California has done more than any other jurisdiction to push the emergence of electric
vehicles. Whether one agrees with the California approach or not, its impact on research
and development in this field is indisputable.
Despite early optimism, even
Californias pro-EV regulators and legislators have recently had to accept that it
will not be possible for carmakers to meet the 1998 goal; in March 1996, the 1998 and 2001
quotas for EVs were eliminated, leaving only the 10% goal for 2003 in place. According to
some analysts, at the current rate of progress, only 5,000 additional EVs will be sold in
the U.S. before the turn of the century.
WHAT IS AN
An EV is radically different from
todays gasoline-powered vehicles, in which a combustion engines (ICE) relies on the
combustion of fuel stored on-board the vehicle to produce motive power. Conventional
vehicles require a constantly running engine whose power is diverted through a series of
gears and clutches to drive the wheels and turn a generator providing power for
accessories such as lights and air conditioning. Instead of gasoline, an EV stores
electrical energy in large, rechargeable batteries. As soon as the car is turned on, a
vehicle system controller sends this power directly to the electric drive motors that turn
the wheels. There is no need for gears and clutches, or for a muffler system, since there
is no noisy combustion. Energy is delivered only when the driver presses down on the
accelerator and so is not wasted while the car is at rest or coasting.(6)
Many electric vehicles now coming on to
the market are equipped with a regenerative braking system that adds to the efficiency of
the operation since the electric drive motor acts as a generator when the car is slowing
down. In other words, the motor is "reversed." Instead of generating friction
heat when braking (as happens with the disc or drum brakes used in gasoline-powered
vehicles) the EV motor helps brake the vehicle and thereby generates electricity to
recharge the battery.(7) In this way, as much as one half
of the cars kinetic energy can be returned to the battery, giving electric vehicles
a decided advantage in stop-and-go urban traffic.
Another feature offered by EVs is the
efficiency with which they convert the available energy into motive force. An EV turns 90%
of the electrical energy in its batteries into motive force, while an internal combustion
engine uses less than 25% of the energy in a litre of gasoline. Even taking into account
that the electricity used in the EV was produced in a generating station, typically
operating at about 33% efficiency, this calculation still has a 5% efficiency advantage,
which will increase over time with technological improvements in electricity generation,
such as combined cycle generation.(8)
THE PROS AND CONS OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES
The EV is promoted as being a clean or
even a "zero emission" vehicle with environmental benefits. This is true insofar
as operation of the vehicle itself goes. EVs can help to reduce the smog-forming emissions
from vehicular traffic. As already discussed, however, the electricity used to charge the
batteries can be said to be emission-free only if the source is nuclear, solar, or wind
energy. Otherwise, the EV merely relocates the source of pollution away from congested
urban areas, rather than eliminating it altogether.
Ford Motor Company publications on EVs
note two additional advantages. Electric vehicles are quiet; the motors used emit
practically no sound at all. Since no combustion is taking place, there is no need for a
muffler to attenuate that noise. Indeed, the company notes that the EV runs so quietly
that they are now having to find means of "silencing" other noisy components,
such as air conditioners and power steering systems, which are not as audible in a car
with an internal combustion engine. The second advantage of EV technology is the
smoothness of the drive. Most of the advanced EVs use a single speed AC motor with no
transmission, which makes acceleration "smooth and seamless, smoother than the best
transmission on todays luxury cars."
Not only is the EV quiet and clean
running, but the lack of a transmission and conventional drive-train means no more oil
changes, no need to use radiator coolant, no requirement for tune-ups and no need for
emission testing on a periodic basis. The reduction in use of oil and radiator fluid
should have a positive environmental effect, since less of these substances will be
spilled to run off and potentially pollute watersheds.
On the "con" side of the
environmental argument, some researchers have noted that the widespread use of large,
lead-acid batteries, which are at present the batteries most commonly used in EVs, could
result in serious increases in lead pollution as the use of EVs spreads. Research
conducted at a U.S. university concluded that the lead-acid battery production required
for manufacturers to meet the 1998 California goal (2% of cars) would result in the
release of 60 times more lead per kilometre from EVs than from a similar number of cars
burning leaded gasoline. One of the authors of the study noted that:
A basic conclusion of our study is that
the introduction of electric cars will raise the total level of lead pollution, even
though it may shift the deposition from the road to battery manufacturing facilities where
it is less visible. In fact, the anticipated lead pollution will be considerably greater
than that formerly caused by tetraethyl lead fuel additives.(9)
A second group of researchers suggests,
however, that these apparently alarming conclusions were based on flawed data; this group
came up with a much lower estimate of the additional lead that would be released as a
result of the introduction of EVs. The International Centre for Technology Assessment
(CTA) noted in its analysis of the first study that:
Even in the worst-case scenario,
lead-based waste products would be no more than 3 times (not 60 times) the amount of lead
released from leaded gasoline. Yet the majority of this material would be in locally
controlled solid waste form, not air emissions.(10)
Electric vehicles have, to date, often
been criticized for having a rather limited range of operation. For example, the most
commonly used battery, the lead-acid battery, offers a range of just 80 km. Other
batteries may extend the range up to 160 km. In fact, a Solectrica car recently broke the
range record for an electric vehicle, covering some 603 km on a single charge.(11) However, these more advanced batteries remain rather
expensive. The Ford Motor Company sums up the situation this way:
Customers want a vehicle with 100 mile
range, and cost as much to purchase and maintain as a conventional vehicle. The reality is
that current EVs have a range of just 50 miles (80.4 km), cost two to three times more
than conventional vehicles and have batteries that need to be replaced every two to three
years at a cost of $3000 to $5000.(12)
Price is the major concern for EV
producers and consumers alike.(13) Price estimates vary
for EVs vary from $34,000 U.S. for the GM EV1 using lead-acid batteries, to $75,000 U.S.
for the independently developed Solectria. The major contributor to this price
differential is the battery technology used in the two vehicles; the GM car uses advanced
lead-acid batteries, while the Solectrica uses nickel-metal-hydride batteries. It is clear
that improvements in battery technology hold the key to reducing costs and improving the
range of electric vehicles, thereby allowing them to gain more widespread acceptance. Many
companies around the world are investing a great deal of money in research and development
of improved battery technology. Progress in this area has come rapidly in recent years,
spurred on, in large part, by the mandated market in California.
A. Lead-Acid Batteries
Most of us are already familiar with the
lead-acid battery, since this is the type found in todays conventional cars. When
the engine is running, the battery is charged through a generator and then an alternator.
Power from the battery runs the electronic components of the automobile such as the
starter, lights, heater, air conditioner and radio. In an electric vehicle, the batteries
also drive electric motors that are directly connected to the wheels and make the car
move. Regenerative braking on many EVs allows for some re-charging while the vehicle is in
use. With this type of system, the flow of electricity is reversed when the driver steps
on the brake, recharging the battery, and thereby extending its range.
It is obvious that, in order to provide
all of the power for an EV, the lead-acid battery would have to be larger and more
powerful than current technology. Conventional batteries would wear out after about 30
recharge cycles and would so be unsuitable. The lead-acid batteries used in EVs are known
as deep-cycle batteries. They feature tall, thin lead plates and are designed to last
through 400 to 800 charge-discharge cycles. With temperatures at the freezing point,
however, current deep-cycle batteries operate at only 70% capacity. In Canada's climate,
an insulated battery box and a thermal management system of some sort will clearly be
In 1992, the need for improvements in
battery technology led to the formation of a consortium of 49 U.S. companies to carry out
basic research to improve the lifespan and specific energy of lead-acid batteries, while
preserving their power density and cost advantages. The Advanced Lead Acid Battery
Consortium (ALABC) also sought ways to significantly reduce the time taken to recharge the
batteries. The work of this consortium has resulted in many of the advances seen to date;
a recent publication reported that the consortium is having a great deal of success in
meeting its goals.
With regard to recharge time, a new
technique known as fast-pulse charging has proven to be very successful, reducing the time
needed to recharge a battery from 80% depth of discharge from several hours to just 15
minutes. As an additional unexpected benefit, this new method of recharging also
apparently increased the expected life of the battery from about 250 cycles to nearly
The ALABC is also working on reducing the
weight of its batteries by using new curing methods and by adding different alloys. The
use of stronger, thinner, more corrosion-resistant grids has already improved the specific
energy (watt-hours produced per kilogram of weight) from 35 watt-hours in 1994,(16) to 48 watt-hours per kilogram in 1996(17) in a prototype battery. The range of the vehicle
using a lead-acid battery remains at about 241 km between recharging.
As a result of these improvements, the
cost of lead-acid batteries has declined sharply in the last five years. In 1992, the cost
of ownership was $1.11 U.S. per mile, which was reduced to $0.11 per mile by 1995; if
progress continues at the current rate, by 1998 it could drop as low as $0.05 per mile.(18) Clearly such advances will improve consumer response
to electric vehicles.
B. Nickel-Cadmium and
Nickel-cadmium battery technology is
not new. These rechargeable batteries are commonly used in everyday electronic equipment,
from portable radios to hand-held video games. They have been looked at by some North
American companies for use in electric vehicles but have not been as widely accepted here
as in Europe. In October 1995, the Saft Company in France opened the first plant to
produce batteries in volume for electric vehicles. The plant, which cost some $20 million
U.S. to construct, will initially produce about 5,000 nickel-cadmium batteries per year.
Batteries produced in this new plant will
be installed in all of Frances volume-produced EVs. These include the Citroen AX,
the Peugeot 106 and Renaults Clio and Express. The advantages of nickel-cadmium
batteries are their low maintenance requirements and long life, thought to be some 96,558
km. High cost, environmental concerns over the use and recycling of highly toxic cadmium
and a tendency to overheat are the major concerns raised with respect to the use of these
batteries in electric vehicles.(19)
Nickel-iron batteries have high energy
density (amount of energy relative to the size of the battery) so that they have the
advantage of being smaller than other batteries delivering the same power. To be fully
charged, however, the battery must be overcharged by 11%; this results in a loss of water
and a build-up of potentially dangerous hydrogen.(20)
The Advanced Battery Consortium is working on these problems and the nickel-iron and
nickel-cadmium batteries are included in their category of "near-term" batteries
expected to be available commercially between 1996 and 1998.
The nickel-metal hydride battery
appears to be one of the leading contenders to replace lead-acid batteries in EVs in the
mid-term (1999-2001). As it is composed of non-toxic recyclable materials, it is seen as
environmentally friendly.(21) Consisting of nickel
hydroxide and an alloy of vanadium, titanium, nickel and other metals, it offers a range
double that of current lead-acid battery technology. In the U.S. the Ovonics Battery
Company of Troy, Michigan, is leading the development of this technology.
This type of battery, unlike some others
under development, operates at room temperature, and is totally sealed and
maintenance-free. It can operate effectively in ambient air temperatures ranging from -6.6
to 48.8ºC and can be recharged in only 15 minutes. These are all features that make the
technology very attractive. In the past two years the NiMH battery has been tested in a
variety of conversion and purpose-built EVs, logging 160,930 km in 20 different vehicles,
from sub-compact cars to pick-up trucks. These tests have shown that the NiMH battery
offers double the range of advanced lead-acid batteries in EVs.
However, as in so many new battery
systems, cost remains a problem, as does commercial production. For the Ovonics company,
commercial production in 1997 will be equivalent to about 2,000 EV battery packs. This
number will be increased slowly, so as to preserve the high quality and reliability of the
prototypes. If commercial production and demand can reduce the price differential, NiMH
batteries could give lead-acid batteries a run for their money in the future.(22)
The Ford Motor Company used a
sodium-sulphur (NaS) battery in its 1992 Ecostar because it offered three to four times
the energy density of lead-acid batteries; in other words, a physically smaller battery
could provide the same power. The NaS battery also has a range of about 241 km, roughly
twice that of an EV powered with lead-acid batteries.
This technology, however, has not received
widespread acceptance for a number of reasons. For one, it is not considered "user
friendly." Because one of the electrodes is made of molten sulphur, the battery must
be kept at a temperature of 300 to 350ºC. To keep the sulphur, and the sodium, from
solidifying, the batteries have built-in heaters. As a result of these stringent operating
requirements, NaS batteries currently cost seven times as much as lead-acid batteries.
In addition, safety concerns were raised
when two Ford test vehicles caught fire while using NaS batteries. This technology is not
likely to emerge as an early leader in the race to find the best battery for electric
vehicles. Companies in at least seven countries believe that it offers great potential,
however, since it uses relatively cheap, abundant materials. These companies are all
working to build on the advantages of the technology, while ridding it of its more
troublesome problems.(23) As with any of these new
battery technologies, mass production could quickly reduce costs.
The lithium-ion battery has been under
joint development since 1992 by the Nissan Motor Company and Sony Corporation in Japan.
The Nissan Prairie Joy EV, which will be available in spring 1998 on a limited lease/sale
program, is the only vehicle currently on the market (or about to enter the market) which
uses this battery technology. About 100 vehicles will be involved in the program in Japan
and in late 1997 the lithium-ion battery will be field tested in California in
approximately 30 newly developed minivans.
The lithium-ion battery offers about three
times the energy storage capacity of lead-acid batteries and about one and one-half times
that of nickel-metal-hydride batteries. It also exceeds the power density of these
competitors, giving it a greater range. The battery is much lighter than other batteries,
and its recharging is much more efficient.
On the negative side, lithium-ion
batteries are about twice as expensive as lead-acid batteries, partly because of the
ventilation system needed to keep the batteries cool and partly because of the materials
used. The anode is made of oxidized cobalt, the electrolyte is a highly purified organic
material and the cell control system needed to operate a vehicle powered by lithium-ion
batteries is very complex.(24)
A number of other lithium-based batteries
are also the subject of research in North America. These include a battery based on a
lithium alloy/molten salt/metal-sulphide electrochemical system, and a lithium-polymer
battery. Both offer certain advantages over the advanced lead-acid battery technology, but
cost and a number of technical problems are barriers to their development. These batteries
are, at best, long-term rivals to other current and evolving battery systems.
F. Zinc-Air and Aluminium-Air Batteries
In these two batteries the metal (zinc
or aluminium) reacts with atmospheric oxygen, in the presence of an electrolyte to produce
electricity and a metal compound. The metal plates in the battery are literally consumed
in the process. When the aluminium or zinc is exhausted, the vehicle is taken to a
refuelling station where the used plates and the waste metal are removed, new plates are
inserted into the battery and the vehicle goes on its way in a matter of minutes. The
waste metal can then be recycled and made into new battery plates.
An Israeli firm, Electric Fuel, has
developed and is testing a zinc-air battery in 40 test vans. This battery has an energy
density (amount of energy relative to its size) that is 10 times that of a lead-acid
battery.(25) Several U.S. firms are also working on
this technology and a zinc-air battery recently powered an EV to a new record of over
1,609 km on a single charge. Cost remains a problem for this technology, as it does for
the aluminium-air battery. The aluminium-air battery has been of interest to researchers
since the early 1980s.(26) Not only does it remain
costly, but its large size means that it will probably find use in larger vehicles only.
G. Fuel Cells
A fuel cell is an electric cell in which
the chemical reaction between air, or oxygen, and a gaseous fuel results in a release of
electrical energy. The fuel cell differs from a traditional battery in several ways. A
battery is simply an energy storage device; the energy it can deliver depends on the mass
of the chemical reactants stored within it. Over time, the reactants are consumed and the
battery is discharged; it must be recharged from an external electrical source before it
can be useful again.
By contrast, a fuel cell is an energy
conversion device. None of the fuel cell components are consumed in its operation, and so
it can continue to function as long as the chemical reactants are provided. For example,
in some fuel cells hydrogen and oxygen are mixed together, producing water and a flow of
electricity. As long as hydrogen and oxygen are supplied, the cell will keep producing
electricity. Fuel cell research and development received a boost during the 1950s and
1960s as the space race began to take off. Spacecraft and satellites all required a
stable, highly efficient electricity supply, just what the fuel cell provided.
A Canadian company, Ballard Power Systems,
has been active in this field since 1979. It has developed a fuel cell that is lighter and
smaller than many others on the market. It uses lightweight polymer materials (a proton
exchange membrane) and is highly efficient. The Ballard Fuel Cell is the
"battery" that powered the worlds first operating zero-emission vehicle
a transit bus. The development of this system began as a joint venture with the
Province of British Columbia and BC Transit. It culminated in the 1995 introduction of
Ballards commercial prototype fuel-cell-powered transit bus in 1995. The last phase
of development is underway, with a multi-year fleet demonstration program, involving BC
Transit and the Chicago Transit Commission.
Ballard, which also has strategic
partnerships with a number of automobile companies, including Daimler-Benz, General Motors
and Nissan, is working on proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells for use in cars. The
Ballard PEM fuel cell appears to offer the advantage of being lighter and smaller than its
competitors. More efficient, lighter and less bulky means of storing the fuel (usually
hydrogen or methanol) are still needed, but in the long-term, fuel cell technology should
be able to compete well with more traditional battery technologies.
The introduction of large numbers of
electric vehicles could be hampered somewhat by infrastructure problems and by reduced
performance of vehicles. Both of these factors cause consumer resistance. In an attempt to
overcome such problems, and to take advantage of the best of several technologies,
researchers in a number of countries are also working on a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV)
which would combine the best features of an efficient engine and of an electric
In most HEV research, an internal
combustion engine is coupled with a battery system and an electric drivetrain. In a hybrid
vehicle both technologies could be optimized to achieve much higher overall efficiency
than is achieved by vehicles using either power supply separately. For example, it has
been estimated that HEVs can double or triple the efficiency of todays passenger
cars.(27) All of the major automakers are working on
HEVs but, until very recently, none have had them available for sale to the public. In
October 1997, Toyota Motor Corporation announced that it would begin marketing the Prius
The Prius will be sold only in Japan for
now; it will retail for about $18,000 U.S., although it costs the company an estimated
$41,000 U.S. to produce. The company apparently regards this subsidy to consumers as an
acceptable advertising cost. By going ahead, Toyota has the honour of being the first
company in the world to enter what it hopes will be a lucrative market.
The idea of operating each of the two
"engine" technologies at their optimum level is fulfilled in this new car. At
lower speeds, when a gasoline engine is at its least efficient, it will run on
electricity, but it will automatically switch over to gasoline when the vehicle reaches a
certain speed. As far as consumer acceptance is concerned, the HEV will have the advantage
over an electric vehicle, since it can be refilled at existing gas stations. The gasoline
engine and the regenerative breaking system keep the batteries charged.
Consumer acceptance aside, one might
question the rationale for adding a polluting gasoline engine to an electric car when the
goal is to cut pollution; however, because the engines that will be used in hybrid
vehicles are so efficient, the level of emissions will be very low. A recent study by a
U.S. consulting firm noted that, where the electricity to power the EV comes from
coal-fired generation, the HEV could actually be less polluting than the EV on a full
life-cycle basis. The consultant commented:
In the United States over one-half of the
electricity is generated from coal. Consequently, in the United States EVs will generally
have higher greenhouse gas emission levels than emission levels projected for
gasoline-fuelled HEVs of comparable size.(29)
This fact has not escaped California
regulators, who continue to look for ways to cut pollution from cars, even though they
have had to loosen the regulations for the phase-in of zero-emission vehicles. They have
now created new standards for ZEV-equivalent technologies, to allow HEVs into the market.
It is not yet clear, however, whether the very stringent standards that have been set can
be reached by current HEV technology. It remains to be seen whether this technology can
meet the challenge and capture markets in the years that it will take to
"perfect" electric vehicle technology.
ELECTRIC VEHICLES ON THE MARKET IN 1997(30)
All of the major automobile manufacturers
in North America, parts of Europe and Japan have 1997 model electric vehicles for sale.
This section provides a brief account of the vehicles being offered to meet the California
ZEV mandate. Table 1 provides this information, along with specifications for EVs for use
in international demonstration projects, those available from specialist EV manufacturers,
and a number of prototype vehicles under development.
ELECTRIC VEHICLE PERFORMANCE
Offered to Meet California ZEV Mandate
(to 81 kph)
(to 81 kph)
Offered for Use in International EV Demonstration Programs
Specialist EV Manufacturers
(to 145 kph)
GVW = Gross Vehicle Weight
Source: The Clean Fuels Report,
June 1997, p. 175.
General Motors is currently offering the
EV1 for sale at a cost of $34,000 U.S. This vehicle claims to have a range of 112 km in
the city and 144 km on the highway (at a constant speed of 100kph). The EV1 uses lead-acid
batteries. At 220 volts the EV1 takes about three and a half hour for a full recharge. The
owner of an EV1 will have to purchase a $2,500 home charger and pay for its installation
or pay a $70 per month lease charge.(31) For 1996-97
the EV1 will be available only at selected Saturn showrooms in California and Arizona, and
will only be for lease, not for sale. The company feels that this will protect the early
customers from expensive repairs or maintenance should these first production vehicles run
into trouble. It also means that the consumer will not have to cover the expense of
GM also is marketing a Chevrolet S-Series
EV Pick-up, which uses a recyclable lead-acid battery pack that can be recharged (from 15%
to 95% state of charge) in two and a half hours. The pick-up can cruise for about 96.5 km
at a constant speed or for 64 km in stop-and-go traffic.
The Chrysler Epic minivan is the EV
version of the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyageur, designed with the "second family
car" market in mind. Available to customers in 1998, it will feature 27, 12-volt
lead-acid batteries. It has a range of about 100 km, and a top speed of 128 kph.
In the 1997 model year, the first
factory-produced Ford Ranger EV pick-up trucks will be available. Until this year Ford has
sold the "gliders" (frame or shell of the vehicle without motor or powertrain,
to another company (Transportation Design and Manufacturing) which installed the electric
drive train. Designed primarily for fleet customers, the Ranger uses 39, 8-volt
lead-acid batteries and has regenerative braking. It has a range of 56 km at 0°C, with
the heater operating) to 100 km in warmer temperatures, but without the air conditioning.
The payload is about 226.8 kgm and the price tag about $34,000 U.S.
Japanese carmakers are also getting into
the EV production business, with an eye to the lucrative California market. In the spring
of 1997, the Nissan Motor Company offered for lease/sale a limited number (probably fewer
than 100) of Prairie Joy EVs. These vehicles are unique in that they use lightweight,
high-energy storage capacity lithium-ion batteries. The vehicle seats four and has a range
of over 200 km between charging. A full recharge takes about three hours. The Prairie Joy
EV is aimed at the delivery fleet market.
Honda has also entered the race to supply
California with electric vehicles. In the spring of 1997 it will begin leasing about 300
two-door, four-passenger EVs to industrial consumers in Sacramento and Southern
California. The Honda EV Plus boasts a range of 200 km to 100% depth of discharge and
160.9 km at 80% discharge, with a top speed of about 128 kph. No lease fee has yet
been announced. The extra range of this vehicle is attributable to its use of the Ovonic
Battery Companys nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries. These batteries can be
recharged from 100% discharge in eight hours using 220 volts and are expected to have an
average life of 100 cycles or four to five years. They are, however, considerably more
expensive than lead-acid batteries.
Toyota has already tested its RAV4-EV in
California and New York with utility companies and at its own test facilities in
California and Michigan. The RAV4-EV is a sport-utility vehicle that uses NiMH batteries
developed by Masushita Corporation. These batteries have a life of six to eight years and
give the vehicle a range for combined highway/city driving of 188 km at a top speed of 120
kph. Toyota will begin selling 320 of these sport-utility vehicles in 1998 in California.
A final selling price has yet to be determined.
Whether one agrees or not with the
approach taken by California in mandating the use of zero-emission vehicles, there can be
no doubt that it has begun to produce results in providing the incentive for vehicle and
battery manufacturers to improve the performance of electric vehicles. Hundreds of
companies are involved in the race to produce the best electric vehicle, with the longest
range, shortest refuelling time and, of course, the lowest price.
If the level of competition continues and
the market created by regulations in the U.S. continues to grow, moderately priced, quiet,
efficient electric and/or hybrid electric vehicles should be available to all consumers,
including those in Canada, in the not too distant future.
Electric Vehicle Association of the Americas, (EVAA)
Haskell et al., An Introduction to Electric Vehicles, from Internet address
(4) R. De
Neufville et al., "The Electric Car Unplugged," Technology Review, January
1996, p. 32.
Sperling, "The Case for Electric Vehicles," Scientific American, November
1996, p. 54-55.
Ford Motor Company Internet site, January 1997 (www.ford.com).
Sperling (1996), p.55.
Haggin, "Electric Cars Projected to Raise Lead Pollution," Chemical and
Engineering News, 22 May 1995, p. 7.
"Centre for Technology Assessment Refutes Carnegie-Melon Analysis," The Clean
Fuels Report, April 1996, p. 190.
EVAA (1997), p. 2.
Sperling (1996), p. 58.
EVAA (1997), p. 1.
"Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium Meets First Phase Goals," The Clean
Fuels Report, November 1996, p. 176.
Ilman, "Automakers Move Towards New Generation of "Greener" Vehicles,"
Chemical and Engineering News, 1 August 1994, p. 12.
Clean Fuels Report (Nov., 1996), p. 177.
"Saft Making Progress with a Number of Batteries," The Clean Fuels Report, June,
1996, p. 174.
EVAA (1997), p. 2.
House of Commons Special Committee on Alternative Energy and Oil Substitution, Energy
Alternatives, June 1981, p. 196.
Clean Fuels Report (1996), p. 183.
"Toyota Introduces Gasoline-Electric Hybrid Car," The Ottawa Citizen, 16
October 1997, p. D4.
Unless otherwise footnoted, information in this section is from various 1996 and 1997
issues of The Clean Fuels Report.
J. Hiscock, "New Electric Car Has Enough Zip To Give GM Lead In Technology
Race," The Ottawa Citizen, 6 December 1996, p. C9.