The electric vehicle (or EV) of today has evolved into a reliable and marketable product. The evolution of vehicle technology is ever going forward and the latest developments make electric traction technology suitable for virtually any application.
The concept of electric vehicles covers in fact different aspects.
* Pure electric vehicles, also known as battery vehicles;
* Hybrid vehicles;
* Plug-in Hybrid Electric vehicles;
* Fuel cell vehicles.
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Electric Vehicles offer in fact a wide range of possibility combinations. Each of them favouring a well defined application.
Traction batteries with aqueous electrolyte continue to deliver pristine services and are continuously optimised for higher capacity, longer life and lower maintenance. Simple to drive, reliable, totally silent, without any emissions, EVs are ideal for city traffic.
However, new battery types such as high-temperature batteries (e.g. AEG Zebra), Nickel Metal-Hydride batteries (e.g Panasonic, SAFT, Varta…), and lithium-based batteries (e.g. 3M, Matsushita, SAFT…) will be available in the coming years. Due to their extremely high energy density, they will offer unprecedented vehicle ranges.
The long-range or multi-mission electrically driven vehicle will become a reality through the developments of hybrid drives (e.g. Toyota Prius). Hybrid vehicles combine electric and other drive systems, such as internal combustion engines, gas turbines and fuel cells. The main advantage of this system is the possibility of regenerative braking : recovering energy when braking and storing it in a buffer battery. This energy can be used when accelerating, avoiding that the combustion engine runs at high speed, so consuming more.
In some models drivers have the option of running on electricity alone in urban environments, reducing emissions to zero. Different solutions exist and, depending on the battery sizes, some of these vehicles can be connected to the grid for charging the batteries.
Various combinations of batteries for energy storage with on-board energy generation facilities give way to specific solutions for each application, and allow minimising energy consumption and emissions. The hybrid technology is now particularly favoured for heavy-duty vehicles such as city-buses. Moreover, it is a fact that all the major car manufacturers now consider the deployment of hybrid drives as the logical way to reduce fuel consumption.
The energetic and environmental advantage of hybrid drives becomes even more important when one considers clean on-board electricity generation. The use of fuel cells allows of generating electricity without noxious emissions and with an unprecedented efficiency. Manufacturers worldwide are preparing the fuel-cell vehicle as one of the premier solutions of the future.
Let us end the presentation of electric vehicles by adding a pinch of humour to all the facts & figures: