Electric cars move from concepts to showroom
Published: 1st Oct 2010 10:23:39
After years of planning and tough talk, a string of electric cars that are actually going on sale - as opposed to being just concepts - will be on show when the Paris motor show opens to the public on Saturday.
Nissan is currently taking orders for its pure electric Leaf model, which has a range of 160km.
General Motors (GM) will start selling its plug-in electric car with a range-extending petrol engine within months.
And Toyota's plug-in petrol-electric Prius hybrid will go on sale next year.
But it is not clear which solution will appeal the most to car buyers, who are increasingly spoilt for choice.
So the automotive behemoths are fighting hard to convince consumers that theirs is the best way forward.
Nissan and its partner Renault are the most vocal advocate of pure electric cars, insisting that in order to prevent global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius, car emissions must be reduced by 80-90% in all new vehicles.
"The only way to do this is 100% electric motoring," Hideaki Watanabe, managing director of the Renault-Nissan Alliance's zero emission business, tells BBC News.
Mr Watanabe is dismissive of the solution offered by rivals Toyota and GM.
"Is a plug-in hybrid zero emission? No. And is the system cheap? No, since you've got two systems," he reasons.
The world's two largest carmakers, in turn, insist electric cars are vastly inferior to plug-in hybrids because of their limited range.
But that is where their agreement ends.
GM's Ampera, named Volt in the US, is an electric car with a range of 60km.
The car, which will go on sale within months, is kitted out with a small petrol engine, which essentially acts as an electric generator that feeds power to the electric motor and tops up the batteries while driving - thus extending the range to more than 500km.
"Our intention is that the majority of the driving in these vehicles is done with electrics only," explains Nick Reilly, president of GM Europe, in an interview with BBC News.
"But the beauty of the range extender is that when you do want to go on a longer journey, you can."
The range extender solution has become a popular choice with a number of supercar makers, including Jaguar which is showing a concept of a petrol-electric plug-in, and Fisker Automotive, which will start selling its Karma extended range electric vehicle next year.
"Cars are about three things; passion, beauty and freedom," chief executive Henrik Fisker tells BBC News.
"You may be able to get passion and beauty in an electric car, but you don't get freedom."
Toyota's plug-in Prius, which will go on sale next year, offers a subtly different solution.
The car's range electric range is just 20km, which is enough to cover about 80% of drivers' daily needs, Didier Leroy, president of Toyota Motor Europe, tells BBC News.
Hence, there is less of a need to carry around a heavy and expensive battery, he reasons.
Once the battery is empty, the car operates like a conventional petrol-electric hybrid, which is much more efficient than the range extender, Mr Leroy insists.
Electric motoring, in whatever form, is clearly becoming part of the automotive landscape, though all manufacturers agree that the internal combustion engine will remain the main source of power for cars for years, perhaps decades, yet.
Modern petrol and diesel engines are much less dirty than they used to be, however, with manufacturers being spurred on by ever-tighter emissions regulations across the world.
Visitors to the motor show will see masses of small cars that claim to emit less than 99 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometre (g/km).
And even quite large crossover cars that resemble 4x4 vehicles often emit just 135g/km.
These cars represent impressive improvements made by the motor industry in recent years.
However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stipulates that new cars must emit less than 45g/km on average to prevent global warming from running amok, Mr Watanabe says.
So nobody at the Paris show is saying enough has been done.
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2010. Electric cars move from concepts to showroom [Online] (Updated 1st Oct 2010)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/95040/Electric-cars-move-from-concepts-to-showroom [Accessed 24th Jul 2014]
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With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com