EDNE February 2013 - (Page 7)

edn.comment ,, By graham prophet, EDitor Has EV development stalled? T hings are not looking good, at least in the short term, for the electric car. Motor industry commentators report that Audi has abandoned plans to put an electric version of its A2 on the market in 2013; Nissan is said to be seeing disappointing sales of its Leaf; we read that Toyota has halted plans for an electric city car. Interpreting sales figures depends, as ever, on where you look and what analysis you apply. Electric cars on the road (these are UK figures) more than doubled in the first three quarters of 2012! Sales growth of EVs was well ahead of that for the rest of the motor industry! Great news! Conversely, the absolute numbers remain tiny (1500 new registrations in the UK last year); and the sales growth is nothing like the percentages that ought to be seen if this really is an emerging sector in “take-off” mode. What’s the problem? It probably isn’t, as has often been proposed, infrastructure. It is well-established that the most-frequent daily drive (the modal usage, if you like) of a commute of a few tens of km is within the range of an overnight charge, so the absence of widespread charging points is not a major issue. And it is not performance, at least within those journey parameters. It resolves to the relentless logic of a simple sequence of questions. - Has the industry refined the electric car to the point where I would get satisfactory usage from it for the majority of my journeys? For many drivers, the answer is now, “yes”. Cost of the car is an issue, even with the government subsidies available in several countries – but many users seeking to be as environmentally-conscious as possible may be willing to accept that. - If I want to gain maximum utility from my purchase, is the electric car yet viable as my only car? Think of the occasional long excursion or holiday trip, and (for many) the answer is obviously, “no”. Which leads to the kind of question that sees “green” ambitions quickly fade; - If, in order to have the benefits of an electric car, I must therefore have two vehicles – of which the shortrange one is likely to be the more expensive – is that a viable proposition? Of course, options such as owing the electric “commuter car” and renting www.edn-europe.com something hydrocarbon-powered for the intermittent trip is an option – but it’s not the kind of market structure that lends itself to rapid sales growth for a new product sector. The reverse profile – the electric vehicle as a rented or common-ownership city car – might, however, be a more realistic alternative. There will, nevertheless, still be new model introductions as 2013 progresses, but it is difficult to be optimistic for market prospects, especially in the light of the prevailing economic climate. New car sales (of any type) are weak at best and in some countries, at their lowest for years. All of the good work done in development, with improved electronic drive trains and battery management, may end up being put to one side for a few more years. All of that technology has been focussed on getting the most out of a plainly inadequate resource – today’s battery systems. As I said here last time, we simply don’t have a good enough energy storage medium. Nothing on the horizon, in physics or chemistry, offers the prospect of getting anywhere close to the energy density of a 50-l tank of hydrocarbons. From the electronics perspective, we may have done all that we can for the time being, and the industry may have to focus on finding a use model that matches the limitations of what’s technically achievable. February 2013 | EDN europe 7 http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;267676017;93502041;f?http://www.digikey.com/product-highlights/us/en/freescale-kinetis-l-series-mcus/2654 http://www.edn-europe.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of EDNE February 2013

RS Components
Agilent Technologies
Maxim Integrated
Signal Integrity
Mesago SMT 2013
Test & Measurement World
Rohde & Schwarz
Mesago PCIM 2013
Mechatronics in Design
Hot technologies: trends to watch in 2013
Hot 100 products of 2012
Add LED intelligence to improve light quality, efficiency, and cost
Design Ideas
Product roundup
Tales from the Cube

EDNE February 2013