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Electricity and Cars

(Updated July 2014)

  • Electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles which are able to be charged from mains power have potential to greatly increase the demand for base-load power from grid systems
  • Development of these depends critically on battery technology.
  • The best-known hybrid cars today are simply a step on the way to plug-in versions which will get most of their power from the grid, and more widespread use of full electric vehicles.

As outlined in the paper on Transport and the Hydrogen Economy, nuclear power is relevant to road transport and motor vehicles in three respects:

  • Hybrid and full electric vehicles potentially use off-peak power from the grid for recharging (but generally do not yet do so). This is electromobility.
  • Nuclear heat can be used for production of liquid hydrocarbon fuels from coal.
  • Hydrogen for oil refining and for fuel cell vehicles may be made electrolytically, and in the future, thermochemically using high-temperature reactors.

An international Electric Vehicles Initiative was launched in October 2010 at the Paris Motor Show by a consortium including the OECD International Energy Agency (IEA) and eight countries: China, France, Germany, Japan, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United States. It aimed to achieve rapid market development of electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (EV/PHEVs) around the world, targeting about 20 million EVs and PHEVs on the road by 2020. According to the IEA, this target would put global EV/PHEV stock on a trajectory to exceed 200 million by 2030, and one billion by 2050. This trajectory is a key element for the entire global economy to achieve the G8-supported, IEA Blue Map scenario target of halving of CO2 emissions in 2050 compared with 2005 levels.

In 2013 production of EV & PHEV light vehicles (cars and light trucks) was 242,075, according to London-based IHS Automotive. The forecast production for 2014 is 403,000. The number on road at start of 2014 was 405,000 (174,000 in USA, 68,000 in Japan and 45,000 in China). (Total light vehicle production in 2013 was 84.7 million – 20.9 million of this in China.) Sales of non plug-in hybrids were about 1.3 million in 2012 and 2013. The Chinese government has a target of putting 500,000 EV and PHEVs on the road by 2016. China has the biggest fleet of battery-electric bicycles, with more than 150 million in service, and 36 million manufactured each year

The BP Energy Outlook 2035 published in January 2014 said that: By 2035, sales of conventional vehicles fall to a quarter of total sales, while hybrids dominate (full hybrids 23%, mild hybrids – with minor electrical role – 44%). Plug-in vehicles, including full battery electric vehicles (EVs), are forecast to make up 7% of sales in 2035. Plug-ins have the capability to switch to oil for longer distances and are likely to be preferred to BEVs, based on current economics and consumer attitudes towards range limitations. (p47)

Towards Electromobility: cars

Hybrid electric vehicles are powered by batteries and an internal combustion (IC) engine. They may be parallel hybrid technology, with both batteries and/or engine propelling the vehicle (with sophisticated controls), or series hybrids, with the engine simply charging the battery. Both types may be capable of plugging-in to mains electricity from the grid, in which case they need much larger battery packs. For the series hybrid the engine then is used only when needed, so it can run at optimum speed and efficiency. Battery packs are typically 10-20 kWh for PHEVs and 18-50 kWh for EVs/BEVs.

Higher capital cost of hybrids is offset by the prospect of slightly lower running costs and lower emissions. Better batteries will allow greater use of electricity in driving, and will also mean that charging them can be done from mains power, as well as from the motor and regenerative braking. These plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEV) and a new generation of full electric vehicles (EVs) are practical and on the verge of being economic today.

The electric motors are generally "synchronous", with a permanent magnet in the rotor. The stator's rotating magnetic field imposes an electromagnetic torque on the rotor, causing it to spin in synch with the stator field. As permanent magnets have improved greatly due to the incorporation of neodymium, motors have become cheaper and more compact. However, they require cooling, with radiator, fan, water pump, etc.

Some manufacturers use "asynchronous" AC induction motors which do not require the strong permanent magnets (nor expensive neodymium). Here the rotor has several sets of windings so that it creates a rotating magnetic field which chases the stator's rotating field, generating torque. The induction motor tolerates a wider range of temperatures than the synchronous motor, and is simple and rugged. The Tesla and Mini E cars use these motors, and Toyota is said to be moving that way. They generally need no conventional multi-speed gearbox, since the motor functions even at high loads without overheating.

Towards Electromobility: system and efficiency

Widespread use of PHEVs and EVs which get much or all of their energy from the electricity grid overnight at off-peak rates will increase electricity demand modestly – in the order of 10-15%. More importantly it will mean that a significantly greater proportion of a country's electricity can be generated by base-load plant and hence at lower average cost. Where the plant is nuclear, it will also be emission-free.

Partnerships are emerging between power utilities and automotive companies in anticipation of wider use of PHEVs and EVs in Europe. Deploying them is more of a challenge here than in USA because most cars are not garaged overnight so must be charged elsewhere, often more rapidly. In 2007 EdF and Toyota set up a collaborative trial in France using PHEVs (see below), and in 2008 RWE and Daimler announced an EV trial in Berlin involving 100 cars. The French trial was then extended to UK, with 50 EdF staff vehicles involved. Daimler has Smart EVs on test in London. Part of the corporate collaboration relates to how users are billed, as well as how the cars are recharged.

Nissan has been developing alliances with local governments and infrastructure companies in several countries so as to commercialise its electric cars. In March 2010 it announced that it would initially build the Nissan Leaf EV in UK, investing £420 million and accepting a government grant of £20.7 million towards the battery plant and car production.

In March 2010, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Toyota, with Tepco and Fuji Heavy Industries announced an association to establish a standardised technology in Japan for charging electric vehicles, with a view to making this global. The CHAdeMO Association expects to have 158 members including government bodies, and "20 foreign companies ….. such as automakers, electric utilities, charger manufacturers, charging service providers, and other supporting groups". Nissan has already selected AeroVironment to supply EV home charging stations in the USA for its Leaf EV from December 2010. These will fully recharge the battery from 220 volts in eight hours.

In May 2010 the Japanese government commenced a trial of Nissan EV taxis with California-based Better Place, based on rapid battery swaps in the Tokyo urban area, and with a view to establishing some 300 battery-swap stations there. As of August 2010, 40,000 km had been logged by three taxis with 2122 battery swaps averaging 59 seconds.

In September 2010 a trial involving 20 PHEVs and 200 charging stations in Munich was announced, with Audi, E.On., Stadtwerke Muenchen and the Technical University of Munich. The e-tron PHEVs supplied by Audi have a 75 kW motor and a 50 km radius before needing recharging from either plug or the onboard Wankel motor. The German federal Ministry of Transport is supporting the trial and expects to have one million EVs/PHEVs on the road by 2020.

In October 2008 EdF announced partnerships with Peugot Citroen and also the Renault-Nissan Alliance related to EVs and PHEVs. The former focuses on recharging systems and protocols, the latter on creating a large-scale zero-emissions individual transport system based on EVs. EdF claimed already to operate the world's largest fleet of EVs – 1500 vehicles, and is now developing a new generation of innovative charging stations. (Peugot Citroen has since formed a partnership with Mitsubishi to produce and market EVs, and another with BMW for hybrids.)

Ford, in collaboration with the US Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), is undertaking a three-year test program on the Ford Escape PHEV to develop and evaluate technical approaches for integrating PHEVs into the electric grid. EPRI has identified nine utilities across North America to test drive the vehicles and collect data on battery technology, vehicle systems, customer use and grid infrastructure. In August 2009 Ford unveiled an "intelligent" system, testing one of the world's first vehicle-to-electric grids that will communicate with PHEVs for optimal battery recharging.

Volkswagen is pushing forward with EVs and series PHEVs, along with the Nissan-Renault and others. (It sees fuel cell vehicles as "a pipedream".)

In Italy, Mercedes Benz/Smart and Enel are collaborating in an "e-mobility Italy" initiative which involves setting up an intelligent network of 100 public and 50 private charging points around Rome and putting an initial 100 Smart EVs on the road there. Enel claims that travelling a certain distance in an electric car requires around 40% less primary energy than in an equivalent petrol vehicle.

In the UK the government is subsidising the purchase of EVs and PHEVs from 2011, and also the provision of 11,000 municipal charging points by the end of 2013, 2000 of these being fast charge (80% in 20 minutes). To qualify, cars will need a range of 112 km, a top speed of at least 96 km/h and to meet EU safety standards. Nissan and Ecotricity had installed 97 EV charging points in UK to August 2013.

Japan’s initial subsidies for hybrid vehicles were discontinued at the end of September 2012, with no further incentives envisioned. A tax reduction still exists for them, PHEVs, battery-electric vehicles (EVs) and clean diesel vehicles.

In Beijing, China, a five-year Clean Air Action Plan (2013-17) rules that of 600,000 new vehicles to be allowed in the city to 2017, 170,000 should be EVs, PHEVs or fuel-cell vehicles.

Connection standards, EV charging architecture

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has produced an international standard defining charging modes and relevant electrical connectors for EVs and PHEVs – IEC 62196. The North American standard SAE J1772 and the European standard VDE-AR-E-2623-2-2 broadly comply with this.

In April 2010 the European Commission tabled a strategy for Clean & Energy-Efficient Vehicles. This included promoting common standards to allow all electric vehicles to be charged anywhere in the EU, allowing changeover of removable batteries, encouraging the installation of publicly-accessible charging points, and research on recycling of batteries.

In June 2010 the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) defined joint specifications to connect EVs to the grid, enabling the relevant EU standardisation bodies to progress towards defining a common interface between the electricity infrastructure and vehicles throughout Europe. The recommendations will also guide public authorities that are planning investments in public charging spots. The joint specifications cover charging of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, both at home and at public charging spots. During a transition period, customers will be able to use the different plugs already on the market. A uniform solution is expected to become standard for all new vehicle types by 2017. The industry expects to make recommendations for quick charging and heavy-duty vehicles. See European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) website (www.acea.be).

Vehicle to Grid – V2G

A further aspect of EVs' interaction with grid systems is the potential for parked vehicles to contribute to the grid to compensate for fluctuations due to intermittent renewable supplies. This is known as V2G and will enable EV owners when not actually charging batteries to sell electricity back to the grid when needed for stabilization of it. This will mean that the low-voltage layer of the grid becomes a low-voltage exchange network, analogous to a computer LAN. Considerable development is needed to bring this into effect, and current charging standards do not generally allow for it.

In the USA, NRG Energy has set up a company (eV2g) with the University of Delaware and grid operator PJM Interconnect to develop the potential, as transmission networks "become increasingly reliant on fluctuating renewable energy sources such as wind and solar." However, V2G requires owners to plug in habitually rather than just when they need a charge, battery cycles will increase with effect on their longevity, and there may be implications for vehicle warranty also.

Demand and efficiency

The 2010 Royal Academy of Engineering report said that "Results from electric vehicle trials show that EVs equivalent to a small petrol or diesel four-seat car use around 0.2 kWh/km in normal city traffic." Other figures are about 0.15 kWh/km for a one-tonne vehicle.

With EVs or equivalent mains electrical usage from PHEVs of 20,000 km per year, each would use 3-4 MWh/yr, so for each ten million cars thus depending on the grid an extra 30-40 TWh would be required, mostly off-peak.

Comparing the use of electricity to make hydrogen for fuel cell cars with using it direct for EVs, there is a two- to threefold advantage in the latter. Comparing use of natural gas in an internal combustion engine with using it to generate electricity for EVs, there is a clear advantage in the latter.

Analysis by the Energy Supply Association of Australia (ESAA) found that an equivalent litre of electricity, or e-litre, could cost from 37 cents off-peak up to 62 cents with peak prices. It found that electric cars have the equivalent fuel costs of approximately 3 cents per kilometre, compared to 10 cents per kilometre for conventional cars.

Towards Electromobility: health effects

Using traditional health impact assessment methods in 25 European cities with 39 million inhabitants, the EC-funded Aphekom project in 2011 showed that present air pollution levels, mainly from vehicle traffic, resulted in 19,000 deaths per year. It estimated that the monetary health benefits of complying with the World Health Organisation guidelines for particulate matter would total some EUR 31.5 billion annually. Some cities were three times the 10 µg/m3 WHO guideline level for PM2.5 particles.

Hybrid electric vehicles

Hybrid electric vehicles have been on the market for several years and are now fairly sophisticated and reliable, and are consequently in high demand. However, plain hybrids still depend entirely on liquid fuels, while using regenerative braking to increase efficiency. London has a fleet of 56 experimental hybrid buses, and from 2012 all new buses there were to be hybrids.

Hybrids have a battery which is charged by an internal combustion (IC) motor (as well as regenerative braking), and in full, or parallel, hybrids the drive may be from both or either. They claim much enhanced fuel economy, though figures suggest that there is little advantage over efficient diesel motors in highway use. Their advantage is in urban driving, and their significance is mostly as an important step towards plug-in hybrid vehicles.

The Toyota Prius is the best-known hybrid car of this type. The Mk3 version has a 1.8 litre, 73 kW engine, a 10 kW AC generator/motor, a very small battery* and a 60 kW AC synchronous electric motor, all with sophisticated power electronics and controls. The vehicle cost is about 30% more than a comparable conventional vehicle. Toyota has a larger full-hybrid vehicle, the Highlander SUV.

* The nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery pack is 6.5 Ah at 201.6 volts (1.34 kWh) delivering 27 kW and had an eight-year/160,000 km warranty (expected life is quoted at 240,000 km). The battery mass was originally 45 kg but reduced to 29 kg in the 2004 model. From 2009 the battery was to be lithium-ion type, but NiMH was initially retained in Mk3. The range on battery-only is very small however.

Honda has a different hybrid system, Integrated Motor Assist (IMA), using nickel metal hydride batteries charged (in the Civic and new Insight hybrids) by a 1300cc engine. The batteries mainly assist acceleration via a thin 10 or 20 kW electric motor/generator between the 60 kW engine and transmission. Unlike Toyota and Ford systems, IMA cannot function to any extent solely on battery power. The whole system has an eight-year warranty. This is an example of what is called a ‘mild hybrid’ system, where there is minor electrical assistance to the IC motor, and little battery capacity.

Ford has several hybrid models. The Escape Hybrid was launched in 2004. Like others, it utilizes an Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission or eCVT to allow the distribution of power between the 2.5 litre internal combustion engine and the main electric motor to be determined by driving conditions, so that the engine is shut off when the electric motor can provide enough power to run it. It has a 1.8 kWh nickel metal hydride battery pack. By March 2009, some 100,000 Escape Hybrids had been produced.

In New York, taxis have run a trial with 375 Ford Escape hybrid vehicles and authorities are planning to convert the whole fleet of 13,000 from 2014, over ten years (with replacements during this period). A four-year competition for design came down to three finalists: Karsan Otomoyiv V1 from Turkey, Nissan NV200, and Ford Transit Connect (petrol model, or possibly EV). In May 2011 the Nissan NV200 was chosen, deferring plans for EV or PHEVs, though Nissan agreed to participate in an EV pilot program and one report said that Nissan is expected to manufacture the NV200 as an EV, starting in 2017. New York also has about 1000 hybrid buses.

London's hybrid buses are from four manufacturers, one of which is BAE Systems, which has now supplied 2700 HybriDrive systems for buses, mostly in North America. These are series hybrids, now with lithium-ion batteries. In Europe, Siemens is supplying hybrid drive systems for buses.

Further interesting hybrid, PHEV and EV designs are in the Appendix below.

The basic (non plug-in) hybrid vehicle's battery simply stores regenerated braking energy, helps with acceleration, and provides a very small amount of low-speed electric functioning.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)

A further stage of the hybrid EV technology is plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs) or "gasoline-optional hybrid-electric vehicles" with a much larger battery than the hybrids described above and drawing most of their power, at least for short trips, from the electricity grid via the batteries rather than from liquid fuels. (Incidentally, in some systems these may also supply power back to the grid when they are plugged in.) However, in contrast to the hybrid where the small battery is mostly kept topped up, PHEVs (and full electric vehicles) need to be capable of repeated deep discharge.

As with plain hybrids, there are two basic concepts with PHEVs: parallel and series. The parallel PHEV is like the Prius and Ford Escape, with drive from either battery or IC motor or both. The series PHEV such as the original GM Volt simply used the motor to charge the battery. With larger batteries this becomes an EV with "range extender" engine. A Mitsubishi concept has both series and parallel modes.*

* A Prius conversion to effective PHEV requires about 9 kWh in battery capacity and the initial PHEV version of the Volt has about 16 kWh so that the engine becomes a range-extender largely to charge the battery with the GM E-Flex system. In August 2007 Toyota obtained approval for testing on road of a plug-in version of the Prius, the first small PHEV to be certified thus, though DaimlerChrysler had a small fleet of PHEV vans under test. In mid-2010 EdF and Toyota announced that 20 Prius PHEVs with lithium-ion batteries would be leased for a three-year test program in London, these having 20 km electric-only range, hence apparently less than 6 kWh battery capacity. EdF would provide charging points at workplaces, on-street and domestic locations. These Prius PHEVs are on the market from March 2012 in USA. Toyota claims "an extended EV mode" from new 4.4 kWh, 80 kg Li-ion battery pack delivering 650 volts maximum and giving a range of 25km. Charge time is three hours from 15 amp 120 volt household system, or half the time with 240 volts. The engine is the same as normal Mk3 Prius.

With PHEVs a lot of driving, particularly short trips, can be in battery-only mode, hence zero on-road emissions. They can reduce overall petrol/gasoline consumption by something like 30 to 50 percent, but will consume most of the difference as electrical power – predominantly from the grid. Power consumption is variously quoted at around 0.16 kWh per kilometre but requiring 50% more capacity than power used (IEA 2008), to 0.3 kWh/km per tonne mass.

A PHEV with 16 kWh battery giving 30 km range cuts fuel consumption greatly, given that many cars do not travel much more than this daily, though the nickel metal hydride battery pack can weigh four or five times as much as the Prius's normal one. Several dozen Mk2 & 3 Prius cars in the USA have been modified to be PHEVs. The electrical efficiency (mains power to wheels) in PHEV is about 75-80%, or 25-30% overall from primary heat.

GM's Chevrolet Volt or Ampera (in Europe) started off as a series PHEV, with 16 kWh battery pack giving 65 km all-electric range. The Volt was essentially an electric vehicle with on-board 1.4 litre IC engine as "range extender", to charge the 175 kg battery pack when it is depleted, but it become more sophisticated and is now considered a parallel hybrid. The battery powers the 112 kW electric motor driving the front wheels. The 55 kW IC generator either supplements the battery to drive the wheels, or charges the battery, and can run as a motor. In one mode the IC engine can contribute propulsion directly through the planetary gear system.

The drivetrain platform permits the Volt to operate as a pure battery electric vehicle until its battery capacity has been depleted to a defined level, at which time it commences to operate as a series hybrid design where the IC engine drives the generator, which keeps the battery at minimum level charge and provides power to the electric motors. (The full charge of the battery is replenished only from an electrical grid.) While in this series mode at higher speeds and loads, the IC engine can engage mechanically to the output from the transmission and assist both electric motors to drive the wheels, in which case the Volt operates as a power-split or series-parallel hybrid.

Full charging from mains takes about 4 hours on 240 volts with 16 amps and 8 hours on 110 volts. GM is promoting the vehicle as an "extended-range electric vehicle" rather than "plug-in hybrid". In Europe it is called the Ampera. The Volt/Amepra has been on sale in USA from the end of 2010 at $40,000. In the UK its price is £37,250, about 40% more. Due to its popularity in 2011, GM planned to produce 16,000 of them in 2012 but eventually sold more than 20,000.The battery has an eight-year/160,000 km warranty.

The Chinese BYD (build your dreams) F3DM, F6DM and S6DM are plug-in hybrid vehicles (DM = dual mode). They use lithium-ion iron phosphate batteries and have solar panels on the roof to help charging. The F3DM sedan claims to be the world’s first mass-produced PHEV, on sale to the public since March 2010. It has two permanent-magnet AC synchronous electric motors, powered by a 16 kWh battery pack. The 50 kW motor drives the wheels and a 25 kW one backs it up and doubles as generator for regenerative braking. Electric-only range is up to 100 km. A one-litre 50 kW three-cylinder IC motor charges the batteries when the level drops to 20%, and connects to the wheels in parallel hybrid mode, so that up to 125 kW is available. 

The BYD Qin PHEV has a more efficient dual-mode electric powertrain, though it depends more on its petrol motor. It has two 110 kW motors and a 10 kWh lithium-ion iron phosphate battery pack giving electric range of only 50 km. However, a 1.5 litre turbocharged engine enables hybrid performance with 225 kW power and 440 Nm torque. It evolved from the F6DM concept car.

The BYD S6DM is a PHEV SUV. It has a 10 kW electric motor driving the front wheels through a six-speed transmission and a 75 kW one driving the back. A two-litre petrol engine supplements the electrics, either charging the battery pack through the front motor/generator or in parallel hybrid mode in 4WD for most power. Electric range is 60 km.

BYD also has a joint venture with Daimler to make EVs – see following section.

BMW’s i3 (see following EV section) is to be offered with a range extender 650 cc two-cylinder IC engine as used in a BMW motor cycle. It cuts in when the battery is low and extends the range to about 300 km, costing an extra EUR 4500, or $3850 in the USA.

The BMW i8 is a parallel hybrid PHEV concept, with 98 kW synchronous electric motor on the front axle giving range of 35 km from a 7.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. A 1500 cc three-cylinder IC motor delivering 164 kW is rear-mounted. It is expected on the market late in 2014. Mass is 1500 kg. Recharge is 3.5 hours from 120 volt, 12 amp system or 1.5 hours from 220 volts at 16 amps. It is expected to cost more than EUR 100,000.

Mitsubishi has announced a PHEV based on its i-MiEV (see EV section below). At low speed this PX-MiEV functions as an EV using lithium-ion batteries, with low battery level it functions as a series hybrid (engine charges battery), and at high speed as a parallel hybrid in the sense that the 85 kW, 1.6 litre petrol motor takes over the front drive, being assisted by up to 60 kW of electric power from two motors (front and rear) for acceleration. The concept is a 4WD, with a sophisticated control system and regenerative braking. Plug-in charging can be 100 or 200 volt domestic or at "high-power quick charging" stations giving 80% in 30 minutes. In EV mode it has 50 km range.

PHEVs are likely to remain competitive even if in future there is an option for the on-board energy carrier to be hydrogen rather than simply a battery and the on-board electric powerplant is then supplied through a fuel cell, so plug-in hybrid-electrics have a long-term application.

Full Electric Vehicles (EVs) aka Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

These are an extension of the PHEV concept, as well as substantially predating it. Plenty of these have been built, but mostly with heavy lead-acid batteries and for uses other than motor cars. Today a number of manufacturers are building EVs with over 35 kWh on board, using lithium-ion (or lithium magnesium oxide) batteries and regenerative braking to help charge them. A range of electric cars now starting to come on the market have energy usage of 13-20 kWh/100 km, with 15 kWh/100 km being typical best,* albeit without considering heating or air conditioning. A safety issue with EVs is their quietness among pedestrians, and some may have an external sound generator operable at speeds of below 20km/h to warn pedestrians.

* Sustainable Energy – without the hot air, 2009, D MacKay, ch20.

The small Indian REVAi car made in Bangalore, popular in the UK as G-Wiz i, has lead acid batteries. It is very small, and registered as a heavy quad cycle. It weighs 665 kg (including 270 kg batteries) and has a 13 kW AC motor driven by 9.6 kWh of battery capacity, with regenerative braking. Recharge of 9.7 kWh is in 8 hours and range 77 km. In 2009 a L-ion version was released, with lithium-ion batteries, reducing the mass by 100 kg and recharge time to 6 hours, while increasing the range to 120 km and nearly doubling the price. This model also has provision for fast charging from three-phase power: 90% in one hour.

General Motors produced the EV1 in the 1990s, first with lead-acid batteries then with NiMH batteries, but the 18 to 26 kWh on board did not give enough range and recharge was slow.

EVs and series PHEVs can eliminate the mechanical transmission (as well as the complex parallel PHEV control system) and have a drive motor/generator in each wheel, though this will affect the unsprung weight adversely and hence roadworthiness. But this is a very simple system and requires minimal further development apart from optimising batteries.

In May 2008 Nissan (with Renault) announced that it would downplay PHEVs and would mass-produce full electric vehicles from 2010 for Japan and US markets. In January 2010 Renault-Nissan claimed to be "the only automaker committed to mass-marketing all-electric vehicles on a global scale." It has formed numerous alliances with states, municipalities, utility companies and others to develop infrastructure for these. The Renault-Nissan alliance is investing EUR 4 billion overall, with 1000 staff working on the project at each of Nisan and Renault.

Considering vehicles with 50 to 100 kW motors, Renault-Nissan sets out three ways to charge them: Slow charge on standard network (10 or 16 amps, 220 volt) at home or workplace (6-8 hours), quick charge at service station (20-30 minutes, 32 amps, 400 volt) and battery swap (5 minutes), in conjunction with Better Place (see below). The cars will have advanced lithium ion batteries in the floorpan with an effective life of five years. 

The Nissan Leaf has laminated lithium-ion batteries of 24 kWh driving an 80 kW synchronous AC motor with drive train and a range of 160 km. It can be charged overnight at 240 volts (a 40-amp socket is recommended), or less efficiently from 120 volts, and optionally 80% from public quick-charge DC station in 30 minutes. Mass is about 1500 kg. Some 25,000 have been sold since late 2010, half of these in Japan, and production capacity of 50,000 per year was envisaged from 2012. A US factory opened in 2013.*

* The US EPA rated the Nissan Leaf with an equivalent of 106 miles per US gallon city, 92 highway for a combined 99 MPGe (2.376 L/100 km). This calculation is based on the EPA's formula of 33.7 kWh being equivalent to one US gallon (3.79 litres) gasoline energy, or 8.9 kWh/L equivalent. This relates to a charging time of seven hours on 240 volts and a driving range of 117 km, with varying driving conditions and climate controls.

Renault in mid-2009 announced that it would market a range of four different EVs from 2011-12, with the vehicles being sold at about the same price as diesel equivalent and the batteries being rented. It expects running costs to be 20% lower and maintenance costs 50% lower than equivalent petrol vehicles.

The Renault Fluence ZE has a 22 kWh lithium-ion battery powering a 70 kW synchronous motor and giving 185 km range. It is built in Turkey and is being sold in Israel, Denmark, UK, Spain, France and Germany from 2011 without any battery, this was being leased on 12-month mileage-based contract plans in the Better Place system. In Israel this includes the cost of electricity supplied at owners’ homes, public charging stations, or via automated battery switch stations. The 280 kg battery is positioned vertically at the rear and can be charged from a domestic 16-amp 230 volt socket, from roadside charging stations or using the Chameleon system designed for Zoe (below). Vehicle mass is 1600 kg.

The Renault Zoe ZE was launched in 2012, based on its Twizy, with a 22 kWh lithium-ion battery powering a 65 kW synchronous motor and giving 100-210 km range (depending on temperature and other factors). It is built in France, and first deliveries were in December 2012. In France the Zoe costs €20,700 before applying a €7,000 tax incentive, but plus a monthly fee for the battery. The cost of leasing the battery for 36 months starts from €79/month for an annual distance travelled of 12,500 km and includes comprehensive breakdown assistance. In UK it costs £14,000 plus minimum £70 per month for the battery. It has a Chameleon charging system, allowing recharge at any power level, from 30 minutes to nine hours.

Toyota has stood back from EV developments while enjoying the success of its hybrid Prius. But in May 2010 it announced that it would invest $50 million in US-based Tesla and jointly develop a new low-priced EV – basically a Toyota with a Tesla powertrain. Tesla also bought the NUMMI car plant at Fremont in California as a base for all its manufacturing. The plant has a capacity of half a million vehicles per year and uses the Toyota Production System. Production will now be mainly the new Toyota-Tesla model and its own Tesla S, development of which was financed by a $465 million federal loan, being mass-produced from 2012. The target price for the new model with Toyota was less than $30,000.

In May 2012 Toyota announced its new EV version of its RAV4 sports utility vehicle, made in Ontario, with Tesla powertrain and price of $49,000 – more than twice the price of its IC-engined version. It has a 115 kW drivetrain powering the front wheels from a 42 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, and claims a range of 160 km and minimum six-hour charge time at 240 volts and 40 amps. Battery warranty is 8 years /160,000 km. This arises from a $60 million October 2010 agreement with Tesla regarding the powertrain and battery pack for the RAV4 EV project.

Several thousand Tesla Roadsters have now been sold, but this is a high-priced ($110,000), high performance EV. It has a three-phase 215 kW induction motor driving through a single-speed 8.27:1 gearbox, and a 53 kWh lithium-ion battery pack weighing 450 kg. The vehicle mass is 1235 kg, the actual motor contributing only 52 kg of this, and giving 400 Nm torque up to 6000 rpm. The plug to wheel efficiency is quoted at 174 Wh/km, the battery to wheel efficiency at 88%.

The Tesla S is much heavier (1735 kg) but half the price ($59,900, $69,900, $79,900 depending on battery). It has a three-phase AC induction motor, a variable-frequency drive inverter and a single-speed rear transaxle gearbox with fixed 9.7 reduction ratio. It has three lithium-ion battery pack options of 40, 60 or 85 kWh, giving 260, 370 or 480 km range, under floor and with liquid cooling. Charging is from domestic power (110 or 240 volt), or 45-minute quick charge from three-phase 480-volt/ 100 amp supply. A Universal Mobile Connector is the basic equipment for household or J1772 public charging stations, giving 10 kW charge (20 kW twin charge is optional). A 50% charge in 30 minutes can be achieved. A premium high-performance model for $97,900 has a ‘high-performance drive inverter’ with the 85 kWh battery and 310 kW motor. It weighs 2.08 tonnes, 30% of which is batteries. Battery warranty is 8 years/ 160,000 km. In 2013 the 40 kWh battery option was discontinued. Tesla is producing 20,000 model S per year, and developing the model X, an SUV variant with an additional motor driving the front wheels.

Tesla is reported to have paid back its US government loan in mid-2013 nine years ahead of schedule, and investors pushed the share price up to value the company at one-quarter of GM's value.

BMW’s i3 was on the EU market by the end of 2013, as a small five-door car. The eDrive motor on the rear axle is 130 kW, and uses 12.9 kWh/100 km. Its 18.8 kWh (net) lithium-ion battery under the floor gives it an electric range of 130 to 160 km. Charging time at 16 amps is 6-8 hours, but fast charge at 125 amps can be achieved in under 30 minutes. With much of it being made carbon fibre, mass is about 1200 kg. A range-extender option is available, making it a PHEV with nearly double the range, see above section. EU prices are about EUR 35,000, plus 3000 for range extender, before any government incentives.

Mitsubishi has developed the i-MiEV with 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack under the floor giving it a range of 160 km (at 18 kW power instead of the full 47 kW), hence 10 km/kWh. A 47 kW synchronous motor sits in front of the rear axle. It has regenerative braking. It recharges from 240 volts in 7 hours (through a 15 amp household plug), but can also take 80% charge in 35 mins. Mass is 1100 kg. It is now being marketed in RH drive markets Under a September 2009 agreement the i-MiEV will be supplied to Peugeot Citroen for marketing in Europe from late 2010, as the Peugot iOn and Citroen C-zero.

In 2010 Daimler and China’s BYD formed a 50:50 joint venture: Shenzen BYD Daimler New Technology Co Ltd (BDNT), and in 2014 it announced the 5-seater Denza EV, using the B-class Mercedes platform, to go on sale from September at CNY 369,000, or CNY 120,000 less with government subsidies. The plant will have a capacity of 40,000 cars per year. It has a 47.5 kWh lithium-ion phosphate battery pack driving a 86 kW motor (peak, 68 kW rated) giving a speed of 150 km/h, up to 290 Nm torque and a range of 253 km at 17.2 kWh/100 km (or 18.9 kWh/100 km with charging losses). It is evidently part based on the BYD e6, and over 100 have had two years of road testing in China.

The BYD e6 has a 48 kWh lithium-ion iron phosphate battery giving it a range of 240-300 km and a battery life of 2000 cycles. It consumes 21.5 kWh/100 km in taxi service, and can be recharged in 30 minutes. There are four different power combinations for the e6: 75 kW, 75+40 kW, 160 kW and 160+40 kW. The two-motor options are 4WD. A fleet of 45 e6 taxis was being trialed in Hong Kong during 2013, and 50 in London, UK. A similar and successful trial in Shenzen in 2010 resulted in 800 e6 taxis being commissioned there. The Shenzen police use 500 BYD e6 vehicles. Mass is 2020 kg. The US version is to have a 60 kWh battery pack and a 160 kW motor. BYD is backed in the USA by Berkshire Hathaway. BYD electric buses are operating in Holland.

In Tokyo the first three Nissan EV taxis undertook a 90-day trial in 2010, promoted by California-based Better Place, which was focused on infrastructure rather than vehicles. Rather than recharging the actual vehicles, the entire battery pack was swapped in about one minute, since the taxis needed to travel an average of 360 km during a 10-hour day. The Japanese government supported the Tokyo trial to establish the practicality of converting the city's 60,000 taxis to EV, eliminating a billion tonnes of vehicle CO2 emissions annually, and requiring 300 battery-swap stations.

Renault was building 100,000 switchable battery vehicles for Better Place's first full-scale deployments in Israel in 2012, followed by Denmark. The Renault-Nissan-Better Place partnership is non-exclusive, both sides seeking to make their systems and batteries available to multiple customers and users. Better Place also signed a technology development agreement with China's Chery Automobile Co, the biggest independent carmaker in China. However, in May 2013 Better Place filed for liquidation. The Renault Fluence ZE was the main car using the battery swap system for its 22 kWh lithium-ion battery.

Tanfield subsidiary Smith Electric Vehicles is the world’s largest manufacturer of road-going commercial electric vehicles. In the UK Smith has marketed the Ampere van, powered by a 50 kW motor from a 24 kWh lithium-ion iron phosphate battery pack. It claims 160 km range on a single charge with 800 kg payload, and weighs 1520 kg (tare). This appears to have been replaced by the Edison truck/van/coach on a Ford Transit chassis with payload 700-2300 kg in a variety of configurations for non-US markets. It has a 90 kW motor with 36-51 kWh lithium-ion iron phosphate battery pack giving range of 90 to 180 km and claims to be the world best-selling light commercial EV. In the USA Smith produces the Newton truck with 2.8 to 7 tonnes payload and varied wheelbases. This is powered by a 120 kW motor with 80-120 kWh lithium-ion iron phosphate battery pack and has a range of 50 to 240 km. The first US models were delivered in mid 2009. The range of both Edison and Newton depends on size of battery pack and driving conditions, recharge is 6-8 hours, and top speed of both is 80 km/h.

The Tata Indica Vista EV has a 26.5 kWh super-polymer lithium-ion battery pack and 50 kW motor giving 160 km range. Its mass is 1300 kg and it has a permanent magnet synchronous motor and drive to front wheels. It is being leased on a trial basis at £190 per month as part of the Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Demonstration (CABLED) plan in UK. It charges from a standard 13-amp UK power socket in eight hours.

Daimler has had Smart EVs on test in London, and from March 2011 on a trial basis 40 were available on lease for £260 per month plus £780 upfront. They have a 15 kWh lithium-ion phosphate battery pack with 30 kW permanent-magnet DC motor driving the rear wheels and giving a range of 135 km. They are part of the Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Demonstration (CABLED) plan in UK. It charges from a standard 13-amp UK power socket in 8 hours.

A University of Delaware test EV based on a Toyota Scion can run for some 200 km on a two-hour 240 volt charge or overnight 120 volt charge. The annual fuel cost of driving 400 km per week with off-peak charging is estimated at about $150, compared with $2500 for equivalent petrol-power. It also has vehicle to grid (V2G) capacity.

For many uses batteries on their own will be inadequate on several counts – they have poor performance in hilly regions, in winter temperatures and when the driver wants to run heating and air conditioning. While many battery vehicle drivers become well disciplined in their vehicle use so they can plan their journeys around the requirements of battery charging, the PHEV technology remains attractive to give greater versatility.

Sources of electricity

While all electricity generation technologies including renewables will play a part in meeting increased electricity demand for PHEVs and EVs, the positive implications of the scenario on nuclear power are:

  • The PHEV and EV requirement for electrical power (particularly off-peak power) may increase relatively soon as the concept of PHEVs gains wider acceptance, because the technology is all available.
  • When fuel cells using hydrogen are in common use, PHEVs will remain attractive because if drivers can charge batteries from the mains power for just 15 cents/kWh, or from their on-board generator at a dollar per kWh, they will choose the less expensive method some of the time, especially because it provides zero emission driving.

Load curve 2

The UK Department of Transport and teh Royal Academy of Engineering (2010) have both estimated that if the UK switched to battery electric vehicles, electricity demand (kWh) would rise about 16%. The US Electric Power Research Institute modeled 60% of US vehicle use being electric and found a 9% increase in electricity demand. As can be seen from the graphs above, this need not increase the system's peak capacity if most charging is off-peak, thereby greatly increasing the proportion of total generating capacity supplied by base-load plant – see below. A study conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the US Department of Energy in 2006 found that the idle off-peak grid capacity in the USA would be sufficient to power 84% of all vehicles in the USA if they all were immediately replaced with electric vehicles. Areva has calculated that if 10% of cars in France were electric it would increase base-load demand by more than 6000 MWe ("four EPRs", or 10% of nuclear capacity). In the above diagrams, assuming significant move to electric cars mostly charged off-peak, the base-load demand is increased by about 35%.

Load curve (3)

PHEVs and EVs to a large extent will be able to utilise power at off-peak times (and at lower rates), hence drawing on base-load grid capacity and increasing the demand for that. This will mean lower average cost of power generated in the grid system, since the base-load component will become a very large proportion of the peak demand. If vehicle to grid (V2G) feed in peak periods is enabled, that will help reduce costs further, but there are some complexities to be overcome for this to happen.

Some battery technologies allow short-duration high-current opportunity charging that means an overall increase in power generating and distribution demand. The increasing electrical load will occur at a rate that can be accommodated by normal planning for additional power resources and infrastructure. PHEVs and EVs can contribute to oil independence, as well as cleaner air. Ford estimates that the payback period for the price premium on a PHEV is seven years.

A further development of EVs, or at least the infrastructure for them, was pioneered by Better Place, in what are effectively "islands" for car populations – Israel initially and then Denmark. Here, full changeover battery packs were offered. Nissan was involved with the project. A further development of the idea is for Tokyo's taxis. However, many manufacturers do not see this concept as viable since the battery design and structure is integral to the vehicle and they have no intention of standardizing batteries.

PHEV technology is seen as the base for later utilization of fuel cells simply because hydrogen is likely to be at least as expensive as petrol/gasoline and therefore any ability to use mains power will be economically attractive. Supplementing this is energy conservation (from regenerative braking) to a battery. The choice of technology for a PHEV power plant is likely to have much less impact than the plug-in aspect of the design enabling use of base-load mains power.

Battery technology and Charging

This is the key for both PHEV and EV: achieving high capacity with low mass and low cost, coupled with safety and a long life. Batteries need to be capable of repeated deep discharge. Also they are likely to need to run heating and air conditioning where there is no IC engine or where it switches off part time. They also need to be able to function to a satisfactory level in very cold weather.

While current automotive fuels provide 12-14 MJ per kilogram mass (net of IC engine efficiency, 45 MJ/kg gross thermal), the best batteries provide only 2-3 MJ/kg (550-800 Wh/kg net), and that at twice the volume. Commercial batteries are much less than this (see below).

As well as being heavy and bulky, batteries are expensive. Starting with costs of about $1000 per kWh capacity, and the aim is to reduce this to well below $400/kWh ($300/kWh according to IEA). Nissan says that battery cost has halved in the four years to 2010, and the Boston Consulting Group suggests that costs need to get down to $200/kWh before electric cars are competitive, and this is reported to be Tesla's target. Bloomberg New Energy Finance has launched an index tracking the price of EV batteries. It expects the cost of lithium-ion batteries to drop to $150/kWh by 2030, compared with around $1000/kWh in 2009. Batteries make up around 25% of the cost of electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model S.

Lead-acid batteries are well known in traction roles as well as for starting cars and running accessories. But they are very heavy and only last a few years.

Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries are well-proven and reasonably durable, though can be damaged under some discharge conditions.* They are similar to nickel cadmium (NiCd) batteries, but use a hydrogen-absorbing alloy as the cathode instead of cadmium.

* if a cell in a multiple assembly fully discharges the others may drive it to reverse the polarity and permanently damage it.

Lithium-ion batteries* deliver more power from less mass and are constantly being improved in relation to safety, reliability and durability. Research continues particularly on their cathodes – early ones used cobalt oxide cathodes, newer ones use manganese oxides or iron phosphates, which tend to be less efficient but are more reliable. A spinel structure (3D lattice with manganese) gives fast charge and discharge but lower capacity that cobalt-based type (though still 50% more than NiMH). A123 are reported to claim that their Li-ion batteries will last for at least ten years and 7000 charge cycles, while LG Chem claims 40 years life for lithium-manganese spinel batteries for the GM Volt. There have been some well-publicised fires in lithium-ion power sources, particularly following crashes and where the battery has then not been discharged, or de-powered.

* regarding lithium resources, see Lithium Abundance - World Lithium Reserve, a report on the world's lithium resources and reserves by R. Keith Evans.

(A 2012 contract for back-up power sources for CGNPC nuclear power plants went to BYD for 3.5 MWh lithium-ion iron phosphate batteries able to supply 2.5 MWe. BYD launched the world's first MWh-level iron-phosphate energy storage system in 2010, which was attached to China's Southern Power Grid. In 2011, it supplied an even larger 36 MWh system for China's State Grid's 'National Sun' project – a renewable, base-load power generation plant.)

Arizona State University is researching Metal-Air-Ionic Liquid (MAIL) batteries which promise lower cost and with long life, where the oxidation of a metal yields energy.

Ultracapacitors are another research frontier to provide electricity storage for cars, to supplement batteries in providing for acceleration, and also being able to accept high inputs from regenerative braking.

Regarding energy density, indicating capacity and hence run time, lithium-ion batteries hold about 110-170 watt-hours per kilogram of battery mass, the much safer and more durable lithium-ion iron phosphate and lithium-ion manganese batteries being at the lower end of this range. BYD quotes 100 Wh/kg for “inherently safe” and more chemically stable lithium-ion iron phosphate batteries in their F3DM car, compared with 150-200 Wh/kg for lithium-ion cobalt types. These compare with 29 Wh/kg from metal hydride (NiMH) batteries in today's Prius (though other published figures for NiMH batteries give up to 90 Wh/kg) and 30-40 Wh/kg from lead-acid batteries. But the Li-ion cost is now around US$ 1000/kWh.

For power density, indicating how much power can be delivered on demand, manganese and phosphate-based lithium-ion, as well as nickel-based chemistries, are among the best performers.

Lithium-ion batteries are specified for the GM Volt and the Fisker, and intended for Ford's forthcoming PHEVs. However, most of those are likely to use more advanced ones with lithium-ion iron phosphate (LiFePO4 or Li2FePO4F) cathode, the latter giving a lower power density but greater service life. Both kinds are much safer than early ones with lithium cobalt dioxide cathodes. The Volt is charged in eight hours from 120 volt outlet or half that from 240 volts, so presumably at 16 amps.

Nissan has joined with NEC and a subsidiary, NEC TOKIN, to set up Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC) to develop and market advanced laminated Li-ion batteries for use in PHEVs and EVs. AESC commenced operation in May 2008.

Tesla uses Panasonic Li-ion batteries and is looking at a joint venture in USA to produces them. It aims to get the cost down to $200/kWh capacity.

Nissan, EdF, and others envisage an infrastructure integrating three types of charging systems: from household supply overnight (6-8 hours, off-peak), similar slower charge in parking lots during the day, and fast charging points which will give up to an 80% charge in 30 minutes. In addition to these there should be five-minute battery pack changeovers for long trips, raising the possibility of batteries being leased rather than owned, or electricity suppliers selling a service configured for different users, not just batteries and power.

Focusing on the home base, using a 13 amp plug such as standard in UK, and 240 volt system, a 16 kWh battery pack such as in the GM Volt could be recharged in 5.5 hours. Many battery packs will be much larger than this, so 40 amp charge points may often be necessary for overnight charging, particularly with 110 volt systems.

BMW and PSA Peugot Citroen have announced a joint venture to produce hybrid EVs in Europe. This EUR 100 million JV will focus on electric motors and battery packs by 2014, with R&D in Munich and development at Mulhouse in France.

Siemens has launched its charging point Charge CP700A on the European market which can charge EVs "with a normal battery capacity" within an hour. This is achieved through three-phase AC connection at 32 amps per phase, hence 22 kW, using IEC 62196 standard connecter. Charging can also be at 20 amps in the three-phase mode, or at 15 amps single phase, with IEC standard 61851 connecter.

What is claimed to be the world’s largest lithium-ion battery factory was opened in 2011 at Novosibirsk in Siberia. It is owned by Liotech, a 50-50 joint venture between the Russian Nanotechnologies Corporation (RUSNANO) and the Chinese holding company Thunder Sky Ltd. The total investment in the project amounted to more than RUR 13.5 billion. All the machinery used by the plant was manufactured by Chinese companies, all the raw materials for the LT-LYP 200, LT-LYP 300 and LT-LYP 700 batteries come from China and all of the factory's finished products are destined for the Chinese market through Thunder Sky. It aims to use only Russian raw materials by 2015, and presumably this will be depleted lithium tails with elevated proportion of Li-6 from Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant (NCCP) Li-7 enrichment activities.

Using ecofriendly nanostructured cathode lithium iron phosphate material (LiFePO4), the LIOTECH Plant will output batteries with nominal capacities of 200, 300 and 700 Amp-hr. The planned capacity of new plant will amount over 1 GWh of battery capacity or about one million batteries per year. This enables to equip with the batteries about 5,000 electric buses annually.

Fuel cell vehicles

Experimental fuel cell vehicles (FCV) are now appearing, starting with buses. For sources of hydrogen for these see companion paper Transport and the Hydrogen Economy. These are much further from commercial realization.

Honda has been testing its FCX Clarity hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle with lithium ion battery pack on US roads and has started marketing it. The motor is 100 kW AC, with Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cell stack and 170-litre compressed hydrogen tank giving a range of 620 km. Vehicle mass is 1.6 tonnes. The first US deliveries were scheduled for 2008 in southern California with a three-year lease term at a price of $600 per month, including maintenance and collision insurance. Over three years to 2011 Honda planned to deploy about 200 of these vehicles, some of them in Japan. In September 2010 there were reported to be 32 on the road: 19 in California, 11 in Japan and 2 in Europe.

Fuel cell hybrid vehicles, with the motor driven by the battery and the fuel cell topping up the battery and giving it greater life (by being kept more fully charged) are being developed. The Toyota FCHV-adv – equipped with a high-performance fuel cell stack and nickel metal hydride batteries. The design of the membrane-electrode-assembly (MEA) has been optimised to allow for low-temperature start-up and operation down to minus 30°C. Fuel cell output is 90 kW, matching the motor which delivers 260 Nm. Efficiency was improved by 25% from the earlier FCHV through improving fuel cell unit performance, enhancing the regenerative brake system and reducing energy consumed by the auxiliary system. In the 1.9 tonne five-seat vehicle a 70 MPa pressure vessel is used to store hydrogen which allows for an operating range of more than 800 km in the Japanese driving-cycle.

Beyond the electric vehicle initiatives described above, the Renault-Nissan Alliance is developing fuel cell-powered electric vehicles. In 2008 two prototypes are in an advanced engineering phase:

  • Nissan's X-Trail FCV has been undergoing 'realworld' testing for more than two years, with examples leased to government authorities in Japan.
  • Renault's prototype Scenic ZEV H2 FCV is a joint Alliance development featuring Nissan's in-house developed fuel cell stack, high-pressure hydrogen storage tank and compact lithium-ion batteries. Renault put the different FCV elements under the floor, to keep cabin space for five adults, and integrated Renault and Nissan electric and electronic systems.

Both FCVs have been created to demonstrate the viability of the fuel cell concept and to underline the Alliance's commitment to a zero emission future. During 2008 Nissan demonstrated the X-Trail FCV in six European countries and Renault showcased the Scenic ZEV H2. In August 2008 Nissan announced a new generation stack with power output increased from 90 kW to 130 kW, for larger vehicles. Fuel cell stack size is reduced by 25% to 68 litres from 90 litres, which allows for improved packaging flexibility.

The Mercedes-Benz B-Class with fuel-cell drive has passed its winter testing in northern Sweden and Mercedes planned to launch the first series FCV in mid 2010. Small-series production of the B-Class F-Cell was to commence in early 2010. A refined, more compact, yet more efficient system is used in this than the A-Class FCV. The compact electric motor develops 100 kW peak (70 kW sustained) power and a maximum torque of 320 Nm, surpassing the performance of a standard two-litre petrol engine. Range is 400 km. At the same time, it uses the equivalent of just 2.9 litres/100 km of fuel (diesel equivalent).

An issue with using hydrogen in fuel cells is overall energy efficiency. If a nuclear reactor generates electricity which is used for electrolysis of water and the hydrogen is compressed and used in fuel cell powered vehicle (assuming 60% efficient fuel cell), the efficiency is much lower than if the electricity is used directly in EVs and PHEVs.* However, if the hydrogen can be made by thermochemical means the efficiency doubles, and they are comparable with EV/PHEV.

* Say: 35% x 75% x 60% x 90% = 14% optimistically (reactor, electrolysis, fuel cell, motor)
to: 50% x 60% x 90% = 27% for future thermochemical hydrogen
cf 35% x 90% = 31% for EV.

An Australian Academy of Science report in December 2009 summarised the situation regarding fuel cell vehicles:
"Fuel cell technology currently has a number of unresolved problems before it can be used widely for motor transport. The most likely fuel cell type in cars will be proton exchange membrane fuel cells. These operate at around 90°C and would be ideal for vehicles if they can be produced cheaply and are robust, neither of which has yet been achieved. They also need to operate with hydrogen rather than natural gas. The only way this could be done is to use an on-board gas reformer which is very expensive, has a weight penalty and would probably have safety issues. Ceramic fuel cells can run with natural gas, but they operate at temperatures in excess of 600°C and therefore may be unsuitable for vehicular application."

In March 2012 it was reported that 12 new hydrogen refuelling stations opened throughout the world in 2011, bringing the total number of hydrogen refuelling stations in operation to 215. This is the result of the fourth annual assessment by H2stations.org, a website of LBST and TÜV SÜD. Another 122 refuelling stations were in the final planning stage around the world.

Appendix: Further Interesting Designs

BMW has produced an ActiveHybridX6 4WD, for marketing in the USA from 2010, and a similar ActiveHybrid7 series. The parallel drive system consists of a 298 kW twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 gasoline engine and two electric synchronous motors delivering 68 kW and 64 kW, respectively. Maximum system output is 358 kW, and peak torque reaches 781 Nm over a very wide range. It is able to run solely on electric power up to 60 km/h, with the internal combustion engine activated automatically when required. The two-mode transmission (stop-start and highway) uses a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The 2.4 kWh high-voltage NiMH battery pack is recharged partly through regenerative braking and maximum output is 57 kW. However, it gives an all-electric range of only 2.5 km.

From a stop and at low speeds, only one of the BMW's two electric motors is activated. As soon as the driver requires more power or increased speed, the second electric motor automatically starts the internal combustion engine. The second electric motor then serves as a generator to provide a supply of electric power to the vehicle systems. When driving steadily at a higher speed most of the power required is delivered by the combustion engine in a largely mechanical process. Here again, one of the two electric motors acts as a generator.

In August 2009 BMW announced its PHEV concept car, which has since developed into the i8 concept car. This was a parallel hybrid which combines BMW ActiveHybrid technology with an efficient 1.5 litre three-cylinder turbodiesel engine in front of the rear axle and an electric motor on each axle, drive normally being from all three. The rear electric motor gives consistent 24.6 kW and peak 38 kW, linked with the diesel motor, the front one is synchronous giving continuous output of 60 kW and peak power of 83.5 kW. Regenerative braking from the rear axle charges the 10.8 kWh lithium-polymer battery pack which is arranged along the centre axis of the floor pan. Its mass is only 85 kg. Mains charging is through a 220 volt 16 amp plug, giving full, recharge in 2.5 hours. At 380 volts and 32 amps charge time is 44 minutes. Electric-only range is 50 km, giving 17.5 kWh/100km. Mass is 1400 kg.

BMW has developed the Mini-E. It has a 35 kWh lithium ion battery pack taking up the back seat area and weighing 260kg. It can be charged in 8-10 hours from a household wall socket (presumably at 16 amps on a 240 volt system, 35 amps on 110 volts) or in two hours with special fittings. A 150 kW induction motor gives the 1.5 tonne car a claimed range of 250 km, hence almost 15 kWh/100km. It leased 600 of these to drivers in Germany, UK and USA.

In September 2009 Mercedes announced its Concept BlueZERO E-cell plus PHEV car based on its B-Class. This is a series hybrid, combining an efficient one-litre three-cylinder 50 kW turbocharged petrol engine (from the Smart) in front of the rear axle to charge the battery, and a compact 100 kW electric motor (70 kW sustained level) with a maximum torque of 320 Nm. It is front-wheel drive. Regenerative braking also charges the 17.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack in the floor pan. Mains charging is at 3.3 kW, presumably through a 220 volt 15 amp plug, giving full recharge in 6 hours. Rapid charging is at 20 kW to give a 50 km range. Electric-only range is 100 km, giving 17.5 kWh/100km. An all-electric version has 35 kWh battery capacity.

In mid-2010 Mercedes announced its SLS AMGE-Cell EV car. Traction is provided by four synchronous electric motors with a combined peak output of 392 kW and a maximum torque of 880 Nm. The four compact electric motors each achieve a maximum rpm of 12,000 rpm and are positioned near the wheels so that, compared with wheel-hub motors, the unsprung masses are substantially reduced. It has a liquid-cooled high-voltage (400 volt) lithium-ion battery featuring a modular design with an energy content of 48 kWh (3 x 16 kWh) and a capacity of 40 amp-hours.

Mercedes early in 2009 announced its Concept BlueZERO E-cell car with 35 kWh lithium-ion battery capacity and a range of 200 km. The compact electric motor develops 100 kW peak (70 kW sustained) power and a maximum torque of 320 Nm.

Ford has an Airstream PHEV concept car powered by a hydrogen-electric hybrid drivetrain – the HySeries Drive. The lithium-ion battery pack drives the vehicle and a compact steady-state fuel cell system is a range extender – the fuel cell’s sole function is to recharge the Li-ion battery pack as needed, using 4.5 kg of hydrogen on board. It can also be mains charged.

Early in 2009 Ford announced four new small EVs being developed with Magna on the Focus and Fusion platforms, to be on the market by 2012. The test vehicles are powered by a 100 kW three-phase AC motor which drives through a single speed gearbox. A 23 kWh lithium-ion battery pack gives a range of 130km and can be charged from a standard 220 volt socket in six hours or 110-volt in 12 hours.

The Tesla Roadster EV is reported to have 56 kWh on board and to recharge its 450 kg of batteries from a 13 amp mains supply in 16 hours, or rapidly in 3.5 hours, though more recent figures say 8 hours on 120 volts*. Its motor is 185 kW, three phase. Vehicle mass 1.2 tonnes and claimed range is 350 km. Deliveries commenced in 2008. The Tesla S, development of which is being financed by a $465 million federal loan, will be mass produced in California from 2011.

* The 3.5 hr would mean 16 kWh per hour, so 64 amps charging rate on a 240 volt system, the 8 hours on 120 volts would mean 58 amps. Two mobile connectors are offered to enable "charge from any available electrical outlet": 240 volt 30 amp, and 120 volt 15 amp, along with a "high-power connecter". The battery pack is claimed to have a 160,000 km lifecycle and cost $12,000 to replace.

Porsche has produced 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid, as well as the Cayenne S Hybrid SUV with parallel full-hybrid drive, and the 911 GT3 R Hybrid race car with electric drive on the front axle and a flywheel mass energy storage instead of a passenger seat. This was successful and was then developed into the mid-engine 918 RSR. The flywheel accumulator is an electric motor whose rotor rotates at up to 36,000 rpm to store rotation energy. Charging occurs when the two electric motors on the front axle reverse their function during braking processes and operate as generators. At the push of a button, the driver is able to call up the energy stored in the charged flywheel accumulator and use it during acceleration or overtaking maneuvers. The flywheel is braked electromagnetically in this case in order to additionally supply up to 2 x 75 kW, from its kinetic energy to the two electric motors on the front axle

The Spyder has a powerful V8 engine as well as electric motors on the front and rear axles with overall mechanical output of 160 kW. Power is transmitted to the wheels by a seven-speed transmission that feeds the power of the electric drive system to the rear axle. The front-wheel electric drive powers the wheels through a fixed transmission ratio. It has a fluid-cooled lithium-ion battery and uses regenerative braking. The driver can choose among four different running modes: The E-Drive mode is for running the car under electric power alone, with a range of up to 25 km. In the Hybrid mode, it uses both the electric motors and the IC engine as a function of driving conditions and requirements, offering a range from particularly fuel-efficient all the way to extra-powerful. The Sport Hybrid mode also uses both drive systems, but with the focus on performance. Most of the drive power goes to the rear wheels. In the Race Hybrid mode the drive systems are focused on pure performance, running at the limit to their power and dynamic output. With the battery sufficiently charged, a push-to-pass button feeds in additional electrical power (E-Boost), when overtaking.

The Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid has two 60 kW electric motors on the front transaxle supplementing the four-litre rear engine. A flywheel stores energy from regenerative braking and supplies it for brief acceleration.

The Norwegian Think (formerly Pivo) once owned by Ford has its Think City EV with 30 kW three-phase motor, 160 km range, and sodium batteries standard with lithium-ion as option. Think quotes 9.5 hours recharge from 230 volts at 14 amps for 80% recharge. Mass is 1.04 tonnes including 260 kg battery pack. However, in 2012 the company was bankrupt after failing in introducing the Think City EV to USA at $42,000. It was apparently bought by Russian interests involved with the car's lithium-ion batteries.

In the UK, the company which makes London's black cabs planned to develop an electric-powered version, which it was promoting as a "zero-emission urban taxi" designed for congested urban areas. Manganese Bronze signed an agreement with Tanfield, to develop a battery-powered version of its TX4 London cab – the TX4E. Tanfield subsidiary Smith Electric Vehicles is the world’s largest manufacturer of road-going commercial electric vehicles. Tanfield was to deliver an initial five of these in 2011 under an agreement with the UK Technology Strategy Board for the Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Demonstration (CABLED) project, but this, over 2009 to mid 2012, did not use one among its 110 vehicles, and Manganese Bronze went into administration in October 2012. Zhejiang Geely Holdings, which owned 20%, took over the balance in 2013. A Shanghai-based joint venture (Geely 52%) was set up to produce the TX4 in China from 2008, with Geely marketing them outside UK as Englon TX4, then developing it to the Englon TXN. Geely UK Ltd assembles the cabs in UK. Five hydrogen fuel cell prototypes of the TX4 were operated in 2012 in London, but nothing more has been heard of the electric cab project since 2008.

The new TX4E cab was designed to replace many of London's 20,000 licensed cabs. It would have a top speed of 80 km/hr and a range of 200 km on one battery charge. It would be powered by an advanced electric drive train and an iron phosphate lithium-ion battery pack. The technology was to be Tanfield/ Smith's well-proven all-electric system, recharged off-peak in 6 to 8 hours, and capable of rapid top-up in an hour. Running costs were expected to be well under half those of the present TX4 diesel version.

Jaguar has the C-X75 hybrid with two small gas turbines (each 35 kg) to charge the batteries. Four 145 kW electric motors at each wheel drive the 1350 kg vehicle up to 330 km/h, with total torque of 1600 Nm. It has an electric-only range of 110 km, but a 60-litre fuel tank.

Peugeot's RCZ hybrid has a 1.6-litre diesel engine driving the front wheels and a 27 kW electric motor driving the rear wheels. It has regenerative braking to charge a high-voltage battery pack of unspecified capacity. It may be marketed from early 2011.

Mazda's Tribute hybrid is a more conventional full hybrid SUV with nickel hydride battery and 2.3 litre petrol engine. Mazda's Premacy hydrogen RE people mover has a lithium ion battery pack and a hydrogen-fuelled rotary engine. It appears to be a full parallel hybrid. Commercial leasing is envisaged.

In 2005 DaimlerChrysler brought out a PHEV Mercedes Sprinter van prototype, with 107 kW (143 bhp) internal combustion engine and 90 kW (120 bhp) electric motor, its batteries giving it a 30 km electric range. This may lead to a commercial version with the technology.

Volkswagen has produced a diesel-electric LI concept car, a narrow two-seater (fore & aft) with 10 kW electric motor assisting an 800 cc diesel engine giving 1.38 litres/100km.

Volkswagen in 2009 unveiled its Eup! commuter EV with production model expected in 2013. It has 18 kWh of lithium-ion batteries (mass 240 kg of total 1085 kg) giving an electric range of 130 km. A US version will be bigger and have 200 km range. It can get 80% charge in an hour or full charge in 5 hours from 230-volt system. It uses Toshiba's SCIB (Super Charge Ion Battery) technology which is resistant to short circuits. Solar panels on the roof run ancillary systems.

The Audi A1 e-tron is a PHEV with a small Wankel motor simply to top up the battery. The single electric motor delivers 75 kW peak power or 45 kW continuous to the front wheels. The 380 volt lithium-ion battery has a nominal energy content of 12 kWh giving an all-electric range of 50 km, and weighs less than 150 kg. A fully depleted battery can be recharged in approximately three hours from a 380 volt grid. It has regenerative braking. The 250cc motor drives a 15 kW generator at constant 5000 rpm, and the whole charging set up weighs only 70 kg and is barely audible. The vehicle mass is 1190 kg and overall range is 200 km (with 12-litre fuel tank).

The Lotus Evora PHEV has two 152 kW electric motors driving each of the rear wheels independently via a single speed geartrain, integrated into a common transmission housing. A 17 kWh lithium polymer battery pack is centrally-mounted and can be charged from domestic supply overnight. It gives 55 km range. A 35 kW 1.2 litre three-cylinder IC motor drives a generator to charge the battery and give range extension. The range extension pack weighs only 85 kg. Lotus says that this is an optimum compromise between large battery with mass and cost implications, and greater reliance on IC motor (as in Prius).

The luxury Fisker Karma PHEV sports sedan built in Finland, with first production delivered in 2011, claims an 80 km range on 20 kWh lithium-ion battery before the two-litre IC motor kicks in with 175 kW generator. It is a series hybrid driven by twin 120 kW electric motors. Charging in said to be 4 to 8 hours. Mass is 2400 kg. About 2450 were produced before production ceased in November 2012. Fisker Automotive Inc was preparing to produce the small mass-market rear-drive Atlantic (formerly Nina) in the USA, in Delaware, but this was abandoned. The Atlantic uses a 4-cylincer BMW engine to charge the batteries. The company is set to be taken over by Wanxiang America, a subsidiary of a Chinese parts manufacturer, and the new owner of Fisker’s battery supplier A123 systems (now B456). Production of the Karma may resume.

Volvo has the V60 diesel PHEV which is being deployed in collaboration with Vattenfall, the Swedish electric utility and is to be launched in 2012. It is an outcome of the V2 Plug-in-Hybrid Vehicle Partnership set up in 2007, and is a parallel hybrid. Its 12 kWh lithium-ion battery will be charged from a 10 amp wall socket in about five hours, as well as by regenerative braking, and gives an electric range of 50km. A 50 kW electric motor is supplemented by a 150 kW diesel motor. Three test cars based on Volvo V70 have been in operation.

Peugeot Citroen planned to market a HYbrid4 PHEV diesel in 2012.

Peugeot Citroen have the C1 ev'le which claims to be the first UK four-seater production EV. It has a 30 kW motor and a lithium-ion battery pack which recharges in 7 hours from 13 amp socket, giving the 900 kg vehicle a 110 km range.

Main Sources:
Romm J.J. & Frank A.F. 2006, Hybrid Vehicles Gain Traction, Scientific American April 2006.
Economist Technology Quarterly, 10/6/06.
Brown, Russell 2006, Critical Paths to a Post-Petroleum Age (ANL paper).
Phil Jones & David Barber
R. Hunwick, Plug in Vehicles presentation 16/10/07.
OECD/IEA 2008, Energy Technology Perspectives.
AAS 2009: Australia's Renewable Energy Future
Royal Academy of Engineering, May 2010, Electric vehicles: charged with potential.
EPRI 2011, A Consumer's Guide to the Electric Vehicle

Energy Supply Association of Australia (ESAA), Nov 2013, Sparking an Electric Vehicle Debate in Australia