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Presidential candidate Mitt Romney isn’t the only one that’s skeptical about electric vehicles and their development. At an industry panel in New York, executives expressed their criticisms of the electric vehicle market as automakers have quietly shelved strong pushes towards developing EVs.
Given that we seem to be living in an increasing wireless world (anybody remember TV remotes with cords?) it seems only natural that one of the next steps is for EV car charging to go wireless.
We’ve already had a glimpse of this, notable at this year’s New York Auto Show, where Infiniti’s LE concept incorporated such a system, which consists of two coils (one mounted in the vehicle, the other in a pad on the garage floor) which create a magnetic field that stimulates the flow of electric current from the floor to the car).
When it comes to hybrids and electric vehicles, one of the biggest drawbacks concerns the battery pack. Besides being bulky, batteries aren’t particularly efficient at generating energy, which under braking means it often takes considerable time for the battery to be re-charged and in the case of pure EVs severely limits operating range.
By contrast, supercapacitors, are able to scavenge and generate energy much faster, while being able to endure multiple charge cycles with little or no degradation (unlike batteries). However, in most cases (dictated by the need to provide a suitable casing to house the liquid electrolyte necessary for generating a chemical reaction), supercapacitors were also big and heavy, making them largely unsuitable for automotive applications.
However, a team of scientists from the University of Minnesota has developed a new solid state supercapacitor that performs similar to those currently available, only in a much smaller package.
Rajesh Rajamani, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, along with colleague Shan Hu and fellow professor Xun Yu from the University of North Texas, were able to create this new supercapacitor using a polymer based electrolyte and nanotube coated cotton paper for electrodes.
The result is a device that is both compact and flexible, making it ideally suited for mounting just about anywhere on a vehicle. However, despite the advantages in energy generation a supercapacitor provides over batteries typically found in modern hybrid and electric vehicles, some issues remain.
The biggest is high resistance, caused by the cotton paper electrodes, which results in a relatively low power density and makes recharging painfully slow (not unlike many battery systems). Rajamani and his team say they are working on improvements, namely coating the paper with a higher density nanotube solution and if they succeed, we might have a truly viable alternative to bulky battery packs (at present a number of groups are already working on programs that team supercapacitors with battery systems in hybrids and EVs to help boost performance and fuel economy).
If that proves to be the case, then future hybrids and EVs will be able to deliver levels of performance far superior to those available today, since they’d be able to generate the same if not more energy while having far less weight to lug around. Not only that, but they’d be also far more practical, since there wouldn’t be a need to replace the battery pack every few years.
Despite all the current hype surrounding Electric Vehicles and the seemingly huge amount of money some automakers are investing in them, a recent survey among global auto executives by consulting firm KPMG revealed that most are skeptical about the future success of EVs.
In fact among the 200 executives surveyed anonymously, two-thirds predict that sales of both Hybrid and pure EVs will only account for around 6 percent of total vehicle sales in Europe and the US by 2025. Nonetheless, it appears a large majority still think automakers will continue to invest large in EV technology, regardless.
Around 81 percent of those surveyed said they anticipate larger investments in battery technology for EVs, some 85 percent predict more investments in electric motor development, while 76 percent see greater resources being allocated to electronics designed for EVs.
From the results of the survey, Gary Silberg, KPMG’s national auto industry leader believes that many automakers are “hedging their bets. They are saying that we don’t know yet what the winning vehicle technology will be for the future, and so they are going to invest in all of it and let the market decide.”
Besides EV technology, the survey also revealed that many executives, from different parts of the world, believe that Chrysler and Ford Motor Company will gain global market share over the next five years, 47 percent predicting Ford’s market share will increase, while 31 percent believe Chrysler will show gains.
According to Silberg, these findings are indicative of a more positive public perception of both companies, which will translate into greater global sales and market share.
[Source: Automotive News]