How to cure the range anxiety of electric cars
A potential solution to one of the biggest concerns about electric vehicles
The emergence of electric vehicles has potential for impact far beyond the automotive industry. According to data from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the transportation sector accounts for 14 percent of global emissions and the shift to electric vehicles would significantly reduce that number. Yet for all of the excitement and conversation, electric vehicles made up only 0.2 percent of passenger vehicles worldwide in 2016, according to the International Energy Agency.
The barriers to adoption include the high costs of the cars themselves, concerns about style, access to charging stations and general lack of awareness of the option. Research from Deloitte found that for most countries in Europe, the percentage of people who call themselves "potential first movers" or who "might be willing" to purchase an electric car is quite similar to those who are "not likely to consider" -- with more reluctance to consider an electric vehicle in Belgium, France, Germany, and the UK and greater receptivity in Spain, Italy, and Turkey.
But when asked what concerns them about an electric car, one issue stands out: range anxiety.
A third of consumers who say they might buy an electric car want a car with 400-mile range (650 km); another third would settle for 300 miles (500 km). Even though the average person drives only 40 miles per day, knowing that a vehicle can meet their perceived needs is key to overcoming this important barrier.
Seeing an opportunity to reach curious yet skeptical consumers, Mitsubishi Turbocharger and Engine Europe (MTEE) investigated and developed power generators capable of charging the battery of an electric vehicle while driving. The team behind the product thinks that range extenders will make it easier for people to rely on electric vehicles.
With an output of 30 kW range extenders will deliver enough energy to drive a passenger vehicle at 80 miles / 130 km per hour.
"A range extender can increase your driving range -- a major concern that people have about battery electric vehicles," Bas Bonnier, General Manager Turbocharger Operations at MTEE, said. "When you have no time to charge the batteries, or when there is no power supply available, you can traditionally fuel the vehicle within a few minutes."
Beyond peace of mind while on the road, a range extender is designed to make battery electric vehicles more affordable and accessible due to the need for a smaller battery pack as backup.
"Why carry a costly, heavy, polluting battery pack day in and day out when you only need it for that one time you go to visit your grandma?" he said.
Bonnier remarked that even though there has been much conversation about the topic, “clean mobility” itself doesn’t exist. Pollution is created when automobiles are being built, pollution is created when automobiles are being used and pollution is created when energy is being harvested. He argued that even though range extenders use traditional fuel, it’s an important advancement toward cleaner energy and mobility from a total environmental impact perspective.
Bonnier added that the global car population will double from 1.2 billion to 2 billion cars by the year 2040. That means pollution will drastically increase unless we change the status quo.
“Try to imagine the amount of material and energy we need to realize this kind of growth,” Bonnier said. “The knowledge that free energy and zero environmental impact does not exist gives us a huge responsibility to look beyond tail pipe emissions and reduce the amount of energy we use as individuals.”