Electric vehicles are now a reality. Today they are on sale to the general public and demand is on the rise.
Several arguments plead in their favor: The complete absence of emissions from the vehicle, the high torque of the motor giving maximum pulling power when starting, the constant power over a wide range of operating speeds and the silence of the electric motor give it an undeniable advantage over the thermal motor, in particular in an urban environment.
The comparison cannot be limited to the motors. The vehicle has also to transport a source of energy. Today’s electric vehicles use a battery or a hydrogen fuel cell to do this. Regenerative braking recharges the battery and is undoubtedly a plus, one which is also to be found in some internal combustion engine vehicles fitted with a stop & start system.
Inversely the powering of certain auxiliary features such as power steering, radio and video accessories, regulating the temperature of the passenger compartment/cabin are important but difficult for electric vehicles. For example the 2 to 6kW of heating recovered from ICE motor losses cannot be supplied by the battery as the 200 W already needed for the other auxiliary features is already critical. High efficiency heat pumps have still to be developed.
The current limitations are charging time using a household outlet, electric charging and hydrogen fuelling infrastructure, lifespan, price and specific energy which determine the autonomy but already considerable progress has been made and those currently in development are more than encouraging.
Zero local emissions do not mean no CO2 emissions since the production of the electricity to charge the battery or the hydrogen for the fuel cell will have generated emissions at the point of production. It all depends on the country’s energy mix or the percentage of each primary source of electricity production. Capture and Sequestration of CO2 plants are being built near certain power stations using fossil fuels.
By 2015 global production capacity should be around 1 million batteries. The economic model predicts a robust and continuous expansion for the sector and continued development due to economies of scale.