Plug-ins


The sexy electric Roadster by Tesla Motors has been getting a lot of attention ever since the first photos came out a few years ago. Part of that attention comes from its looks, which were different from most electric cars that came before, but what’s under the hood is just as interesting.

Tesla Roadster Electric Car Photo

 

BYD is a huge Chinese battery maker who recently started making plug-in hybrids and electric cars. Despite delays some delays in introducing EVs to the US, it is on track to become a big player in the next few years. The electric E6 pictured here is BYD’s battery-powered crossover. There’s also the BYD F3DM and F6DM.

BYD E6 Electric Car photo
The XS500 by the Miles Automotive Group is expected to be a highway-capable electric car sold for $30,000-35,000 in the United States around 2009-2010.
Miles XS500 EV Electric Car photo
the i MiEV by Mitsubishi is a small battery electric car that has got a lot of press lately. Mitsubishi has announced that it would start producing it a year in advance (2009 instead of 2010), and 2,000 i MiEVs will be made in the production run.
Mitsubishi i MiEV electric car photo

The R1E is a small urban battery electric car by Subaru. It was recently tested around New York City.

Subaru r1e electric car photo
The EV1 is now almost a legend, partly because it was one of the first electric cars that the average person could actually drive, and partly because of GM’s campaign to destroy them (see Who Killed the Electric Car?). Recently an EV1 that avoided being crushed was sold for $465k.
GM EV1 Electric Car photo
The REVA (known as the G-Wiz i in the UK) is a small city electric car from India. It’s not the most high-tech EV, and at 745 kg (1,640 lb), it’s definitely not the biggest. But it’s been in production since 2001 and the new version features an improved range.
REVA electric car photo
The ZENN (Zero Emission, No Noise) is a 2-seater neighborhood battery electric car. It has a range of up to 40 miles (64 km) and does not exceed 25 mph (40 km/h). This green car has been in production since 2006.
ZENN EV Electric Car photo
The Tango is an ultra-narrow electric sports car built by Commuter Cars. It sells for an eye-popping $108,000 (you could get a Tesla Roadster for that kind of money), and it is better known as “that electric car that George Clooney drives“. It can do 0-60 mph in 4 seconds.
Tango Electric Car photo
The Aptera 2e (formerly the Typ-1e) is a super-efficient electric vehicle designed be Aptera motors, and it probably has the most avant-garde look of all electric cars featured here. The company also plans a plug-in hybrid version that would get about 300 MPG if plugged in every 120 miles. Google has invested money in the company. The all-electric model will sell for $27,000 and the series plug-in hybrid version will sell for $30,000.
Aptera Electric Car photo
The GM Volt is a “range-extended” electric car is scheduled for 2011. It should be able to drive 40 miles in all-electric mode before a gas engine kicks in to recharge the batteries. More information and photos about the Volt can be found here.
GM Volt plug in electric car photo
Like the GM Volt, the Fisker Karma is a “range-extended” electric car. Its all-electric range is 50 miles, and over that a gas engine kicks in to generate power and recharge the batteries. Fisker has recently opened an engineering center near Detroit
Fisker Karma plug in electric car photo

In the fall of 2008 Chrysler unveiled three electric car concepts, saying that it would produce one. The first is the Dodge EV, an electric sports car.

Dodge EV electric sports car photo

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California start-up Better Place and Danish utility Dong Energy said Tuesday they have lined up financing to bring an electric car charging network to Denmark by 2011.

The two organizations have secured almost $103 million in equity and convertible debt that will go toward constructing stations where drivers can swap in fresh batteries for electric cars.

 

(Credit: Better Place)

Better Place’s business plan focuses on building a network of automated battery-swapping stations along driving corridors. Places to rapidly charge or get fresh batteries will address the range limitations of existing car batteries, according to Better Place.

Although Better Place has announced customers with the governments of Israel, Hawaii, Portugal, and San Francisco for its network of charging stations, Denmark appears to be the first to secure financing to build the charging infrastructure.

Once a network is set up, state-controlled Dong Energy said its excess wind power capacity can be used for charging electric cars. Denmark now gets 20 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, but a portion of that electricity is exported because it can’t be stored economically.

“Our goal in investing in Better Place Denmark is to help reduce CO2 emissions and increase the consumption of sustainable energy by capturing and leveraging wind power more efficiently,” Dong Energy CEO Anders Eldrup said in a statement.

The structure of the deal underlines the pieces auto industry executives say need to be in place before electric cars can be used by large numbers of consumers.

Utilities need to be involved to understand and manage the shift in power-grid load that electric cars bring. Government incentives need to be in place to overcome the higher cost of battery-powered vehicles. In Denmark, the government does not levy a sales tax on electric cars to promote their use.

The start-up also announced that it has hired former Microsoft Europe executive Jens Moberg as CEO of Better Place Denmark.

DETROIT–Ford Motor Co. is planning to put a fully electric car in showrooms by 2011 that will get up to 100 miles on a single charge and plans to offer plug-in versions of its gas-electric hybrid vehicles a year later.

Ford announced its strategy for electric vehicles Sunday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, offering a broad description of plans for both hybrid and purely electric-powered vehicles.

Executive chair Bill Ford Jr. said the company is working on four high-mileage battery-electric vehicles to be introduced in the coming years.

Ford said the company’s electrification strategy is “perfectly aligned with our nation’s growing interest in advanced technologies that can help reduce our usage of gasoline.”

The Dearborn-based automaker said it also plans to have a battery-powered commercial van on the market in 2010.

“We’re employing a comprehensive approach to electrification that will tackle commercial issues such as batteries, standards and infrastructure,” Bill Ford said.

In an effort to make electric vehicles appeal to a mass market, Ford said the company is teaming up with utility companies in California, and local governments in Colorado and China to develop projects that can help fuel usage of plug-in, eco-friendly vehicles.

Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice-president of global product development, said the automaker expects to start out selling 5,000 to 10,000 electric vehicles annually.

Ford also plans to bring its European Fiesta subcompact car to the U.S. next year and is looking to drum up excitement for the vehicle by letting selected people test drive the car this summer and share their experiences on social networking websites.

A consortium of 14 U.S. technology companies is seeking $1 billion in federal aid to build a factory to manufacture advanced electric car batteries, according to a report Wednesday night by The Wall Street Journal.

Aiming to catch up to Asian battery producers that already dominate the market, the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture is described as the most ambitious effort to date to meet automakers’ increasing demand for lithium-ion batteries. The report noted that U.S. automakers such as GM and Ford plan to roll out plug-in electric cars by 2010, but that the U.S. lacks sufficient facilities to produce the lithium-ion batteries those cars require.

Batteries are the most expensive component in plug-in electric vehicles, a market being pursued by a few U.S. companies. But battery makers and analysts say that U.S. manufacturers lack the financial means to meet the anticipated demand of electric cars.

Last week, former Intel CEO Andy Grove joined other Silicon Valley elites in advocating for an industry shift into energy technology. Grove told the Journal that he is urging Intel to invest in battery manufacturing as a way to diversify from its core chip business.

Grove said Intel’s “strategic objective is tackling big problems and turning them into big businesses.” He said Intel, with its cash resources, can invest in battery technology and manufacturing to bring down the cost of car batteries, which would drive adoption of plug-in electric cars.

Toyota Motor Sales announced an expanded commitment to electric vehicles on Saturday, disclosing plans to manufacture an all-electric city car by 2012 and a wider fleet of gas-electric hybrids.

At the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Toyota showed off a concept car called the FT-EV, a battery-powered four-seat compact car. Although it’s concept car, Toyota said it will release an “urban commuter” electric car in 2012.

Based on an existing car sold in Japan called the iQ, the FT-EV runs entirely on batteries and has a range of about 50 miles. Like many all-electric cars planned for release in the next few years, the FT-EV is designed for commutes and short trips, potentially as a second car.

In a statement, Toyota Motor Sales’ group vice president of environmental and public affairs Irv Miller said that even though gasoline prices have dipped substantially in the past half year, the auto industry should focus on fuel-efficiency.

“We must address the inevitability of peak oil by developing vehicles powered by alternatives to liquid-oil fuel, as well as new concepts, like the iQ, that are lighter in weight and smaller in size. This kind of vehicle, electrified or not, is where our industry must focus its creativity,” he said.

A number of auto companies, including Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Think, plan to bring out small all-electric cars in the next two years. The commitment of Toyota–maker of the iconic Prius hybrid car–adds more validity to the small electric commuter car category.

 

Toyota’s FT-EV, a concept car that will be the basis for an all-electric commuter car due in 2012.

(Credit: Toyota)

Still, Toyota said the the gas-electric powertrain of the Prius represents its “core” technology because it can be used with larger vehicles.

On Sunday, the company said that it will move up its previously announced plan to test plug-in hybrid cars using lithium-ion batteries. Current Priuses use Nickel-metal hydride technology but most auto makers are pursuing lithium-ion chemistry for an upcoming wave of electric cars.

At the end of 2009, it will begin testing a fleet of plug-in electric Priuses using lithium-ion batteries. Of the 500, 150 will be made available to U.S. customers for lease.

Toyota’s goal is to sell one million gas-electric hybrids a year in the early 2010s. It will have 10 new hybrid models in that time, including the third-generation Prius and the Lexus HS250h, both of which it introduced this week in Detroit at the NAIAS.