Driverless cars was a topic this week. The Washington Post looked at how they might address our energy problems while the Honolulu Star Advertiser told us the race to build driverless cars is heating up.  Driverless means nobody needs to be behind the wheel because internal and external sensors, plus satellite magic, allow the vehicle to drive itself. The latter post says:

Much of the technology already is on the streets. Newer, higher-end automobiles can parallel-park themselves, creep through traffic jams on their own, alert drivers to blind side intruders, keep wheels from rolling onto centerlines and spot deer in the road before headlights can…Google and other innovators say they may be just five years away from having all the tools and know-how to market what researchers call “a fully autonomous vehicle” — where steering, braking and turns can be safely performed without manning the controls.

Since 2011, three U.S. states where much of the corporate testing is taking place — California, Nevada and Florida — have enacted laws legalizing driverless vehicles. Michigan, Oklahoma and New Jersey have similar bills in the works.

From the Asahhi Shimbun we learn Terra Motors has built a 3-wheeled electric vehicle for the Philippines. Priced at $5,000, it has room for one driver and five adult passengers. On a two-hour charge, it can run 50 kilometers. The EV is designed as a taxi for this South Asian country.

whatsonxiamen reports the Chinese province of Fujian will be getting some natural gas-electric buses. Thirty of these hybrid buses soon be in operation on Fujian’s Pingtan Island. When traveling at speeds below 22 kilometers per hour, the bus will be powered by electricity. At over 22 kilometers per hour, the bus is powered by natural gas (LNG).

In India automaker Mahindra Reva launches a next-generation electric car according to The Hindu. The fully automatic transmission EV, e2o,  can go 100 km on one full battery recharge of five hours. The 830 kg vehicle can seat four adults, including the driver. It is powered by lithium-ion batteries and runs on a three-phase electric motor on auto-drive mode. From the Business Standard we find that the company hopes to sell 5000 of these vehicles this year.

The Daily Tech informs us that hybrids now make up 4% of the US auto market.

Electric vehicles could make up 10% to 25% of Ford’s automobile sales by 2020 says REneweconomy.The company’s current fleet of EVs includes battery, electric, plug-in and hybrids

Mother Nature Network comments on the tough road ahead in resolving misconceptions about electric cars. A new consumer survey by Navigant Research found several obstacles preventing consumers from purchasing or leasing plug-in EVs (PEVs). Number one barrier, as reported by many surveys, is battery range.  Consumers are afraid they will run out of electricity before they reach their destination. Moreover, many believe current PEV owners are often stranded as a result of their vehicle running out of power. Of equal concern, consumers believe PEVs are more expensive than petroleum powered vehicles. Additionally,consumers believe that PEV batteries are dangerous, given the publicity over the Chevy Volt, the Fisker and the Boeing Dreamliner. The research company concluded”

“So-called ‘range anxiety’ continues to be the No. 1 reason cited by consumers who are not interested in purchasing PEVs…A number of other negative perceptions continue to persist, however, helping to explain why overall consumer interest in PEVs has declined since 2011.”

In a related post, The Washington Post says expensive batteries are holding back electric cars and wonders if this can change. See also Torque News Electric vehicle adoption may require battery technology breakthrough. Meanwhile, Gasgoo finds that EV subsidies in China are not having the anticipated results. When the subsidies were introduced by the Chinese government in 2009, it expected 53,000 sales by 2012.  Instead, there were only 27,000 purchases and of these sales the vast majority have been to public fleets (eg. buses, taxis). Only 4000 EVs have be bought by private consumers.

To address the range anxiety concern, autobloggreen says Liberty Electric Cars of the UK is working on 1,000-mile EV for 2014. The car would go 1000 miles on a single charge. Several European cities would be reachable without a recharge from London such as Paris, Brussels, Milan.  Liberty has yet to indicated the model or price of the vehicle. In 2010, Liberty debuted its Range Rover EV which had a 200-mile single-charge range and a $250,000 price tag.

Fiat and BMW are addressing the range anxiety problem by loaning EV purchasers a gasoline powered car for when they need to go on longer trips. For many drivers, purely battery-powered cars are being overlooked because the typical EV must be recharged after every 80 or so miles on the road, and because four or more hours are required for a full recharge. BMW and Fiat think that EVs are practical for 90% of an average driver’s needs, so for the other 10% they are willing to offer a loaner. Both companies are putting a limit on the number of days a year the loan would be available with Fiat setting the limit at 12 days.  See also Gas2 Fiat To Address Range Anxiety With Rental Car.

plugincars gives us a Quick Guide to Buying Your First Home EV Charger.

plugincars also says the placement of quick charge stations in the US is the key to eliminating range anxiety. The site argues that when EV drivers know that a near-full recharge can be accomplished in less than 30 minutes, or in less time than its takes to eat some lunch or do some shopping, they will make longer trips.

So, it’s not the number of quick charge stations installed in the U.S. that matters, but the strategic placement that will make electric vehicles appear more user-friendly and capable of occasionally making a road trip. This, in turn, could convince greater number of carbuyers that EVs are practical.










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