- Category: World News
- Published on Thursday, 06 December 2012 10:27
- Written by Tejas Joseph
- Hits: 1554
Commercial electric vehicles are blazing a leading path with active government support.
The story of China and Denmark: Models in the making
In an unexpected but welcome twist, commercial vehicles - buses, taxis
and trucks – are outclassing passenger cars when it comes to electric
vehicle (ev) technologies and developments. Buses in particular are in
the forefront of ev R&D attracting substantial grants and support from some
governments committed to reducing urban pollution and their own
Even though buses account for only 0.1% of global warming statistically,these governments are looking beyond economics to building a green image for their cities. Electrifying their public transportation fleets is a step towards reducing their local and global pollution contributions to some extent.
Far fetched as it may sound the logic of these governments is founded upon faith and a pioneering vision. In ensuring a quieter, smoother and cleaner ride for passengers (it is argued), electric buses will increase in popularity and, consequently, increase incomes for their operators. The result of such an attitude is that industrial and commercial electric vehicles - buses,trucks,forklifts - are becoming commercially successful owing to their growing mass acceptance,sparking, in its turn, a feverish pitch of R&D to constantly improve them. Their market is on the rise and the pace of their technological development is believed to be outstripping cars.
The Chinese national bus program is a case in point. It is one that other Asian cities (amongst the most polluted in the world) can take inspiration from, most notably India whose growing numbers of private automobiles, rising air pollution, poor roads and public transportation beg for such enlightened interventions. India's involvement with EVs (R&D,policies or production) remains conspicuous by its marked absence making it miss out on this critical development,one that it cannot afford to.It can readily transplant some of these Chinese initiatives as both countries share similar problems with regard to large populations,inner city pollution and congestion and a beleaguered oil economy.
Under this program China has begun phasing out noisy, polluting IC engine driven buses in favor of hybrids and electrics in a big way . The administration is favorably inclined towards pure electric buses that could predominate the Chinese public transportation fleet by the year 2022. To meet these visionary goals the Chinese government is supporting mainstream and related R&D of ev technologies as well as supporting suppliers through buying core components for electric vehicles. Such efforts are stimulating a nascent ev industry and market to achieve quicker maturity in the absence of a well defined and responsive market for this category presently. In a span of just ten years the urban bus in China has gone from being the noisy and smoky vehicle it was with an internal combustion engine to become, firstly, parallel and series hybrids and,finally, to an all electric avatar. This short transformation time line is a truly outstanding one.
This national initiative has enabled Shenzhen City in China to add 1500 pure electric K9 buses and e6 taxis to its public transportation fleet, considered to be the largest zero-emissions fleet in service world-wide today.
The Shenzhen Development and Reform Commission (SDRC) proudly claims that "Shenzhen is the first city in China to implement a subsidy for new energy vehicles to promote their mass acceptance".They also cited “rising oil prices and growing environmental pressures as key reasons to transform the public transportation system”. Shenzhen City administration believes electrified transportation offers “the most effective way to stimulate economic recovery while restoring the environment through lowering urban CO2 emissions”.
Buses vs Cycles!
In an irony of sorts the cleanest form of transport ever -the humble bicycle - is being edged out by electric buses.While China has the world's largest bicycling population (over 125 million electric and regular bicycles getting people to work and about) local governments see them as a cause of congestion and accidents.They are also now becoming a source of pollution resulting from the indiscriminate and unregulated disposal of lead acid batteries displaced by this giant 2wheel fleet every 12-24 months.
- Category: World News
- Published on Monday, 19 November 2012 12:11
- Written by Tejas Joseph
- Hits: 1545
Charging station eco-systems for electric cars at last
One indisputable factor that has delayed the acceptance of electric cars is the absence of a charging infrastructure. Though electric cars have been getting better these last few years they refused to cross the popularity threshold for want of in-transit charging facilities as much as for their expensive price tags. While research and development kept focusing on drive trains,batteries and better designs to diminish drag no one seemed to be paying much attention to developing public charging stations to service electric vehicle owners and users on the road. Opening the market through providing a means to extend range miles for electric car users simply escaped the calculations of EV developers and promoters it seems. It fell upon a leading electric car maker to take this first step in what could be the beginning of a whole new era for electric cars redefining its purpose.
Tesla Motors are planning on erecting a network of 'superchargers' to be strategically located across the United states to enable 'inter-city petroleum free driving'. For long have customers been throwing the question at Tesla “ How do I drive across the country in your electric car?”,which led them eventually to think seriously about it. Tesla's chief technical officer, J B Straubel, admits that not being able to take a long round road trip is one of the holdouts affecting the mass acceptance of electric cars in general.
Tesla intends to address this deficit through installing powerful charging stations — pumping electricity at 90 kilowatts, adding about 250 miles of range in an hour — at key locations between major American cities. As it stands the cars from the Tesla stable have enough range to facilitate intra-city travel reliably. The goal of the proposed high-speed charging network is to enable inter-city journeys eventually on a nationwide basis. Mr. Straubel said he saw the high-speed chargers as “the final piece of the whole technology suite” enabling Tesla now to work the electric car market in a way that no one has. It will also bestow upon them a lead that others will soon start chasing, to the betterment and progress of the electric car industry and market at large.
Tesla plans to open its first charging locations by the end of the year to customers who have bought the Model S,whose owners will receive free electric fuel for life at these stations.
This looks like the beginning of a whole new chapter in road travel, albeit with some big differences :- cars moving with the stealth and silence of ghosts. And, of course, giving off no tailpipe emissions!. Look out for them.
- Category: World News
- Published on Monday, 23 July 2012 09:12
- Written by Tejas Joseph
- Hits: 4696
Helping customers choose clean vehicles through better information
It looks as if the age of information is going to make for some driving changes in the way people choose their cars and run them. In what is seen as a convergence of timely legislation and rising public awareness, the US Government plans to release new window stickers for vehicles commencing with the 2013 model year. These new labels/stickers represent the biggest makeover in the sticker program’s 35-year history and will replace an old design that hitherto provided only basic information about estimated fuel economy in new vehicles. For the first time there will be different labels for different categories - conventional vehicles, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles.
The Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) and the Department of Transportation, who are jointly responsible for the window sticker program, passed over another design that many think would have better disclosed a vehicle's environmental efficiency. This is a letter grading system - from A to D - that compares a given vehicle’s fuel economy and air pollution to those of other cars in its class. US automakers objected to this sticker concept as being 'simplistic and potentially misleading'. However,this letter grading system has found favor in Europe both because of strong environmental lobbies and the pro-environmental inclinations of many European governments notably Denmark,Sweden,Switzerland and Germany.
Still this new labeling system is not so bad for starters and indicates the dawning of a new pollution control age in America. The proposed new stickers for US cars will (for the first time also) include a greenhouse gas rating that compares a vehicle’s carbon dioxide emissions and heat-trapping gases with those of all other vehicles. It will also provide smog ratings based on emissions of other air pollutants like nitrogen oxide and particulates.
Stickers for plug-in hybrids and electric cars will include their charging time and estimated range while running in electric-only mode. While electric cars will surely clock the highest greenhouse gas and smog ratings the measure certainly does not take into account emissions from power plants that generate the energy needed to charge EVs up. According to a spokesperson “ the government was right to leave power plant emissions out of its ratings for electric vehicles. Upstream emissions raise a complex mix of factors that auto makers have no way of predicting or controlling”.
The EPA said the new gallons-per-mile measure, combined with the estimated fuel costs, would provide consumers a more accurate measure of efficiency and expenditure than the traditional miles-per-gallon figure, which “rarely reflects real-world driving conditions” according to them.
The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) welcomed the new design saying it provided far more reliable and realistic information to customers. It would also serve to put more fuel efficient cars on the road they think. Such disclosures illustrate that the US car making lobby have just entered the 'fuel efficiency' era while others, the Japanese and Germans to note, have moved on from here and are setting their sights on the emerging horizons of ecological transportation, reflecting a total distinction in perspectives and not just technologies.
The labels will also include a QR code that can be scanned by smartphones (calculators will also be available online) to get cost estimates based on driving habits and the price of gasoline/electricity in a given region. It will also provide comparisons with other vehicles.
Such interventions, sadly, are not at all on the list for consideration by the automobile makers or the governments in India,China and other large Asian countries whose goals are still centered around maximal and cheap production. Energy conservation and emissions control have not become priorities in these developing economies. Even major automakers who have set up shop in these countries cash in on the lax environmental norms of these nations.