In a sign of the times, it seems as though some of the major automotive companies of the Far East are looking towards the electric vehicle market, with particular emphasis upon the micro-car market. Over the last few months we have seen a significant improvement in market sentiment towards this particular area of the electric vehicle market and this has not gone unnoticed by the majors. Even though the market for micro-cars is only expected to grow by 0.1% per annum between 2010 and 2018, it is expected that by 2018 there will be 1.75 million such units on the road.
While many Western governments have been very vocal in their support for electric vehicles with various financial packages promised, many of these have failed to materialise in the volume promised. This does not appear to be a problem with the Japanese government, which is offering incentives, exemptions, and preferential tax treatment for an array of electric vehicles as it looks towards its environmental responsibilities with perhaps a little more haste than many Western governments.
The government has also been very supportive of the industry as a whole and the use of electric vehicles during various rescue phases of the tsunami disaster and earthquake in 2011 have perhaps brought the vehicles into the mainstream market. This is an area of the world which has a history of acting very quickly on new automotive trends and very often leaving larger Western automotive companies in their wake. Is this happening again?
While many automotive companies around the world seem to be concentrating upon the actual electric vehicle technology itself, as opposed to battery power technology, there seems to be a more balanced approach in Japan and the Far East as a whole. Various Japanese companies have introduced faster charging technology, which will be a major element of the sector going forward, and will bring many cars into the mainstream electric vehicle market.
Quote from the ElectricForum.com : "The “UltraBattery” is a hybrid energy storage device that integrates a supercapacitor with a lead acid battery in one unit cell. This unique design harnesses the best of both technologies to produce a battery that can provide high power discharge and charge with a long, low-cost life. Developed by CSIRO Energy Technology as part of the Energy Transformed Flagship research program, the UltraBattery has applications for use in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) with further research aimed at resolving issues of intermittency in capturing energy produced from renewable sources."
It will only be a matter of time before this technology is replicated across the world, but will Western governments also match the Japanese target for recharging stations?
Charging stations across Japan
The government has already announced a very ambitious package which could see up to 2,000,000 ordinary charging stations and 5,000 rapid charging stations appearing across Japan over the next seven years. While this is obviously a very ambitious target, it does highlight the fact that the authorities have recognised the problem of recharging electric vehicles in the short, medium and longer term and are prepared to act sooner rather than later.
Many experts have highlighted for sometime the fact that a lack of charging stations across Europe, across America, and across other parts of the world have played a major role in reducing the impact of electric vehicles. As, and when, more charging stations are introduced there is no doubt this will increase the number of electric vehicles on the road and also give drivers more confidence going forward. There is nothing worse than setting off for a long journey in your electric vehicle knowing that you may struggle to recharge your batteries along the way!
There is no doubt that areas such as the micro-car market will be very important in the years ahead as the electric vehicle industry goes from strength to strength. Even though micro-cars are already a major element of the Japanese electric car market it is perhaps the governments ambitious promises towards charging stations which has caught the attention of many experts.
If the Japanese government is able to deliver on its expected 2 million ordinary charging stations and 5,000 rapid charging stations this will have a major impact upon the industry. It will allay many fears of consumers, it will expand journey capacity and it will also allow advertising and marketing agencies to focus more upon the green benefits of electric car travel. Is this the turning point which many experts have been waiting for?