After a period of relative calm, the electric car market has sprung to life over the last couple of years with a number of cars hitting the market and numerous concept cars on the verge of hitting the production trail. So what exactly is going on in the electric car market and what can we expect in the future?
The ATNMBL electric vehicle
The ATNMBL is one of the more bizarre electric concept vehicles under consideration although when you find out it is from the team who created the Google G1 phone then perhaps it is something we should take note of. While at first glance this particular vehicle looks bizarre to say the least, when you consider it is a concept vehicle for the market in 2040 then perhaps we can take a more long-term and futuristic approach.
The ATNMBL (standing for Auto No Mobile) is an electric vehicle with no steering wheel or pedals . The idea is that passengers will summon their car roadside at which point the door open they will step in and the car would ask them "Where would you like to go to?"
The vehicle itself is self driving, has wraparound seating for seven and is in effect a glass box on wheels. Those close to the project are projecting the driving experience as something similar to sitting in your front room watching the TV even though you will be driven around the country by a robot. The idea is that passengers can choose the more scenic route, quickest route as well as controlling the speed of the vehicle via their voice. Whether this particular electric car will ever make it to market remains to be seen but it is more than interesting to see what the future holds.
While McDonald's, and other prominent fast-food chains around the world, have received significant criticism over the years with regards to various environmental issues, McDonald's is set to open its first outlet next week to contain an electric car charging service. The "green" McDonald's is set to open in North Carolina and will offer electric car users the chance to recharge their cars via a card subscription system or a one-off toll-free call which will take a fee from the customer. When you consider the number of McDonald's around the world and the need to create readily accessible recharging points for electric cars in the future, perhaps one of the most prominent examples of "capitalism" in the world could actually play a large part in the green car market in years to come?
The Zipcar Club
Westminster Council, together with Transport for London, is working together with the Zipcar Club in London to make electric vehicles more accessible to the masses and increase the number of zero carbon car journeys in and around London. The electric vehicle pod will be located in Spencer Street behind Westminster City Hall and allow car club members to pick up an electric vehicle (either a Citroen C1 or a Toyota Prius) for their journeys.
Membership of the club is available at a heavily discounted £25 a year with a pay-as-you-go rate of £3.95 an hour or £29 today. It is hoped that individuals and companies will sign up to the scheme which should allow more electric vehicle pods to be made available in other areas of London and potentially other cities in the UK.
Nissan hits the electric car market
Nissan have for some time been working with close partner Renault on a new electric vehicle that is just weeks away from hitting the mass market. The so-called EV-02 is a strange looking vehicle at first glance but offers a vast array of environmentally friendly extras and a range of around 160 km per charge - which is more than enough for the average European's daily journey.
The vehicle is set to hit the Irish market in 2010 and consists of a number of lithium ion batteries, a connector box, a power inverter, a transformer and a top of the range electric motor. The vehicle is said to be silent, powerful and has no emissions whatsoever which is a plus point over the growing hybrid market which has to some extent overshadowed the electric car market.
Hyundai motor Company
While areas such as Korea have often been at the forefront of new technology it appears as though the electric car market has been ignored somewhat until now. Yesterday we saw Hyundai launch its first hybrid electric car with the unveiling of the Avante LPi Hybrid which is the first hybrid car in the world to use an LPG engine and an electric motor. The vehicle is also the world's first commercially available hybrid to use lithium ion polymer batteries and is said to have taken around 4 years to produce and an investment approaching $200 million.
While there are still small emissions from the vehicle, via the LPG engine, the Avante LPi Hybrid is by far and away the most environmentally friendly vehicle available in Korea at this moment in time.
Whether or not it was the breakthrough of the Tesla Roadster which has brought the electric car marketing to the attention of the masses is debatable but there is no doubt that improved technology and interest in this particular area has increased the profile of the electric vehicle sector. The fact that vehicle such as the ATNMBL are receiving any publicity, bearing in mind this is a concept vehicle which has been created with the 2040 market in mind, shows how the appetite for environmentally friendly travel has increased of late.
It is interesting to see that the Korean market appears to be further behind than many other areas of the world, which is a prize bearing in mind how technologically advanced the Far East has been in years gone by. While Tesla is based in the US the production of all Tesla cars at this moment in time go through the company's joint venture with Lotus which is situated in the UK. This would appear to ensure that the US and UK markets will be firmly entwined with regards to the future of the electric car market and should at some point see the two governments working closer together for the good of the sector.
It looks as consumer demand is pushing back the barriers of the electric car market and opening up new opportunities for the future.