Rural Chinese Choose Electric Cars

china200
china200

One of the most popular electric cars in the world finds its niche in rural China. The EV is the Shifeng, a vehicle that resembles a fat Fiat Mini with extra large headlights. The electric vehicle is able to reach top speeds of fifty kilometers per hour or thirty miles per hour.

What makes its attractive is its cost, as it is priced at just 31,600 renminbi or about U.S.$5,000. This makes this vehicle cheaper compared to the E6 from another Chinese automaker BYD. This latter vehicle costs 369,800 renminbi.

One of the reasons for the popularity of the Shifeng is its category determination by government. The electric car is not considered as a vehicle, in the same category as gasoline fueled cars. With gasoline cars, one needs to have a driver’s license as well as procure insurance, while with vehicles such as the Shifeng, these requirements are waived altogether.

The Chinese government had initially sputtered with its goal of putting half a million electric and hybrid cars on Chinese roads by 2015. It also projected that these vehicles would reach a population of five million by 2020. In real terms, only 8,159 such vehicles sold in the country, many of them for the government programs such as eTaxis and eBuses.

The program is heavily subsidized, but despite the assistance, the technology is still very expensive. The total government subsidies are worth 120,000 renminbi, the price of the BYD E6 still is priced well beyond the average salary in China. Another major factor is the lack of charging stations as well as the prohibitive cost of batteries.

While the top executives of carmakers as well as government officials continue to wrangle over the market, many small unlicensed backyard carmakers have begun taking the lower end of the market. This is the market not of upscale buyers or even the middle class market. The target and largest market is the lower income purchasers who want to trade in their bicycles for a four wheeled vehicle that is within their budget. This market is about 260 million strong and is the largest demographic area for the electric vehicle market.

These mini electric vehicles have become quite popular in the rural regions of China as it is the affordable and safer alternative to bicycles and motorcycles. On the other hand, mainstream automakers are quick to point out that these vehicles are illegal and unsafe. Despite the criticisms and roadblocks, many entrepreneurs have started to build mini electric vehicles, especially slow speed electrics.

The criticisms include the lack of safety measures in the vehicles as well as the lead acid batteries it uses to power its electric vehicles. There have been moves to change these batteries but the low cost is what makes these platforms very cost effective and attractive to the Chinese lower end market.

Ultracapacitors for Electric Car Efficiency

CARbattery
CARbattery

In electric cars, efficiency is everything. Because the concept behind electric cars is its environmental awareness, every drop of energy must be used efficiently for the vehicle to properly function. This new device can help in further increasing the efficiency of electric cars.

One of the greatest power losses in electric car use is when the car stops at a red light or stop sign. At this time, the engine shuts down in order to conserve electrical energy but when it is time to go, the electric car’s engine would need to be powered up, resulting in electrical energy loss.

Current battery technologies exacerbate this issue. Lithium ion batteries are able to store large loads of electrical energy but have problems in charging or discharging, as it needs a lot of time to be at full charge. On the other hand, lead acid batteries are able to provide the power needed during the starts and stops in a car’s operational life. The problem though with lead acid batteries, it has a short lifespan as well as high maintenance costs to keep it at full efficiency.

A company from Oneonta, New York named Ioxus has started to coordinate with automakers in the creation of the hybrid battery. The battery would be attached to an ultracapacitor. This device would store large quantities of electrical energy and would be attached to a standard battery. The ultracapacitor would manage the sudden demand for electrical energy when re-starting the electric car and then the standard battery would then supply the needed energy once the car has started its travel.

Thus, the ultracapacitor acts as a sudden supply of energy when needed suddenly. The ultracapacitor can supply the electrical energy as one jolt of power able to provide a spark for a short burst. Once the sudden demand has been provided, the normal battery supply can then provide the rest. Thus in the situation at a stop sign, the ultracapacitor can provide the energy needed to run the electric car from a standing still stop and once running, the battery can provide the energy for car to move.

Another use of the ultracapacitor would be for power steering purposes. This is a problem with hybrids as the power for the system comes from a belt in a continuously running engine. In electric cars, the engine shuts on and off, so in order to keep the power steering with available power, the ultracapacitor can provide the energy until the standard battery provides the electrical power once the engine runs.