Sales Outlook for Alternative Fuel Vehicles Varied

volkswagen logo
volkswagen logo

Many auto executives in attendance at the Paris Motor Show expressed reservations about the sales outlook for battery powered cars. In the beginning, the numbers were projected to be low, but the latest numbers from Tesla and Renault are indicating near dismal sales in the near future.

The CEO of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, stated at the eve of the Paris Motor Show that the companies should instead focus on plug-in hybrids. These vehicles can run on battery power for limited distances and would be able to utilize standard internal combustion engines as range extenders. Winterkorn said, “We had a realistic view of the technology all along. There will be, for a long time to come, no alternative to the internal combustion engine.”

Volkswagen is among the car manufacturers participating in the annual Paris Motor Show. This year, the exhibits and the discussions would run until October 14th. The company is by far the largest carmaker in Europe thus statements about technology would definitely sound off the direction many carmakers would make moving forward. The German giant though has not shelved its own plans of creating an all-electric vehicle fleet but the management committee of the company has made it clear that plug-in hybrids would be the more pragmatic approach in the reduction of automobile emissions in the near future.

For its part, French carmaker Renault, who partnered with Nissan for its own electric vehicle models, said that there is still hope for battery powered vehicles. The company though admits that sales are far below initial projections to only about 15,000 units since the carmaker unveiled the unit for market release.

According to Jerome Stoll, Executive Vice President for Sales and Marketing at Renault, “You are always disappointed when you fix a big ambition and you don’t meet it.” He added that while Renault was the market leader in electric vehicles, “I am not happy about the size of the market.”

Battery powered vehicles provide more advantages compared to internal combustion powered vehicles. These include quicker acceleration, quieter rides and lower costs. These advantages though are still being underappreciated because of the high purchasing cost together with the limited range capabilities of these electric vehicles compared to gasoline powered ones. Another main issue would be the lengthy time needed to recharge the vehicle in order to get to full range.

Plug-in hybrids also have other issues, such as limited range on battery power alone, but with range extending gasoline engines additional complications occur. These include having two motors, one electric and one gasoline powered, batteries as well as fuel. These add-ons effectively takes up space in the vehicle and removes much of the efficiency benefits of the vehicle. The market needs to develop smaller but more powerful engines to make plug ins more efficient in terms of space and weight in the long run.

As for Volkswagen, it would pushing for an expansion of its plug-in hybrid line with the introduction of the Golf plug-in by 2014. Volkswagen also has partnerships with other European carmakers such as Audi, Seat, Skoda and Porsche together with other brands.

Recharging System for your Electric Vehicle

Electric cars
Electric cars

One of the lesser known, but currently explored options for battery charging, is called the Vehicle to Grid system or the V2G system. This system operates when electric vehicles call on the power grid to sell services directly by delivery of bulk electricity or increasing the charging rate for their home chargers.

This system functions on electric vehicles, either the battery operated or plug in hybrids that can connect to the grid. Current statistics show that vehicles are often parked 95 percent of the time and as such, their batteries can be used to connect to power lines and back to provide additional power sources. On the other hand, once the vehicle is to be used, it can call on the service provider to juice up the vehicle so to speak in order to be usable.

One of the most noted V2G projects is located in the University of Delaware. The project is headed by Dr Willett Kempton and its goals through its research is to educate the public of the environmental and economic benefits of the system to enhance the product viability in the market.

The term V2G was coined by the technology company AC Propulsion Inc. Currently, this battery to grid power system is used in three different versions, which are as follows:

  • Hybrids or Fuel Cells. These vehicle platforms generate power from stored fuel and use a generator to produce the power at peak usage times. In this system, the vehicles are used as a distributed generation system, producing power from conventional fuel sources or hydrogen.
  • Battery or Plug in Hybrids. These vehicle platforms use its excess battery power to provide electricity to the grid during peak load demands. At off peak hours, these vehicles are recharged to absorb excess evening generation as a form of distributed battery power buffer storage system.
  • Solar Powered. These vehicle platforms uses its excess electricity to supply power to the electric grid once the battery reaches fully charged, becoming a renewable power station available off site. This is often used for solar powered boats to far flung areas.

The main help that V2G provides as its ability to balance electrical loads during the peak and off peak hours. With the system in place, the peak demand is augmented by individual power sources while off peak times would be increased when these power sources are being recharged. This practice allows voltage and frequency stability together with a available spinning reserve for power.

The future of V2G is endless, with plans to make these platforms become renewable sources of electricity for renewable energy sources, such as wind and wave power. This would result in lower demand for natural gas or coal fired power plants, insurance sources for peak demands or during blackouts.

For the current crop of electric vehicles, the Nissan Leaf has explored this technology in light of the recent earthquake and tsunami disasters that hit the country. While this is an opportunity for many, in the long run it would provide benefits for all.

Charging Standards Soon to be a Reality


Eight of the world’s leading automakers would be meeting at the EVS26 event in Los Angeles to work together in finding a single-port DC fast charging mechanism meant to make the system easier and faster for electric vehicle charging of the future.

These automakers include Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche and Volkswagen, and are moving to support a standardized single port fast charging system known as DC-fast charging with a Combined Charging System in both the United States and the European Union.

This system utilizes a one-phase AC charging together with a fast three phase AC charging set up. At home, it would be using DC charging and an ultra-fast DC charging system for public chargers. This would allow EV owners to charge at most existing charging stations regardless of the power source.

The design came after review, analysis and collaboration from a number of current charging systems together with the preferences of U.S. and European customers. This charging system would be developed for all vehicle markets in an effort to create a uniform standard for all the participating automaker vehicle platforms. This was also chosen by the Society of International Engineers due to its harmony and fast charging capacity. Furthermore, the International Society of Automotive Engineers picked the Combined Charging System as the standard to exponentially extend type-one AC charging platforms.

On the other side of the Pond, the European Association of Vehicle Manufacturers also chose the system as an AC/DC charging interface to be implemented for all new electric vehicle types starting from 2017.

It is expected that the harmonized fast-charging system would help accelerate the development of EV infrastructures for the market, as well as able to reduce the overall costs for owners. This would hit the market later this year and the first vehicles that would use this technology would become available starting 2013.