by Giles Kirkland, Guest Blogger
Electric cars have quickly gone from automotive oddities to credible mainstream alternatives and as the technology that powers them continues to improve, it makes electric vehicles truly the transport of the future.
But what does the future hold for this new genre of vehicle and how is the technology improving to make them future-proof?
Key to electric vehicles is the battery system that keeps them powered. Devoid of any kind of fuel-using engine, the use of battery power is what defines their usability on the road. Currently, the challenge to improve the EVs is two-fold: to increase the EV capacity and therefore the effective mileage of the vehicle while decreasing its charging time.
Most of the current breed of electric cars are powered by so called ‘wet’ lithium ion batteries that are reckoned to give an output of around 250 Wh/kg (Watt-hours per kilogram) which is sufficient to drive a fully charged car for a distance of about 450 kilometers.
Current EV battery developments are centering around solid-state batteries which use inorganic of salt-like materials to allow for a flow of current. Solid state batteries have potential to give outputs approaching 1,000 Wh/kg, which could push viable distances up to over 900 kilometers! Solid-state batteries are likely to be common on electric vehicles within the next ten years.
Improvements to charging
Another key element to electric vehicles is the charging side of the technology and this too is receiving a great amount of interest. To replenish the battery charge, electric cars have to be connected to a power supply, typically the National Grid.
This relies on an infrastructure owned by the government and the building up of suitable charging points that can be used by all. While charging points in private premises are usually the responsibility of the car owner, public charging points need to be both widespread and fast.
Dual charging stations are a sustainable and very useful solution. For instance, the recently released HCS-D40R charger is a 32 Amp charging station that can be installed to a 40A circuit. Automatically splitting power between two cars, it allows simultaneous charging of two vehicles.
Ruggedized configuration is an advanced solution applied to common highest power EV charging stations such as the HCS-60 and HCS-80. These improvements include the use of special overmolded connectors and field-replaceable connector latches. Ruggedized chargers are reliable and practical even in problematic circumstances such as public parking lots or places with difficult weather conditions.
Increased battery power can do far more than just drive the vehicle, and the excess energy can be used to power a host of subsystems within the vehicle. This means that advanced camera systems can be routinely used in place of conventional ones.
A good example is the latest Range Rover Evoque which uses a live video feed from a rearward-facing, roof-mounted camera to overlay onto the rear-view mirror for improved visibility.
Another one could be the Audi e-tron – it has the option to do away with wing mirrors entirely and replace them with a pair of HD cameras that transmit a live feed to TFT displays mounted on the inside of the doors.
Electric vehicles are the future and there is a huge amount of development going into making these not only more effective to drive and power, but also in the way that we interact with them. The next generation of electric cars are likely to be some of the most advanced and cleanest cars on the road, and we should all look forward to that.