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article imageOp-Ed: Nissan needs new tech for an affordable electric car

By Paul Wallis     Jun 18, 2012 in Technology
Sydney - There’s a natural gap between ideas and putting them into practice. Sadly for the world, the gap in terms of coming up with an electric car that isn’t just a glorified golf buggy is gigantic. Nissan are now looking for new options for their EVs.
I’ve been watching new tech coming for power systems and other technologies for years, and none of it, not one damn thing, has penetrated to the EV design stage.
Nissan and Renault, the corporate good guys in the EV market, have been pushing hard for affordable vehicles for ages. The famous Nissan Leaf and the Renault Zoe are cases in point.
The Sydney Morning Herald explains the current state of the problems Nissan is having:
Nissan’s global product boss is desperate to have a smaller, more affordable electric car.
The company’s global general manager of product strategy, Francois Bancon, says he wants to see a city-sized electric car added to the Nissan lineup below the newly introduced Leaf small car.
“On one side you have a creative direction and you can expect the early adopters to be interested in this; on the other side you make the EV accessible for everyone – and this, of course, goes with the smaller size because size is weight and cost,” he says.
That, in fact, is a full spectrum analysis of the entire range of issues of getting an affordable EV on the market. No wonder the guy’s their product manager.
The story with EVs is:
Power to weight ratios- Driving anything requires grunt in direct proportion to the vehicle’s role. Even driving average weight humans requires at least enough power to move about a ton of mass, including the car’s own heavy design elements.
Batteries are an own goal for EVs- They’re very heavy, incredibly inefficient, and they’re turnover components, messy, non-recyclable and expensive to make. Basically, everything about batteries is an own goal for EVs.
Materials- To improve performance, EVs need to be not only light but strong. That means steel and other conventional materials aren’t even in the ballpark. Plastic would be the best bet, preferably a high tensile resin polymer that won’t even hurt people if it hits them and won’t be a built in risk of crushing EV passengers.
Capacity- All of the above must be applied to larger capacity cars to make them affordable and viable. If you have a family of ten, you don’t want a golf buggy, or two golf buggies- You want a working range of options that won’t send you broke.
Cost efficiency- EVs must have credible stamina to replace the dino-cars. In Australia, we annually drive solar cars from Darwin to Adelaide. The key here is to obtain recharge power for nothing. (If anybody finally gets around to realizing the real power is in the infrared range in solar power, we’re finally out of the bassinet with these power systems, too.)
Marketing- EVs don’t have the “Chevy” pedigree or a mythology to go with their marketing. They should start creating one.
Power systems define success
Power systems are the make or break of any vehicle of any kind, from a tricycle to a spacecraft. The fact is that conventional technology designed for old style cars is pretty useless for EVs. They are very different vehicles with very different physical priorities.
EVs need very high yield, absolutely reliable power systems. In theory, you can drive an M1 tank as an EV, but you’d also need a huge amount of power. Battery systems simply cannot deliver that sort of power for any length of time.
There is, however, a type of power system that can- The new graphene super capacitors. these things actually are capacitors, but with massive capabilities. They can store power and release it far more efficiently than batteries. That makes them ideal power systems for any type of EV. High power and high responsiveness means an efficient vehicle which can perform well.
Important- The super capacitor idea would also benefit from corporate input and capital for development. They do have bugs to be ironed out. These things could be fantastic as cheap, efficient all-purpose solutions for a lot of different types of power systems.
They're cheap to make, too as you can see from this video:
Another system, under development by RMIT Melbourne, uses, of all things, a fan belt recharge system. This is an elegant solution. This isn’t exactly the conventional fan belt, but it ensures power supplies and would be an excellent back up for essentials like power steering, brakes, electronics, etc. as well as a possible cheap power source for family taxi- type driving.
Can you design an affordable EV?
Sure, any day of the week, but stop asking for survival tips from the auto dinosaurs. That class of design has nothing to do with EV tech.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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