The current and expanding range of electric vehicles are only the first wave of a segment which will no doubt become bigger and more popular this decade. Nonetheless, the uptake of first-generation electric vehicles will be limited thanks to their high-price and lack of infrastructure support. Even so, with nearly all manufacturers investing heavily into electric-vehicles, the car as we know it, will soon change.
Honda Motor Co., Ltd. has been at the forefront of fuel-efficient vehicle development for some time, having built the Civic Hybrid long before 'green' was the colour of choice, Honda has recently released the new Insight and has now begun working on its next-generation electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
The program has commenced at the Kumamoto Prefecture in Japan and includes everything from all-out electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, electric scooters to electric carts. The idea is to focus on 'electromotive technologies' in real-world environments.
Most of us that are curious about electric vehicles are waiting for the technology to advance and evolve, but just how exactly will the next batch of electric cars differ? One thing is for sure, there will be less compromises. Currently the battery in an electric vehicles has three main attributes.
- Capacity (range in KM)
- Recharge time (time it takes to recharge from empty to full)
- Cost (cost of producing the battery)
The current range of electric vehicles have all balanced those attributes to find a good mix that will allow sufficient range but also keep the costs 'reasonable'. The next generation vehicles are likely to have at least two of those attributes sorted completely. For example, it's likely that the current distance to empty range of electric vehicles (about 150km) will double whilst their recharge time will also reduce significantly.
Honda will no doubt be one of the leaders in the field over the next few years, having always placed technological advancement at the top of its priorities. The testing program is set to explore solar-powered charging technologies (and other renewable energy sources) as well as advanced communications and telematics.
The program has already began with testing of the Monpal ML200 electric cart in October last year. The more relevant vehicles being tested include a full-electric Honda Jazz and a mid-size sedan with plug-in hybrid technology (2.0-litre i-VTEC engine and two high-output electric motors). Although still carrying a petrol engine, it can run for 15-25km on electric power alone.
On a more creative note, wouldn't be great if recharge stations existed all around town? The infrastructure cost could be enormous to deliver that much power, but what if it could all be powered by the sun? Honda is working on solar-powered charging stations that can make that dream a reality.
Honda is also testing advanced in-car computer systems (InterNavi Premium Club services) which allow charging stations to communicate with cars. So in case you start running low on juice, the car suggest the closest charging station and can even automatically program the Sat-Nav.
Using your iPhone (or other smartphones) you can also quickly check your car's battery level even when you're away from the vehicle. If it's too low you can let the car know that you want to go to the closest charging station and it will have it set into the sat-nav before you even get back. Nifty. It would be nice of one day the car could drive it self there, get charged and come back.