Gassing about electric cars

July 9, 2009

Would you buy a car that only goes 100 miles (160 km) on a tank of fuel?

That’s the range of Nissan’s 5-seater electric car planned for sale in the U.S. and Japan in 2010 – a similar size to Nissan’s Primera or VW’s Golf.

A full tank in a petrol-driven car will take you around twice that distance so the new technology that Nissan hopes will leapfrog current hybrids won’t be for those who disappear up the mountains each weekend.

But 90 percent of car users drive less than 100 miles each day, says Andy Palmer, Nissan’s senior vice president and head of product planning.  So if you’re OK with a town or city run-around, you can plug it in to recharge once you get home.

And future generations will have more range, Palmer told the Reuters Japan Investment Summit, as battery technology improves.

Nissan has the car under wraps until it unveils a final prototype on August 2. Palmer says driving it is quite a surprise — with torque akin to a 2-litre gasoline engine and acceleration with zero noise.

But lack of noise has itself become an issue. If other drivers and pedestrians can’t hear you coming, how can they stay out of the way?

That, Palmer says, is relatively straighforward to fix.

“Starting with zero noise, it’s very easy to add noise. Normally automotive engineers have the opposite problem.”

Annoying beeps are probably out, so what would you like your new electric car to sound like?

Photo credits: REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen and REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

14 comments

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Thanks for making better, more silent cars. Even better, equip all gasolin cars with annoying beeps to help speed up the change to a fossile fuel free, bicycle and pedestrian friendly society. And do ask the industry leaders why they are so reluctant to talk about peak oil and how it will affect us all.

Over a dozen new automakers will offer highway-capable battery electric vehicles (EVs) by 2012. China’s BYD and other EV makers will offer cars ranging 100 miles for as little as $15,000 in the US.
Of course, the major automakers will follow, wagging their tails behind them. EVs will eventually be priced lower than equivalent gas models, due to economies of mass production and their mechanical simplicity.

Posted by Hugh E Webber | Report as abusive

100 mile is more than most would need.

Would you buy a car that has to be refuled with 60% imported fuel? make pollution that could kill you? has the fire and explisive power of 20 sticks of TNT ?

Make you you compare all the facts. 99.8 % of us could plug in at home while we sleep and use the excess power utilities have to dump each night for lack of use and power plants that can’t be ramped down.

Posted by jim stack | Report as abusive

Excellent! I’ll be keeping my eyes open for these types of cars. Hopefully the price of electricity will be affordable when they finally hit. With cap and trade looming, we may all be in for a kick in the teeth when buying energy.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

No noise? Great news! It means I will be able to get a decent sleep at night! Seriously though, most cars are far too loud at the moment and contribute more than enough to noise pollution as it is. I am sure that pedestrians will soon learn to look (and not listen) before crossing the street. To car makers: Please, please hurry and introduce zero noise electric cars and don’t worry: people are adaptable. I’m sure the millions who live in cities would appreciate the peace and quiet, as well as the clean air.

Posted by tora201 | Report as abusive

With this mileage I could spend the whole week without recharging a single time.
Concerning the noise “problem” I don’t think it will be a major issue when the car starts to move because most of the noise comes from the tires and not from the engine itself.
No doubt I would buy one for me depending on the price.

Posted by Marcus Vinicius Pinto Schtruk | Report as abusive

I recently purchased a new Honda Fit after much research. The overall cradle to grave carbon footprint from it is much smaller than that of a Toyota Prius hybrid or any current electric car. I would have gladly purchased an American made vehicle if there were any that were any good. Simply put, there aren’t. I would love to be able to purchase an EV. The 100 mile range is no big problem, just something we will be getting used to. I’m glad that people are finally realizing that American small car technology is non-existent and that letting the American automakers fail is a very good thing for the economy as well as for the environment.

Posted by Frank | Report as abusive

I guess that the oil cartels finally may be loseing their grip with corps seeing their future profits outside of the oil industry in the next 20 or so years – thus the “explosion” of alternative powered cars. As long as the prices come down and the electric cars are more reliable I think people will move to more eco friendly solutions as distances,esp in europe are much shorter that the 100 miles, plus most populations still concentrate on a small area around the city. On a side note frankly its amazeing that the basic concept of the piston engine hasn’t changed in the last 70 or so years. Only now have we begun to experiment with other methods – like mazdas Wankel engine in 2005.

I don’t think it’d be too long before drivers could customize their car’s noise by downloading different acceration tones.

Now put a solar panel on the roof to recharge the batteries and you will have my attention. I have a 2001 Saturn SC1 that gets 38-40 mpg. Not a single new Saturn, hybrids included, gets that kinda of mpg. I have no incentive to purchase a new, YET!

Posted by Alan | Report as abusive

How will the electricity required to charge the battery be generated? By means of fossil fuel only. What electric cars will achieve is that the city environment will become cleaner but whether the world environment will become cleaner is doubtful. Urban dweller is a self-centred person. Considering the efficiency of a power plant and transmission losses, I don\’t think much reduction in pollution will be achieved. The disposal of batteries will be a serious problem. In case of total power failure due to a natural disaster, the whole city will come to grinding halt. Imagine no ambulances available. I believe a lot more deep and cold or emotionless thinking is required on this subject. On the issues of pollution, the whole world should be considered as one system and then the issue should be analysed.

Posted by Anupam Rae | Report as abusive

Regarding the long distance issue with electric vehicles,
why not consider installing a power supply net, say every 90 miles, above the highway for the amount of distance required to recharge the car batteries. Cars could be equipped with retractable anntena like contactors to be used at these locations while continuously moving?

Posted by Matea | Report as abusive

I am less worried about noise. Don’t most people blare their stereos loud enough to hear from a block away anyway? What about noise pollution inside the cab? I am sure you will hear every bump in the road because there is no combustion engine dampening the noise of the road.

Posted by J Mott | Report as abusive

“Would you buy a car that has to be refuled with 60% imported fuel? make pollution that could kill you? has the fire and explosive power of 20 sticks of TNT ?”

I will quote one comment above. This is true! Why opt for an engine with all these harmful effects. Be wise! Not just for your own comfort but for the common good.