Electric cars have a lot going for them. An electric motor develops its full torque immediately. No vibrations, no noise and above all no exhaust fumes.
Perfect – if it were not for the batteries, which still offer only a meagre range. Expect about 80-120 kilometres before range anxiety steals upon you. Unless of course you are driving a Tesla with sports car performance for about a million Swedish kronor (upwards of 100,000 euros) in Sweden, as it can manage at least 350 kilometres on a single charge.
The worst thing about electric cars is that they are still so expensive, but we may well be hearing about electric cars with better ranges next year – about 250 kilometres on a single charge – costing about a quarter of a million Swedish kronor (approximately 27,000 euros) in Sweden.
Batteries have so far accounted for about a third of the cost of an electric car. Now their price is dropping, and they are becoming more efficient; expect about 5-10 per cent increased battery capacity every year, according to researchers.
To increase the range of an electric car, the battery cells are concealed in the car’s chassis. In this way, cars could be built with a large battery capacity without encroaching upon the passenger and luggage spaces. The next generation of battery packs are even more efficient.
Different types of electric cars
Fully electric-powered cars charged via power sockets or charging stations. Electric cars do not have an exhaust system, a catalytic converter, a cam belt, an alternator or clutch that need replacing. Fewer components mean low servicing costs.
Examples: Nissan Leaf, Renault ZOE, Tesla S, BMW i3
Plug-in hybrids are charged just like fully electric cars, but have both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine (ICE). The advantage is that they can make short city trips on electricity while the ICE offers a good range on country roads without drivers having to constantly look out for charging posts.
Examples: Mitsubishi Outlander, Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid, VW Golf
Hybrid cars have an extra battery charged by a generator in the car. The car recuperates its braking energy and the electric motor is used for low speeds in urban traffic. Hybrid cars can run only a few kilometres on pure electric power and cannot be charged from the grid.
Examples: Toyota Prius, Honda Civic.
The hydrogen car, or fuel cell car, is essentially an electric car in which batteries have been replaced by a hydrogen tank and a fuel cell. It does not need batteries. Instead, electricity is generated by a fuel cell in the car, and the emission is water vapour. California and Japan have come furthest with fuel cell technology while in Europe, Germany has taken the lead.
Exempel: Toyota Mirai, Hyndai ix35.
“Pure electric cars, best green choice – but their range needs to double”
Lasse Swärd, motoring journalist at Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, has extensive experience of electric cars. News from Vattenfall asked him to comment on various types of solutions for electric cars:
“Hybrids are the best technology in the short and mid-term for reducing the use of fossil fuels and emissions. In theory! But that is assuming the cars‘ owners can charge the car at home and ideally also at work. Their driving patterns must also allow the greater part of their annual driving to be done relatively locally. A hybrid is not suited to everyone.”
“Fully electric cars are the best eco choice, as they avoid local emissions and noise. But today’s electric cars (with the exception of Tesla) have inadequate ranges – 100-150 kilometres in practice – and are too expensive to succeed across the board. Electric cars will have to double their range to at least 350 kilometres in order to become a serious alternative to regular cars.”
“If we look a few years ahead, I think we will see electric cars with fuel cells and hydrogen as a more realistic alternative to today’s cars. Battery-powered electric cars will also have their place, but more for local traffic as depot vehicles, second cars in multi-car households and suchlike.”