The road to reality

There’s been a lot of talk in the press recently about all-electric vehicles. And from reading such reports, one might be forgiven for believing that we are all likely to be driving one sooner rather than later.

Certainly, the development activity around battery technology and all-electric power trains has been nothing less than frenetic over the past few years. Each month brings fresh news from the auto manufacturers that they have made one technical advance or another that will bring their all-electric offerings closer to the showroom.

The governments of many countries have also been very eager to jump on the electric bandwagon, announcing one scheme after another to deploy electric charging points at various locations across the country in readiness for the day in which we will all be driving around in rechargeable vehicles.

While all of this is an admirable step towards eventually creating a society that will be free of the polluting internal combustion engine, in reality the road to an all-electric vehicle will be a little longer than some might think.

This is all a result of the fact that auto manufacturers are still making advancements, refining the 100-year-old internal combustion engine itself. And developments on this front – as well as on the battery front – will see an entirely different type of vehicle hit our roads long before the all-electric car.

That’s right. And by now, I’m sure you have guessed that that type of vehicle will be a hybrid. Of course, some hybrids – such as the Toyota Prius – have been around for quite some time, but over the next few years hybrid technology will really come into its own, and a whole plethora of automakers will be launching next-generation cars based on the idea.

These new vehicles will couple the latest small fuel-efficient internal combustion engines with cost-effective battery technology driving electric motors sandwiched between the two to create parallel hybrid systems.

Some of them will be based on small diesel engines backed up with nickel metal hydride batteries. Some will be capable of running on the electric motor alone under some conditions. Others will feature stop-and-start technology to cut down on emissions. But one thing that they will all have in common is that they will be more fuel efficient than automobiles based on the internal combustion engine alone.

The next 10 years or so promises to be a revolutionary period for the automotive industry, and while fans of the all-electric battery cars might be somewhat disappointed that their vision of the future isn’t likely to materialise for a few more years, these new hybrids will undoubtedly put us on the road to bringing an all-electric world closer to reality.

Dave Wilson
Editor, Electronicstalk

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