There is a special chapter for dealing with the 'range extender'. Because the fuel-cell has not yet been sufficiently developed, one considers, primarily, the internal combustion engine. As it is, e.g., at GM, where hardly anything seems to have changed under the bonnet. Should the battery be run down after approx. 60 kms, a normal petrol engine comes into play.
Whether this simple solution is the real McCoy, if on longer distances a combustion engine delivers the current for the electric motor which alone is responsible for the propulsion. It even reacts to the movement of the accelerator pedal, revving happily up and down the scale, one had hoped that it would at least, operate in a small range of RPMs very efficiently, e.g., by layer charging.
There are even some who are, because of it's compact construction, bringing back the rotary engine. If that's what it's all about, perhaps one should go even one step further backwards to the two-stroke- direct injection, regardless of whether it is Diesel- or petrol powered. In this field there is still a great deal of development work to be done, before the loss due to double energy conversion could be compensated.
Perhaps the Toyota Company is closer to the solution by helping the hybrid-drive with batteries, to an, although modest, operating range. If it is indeed true, that more than 90% of all trips are no more than 10 kms, then the company must be dead right, and the plug-in hybrids, which are at least, already in everyday testing, can be offered more cheaply than the GM solution.
When the industry is faced with such immense assignments, their lobby demands subsidies and other forms of support. Although the federal government does not yet subsidise the buying of electro-cars, it does support their research, currently to the tune of €500 million. This provides a powerful boost for the interlinking of appropriate facilities. It will be exiting to see whether the universities can make more of a contribution to solving the problems of the autmotive world.
The EU is placing the manufacturers under pressure. Although the 120-g/km-CO2-limit on the average consumption of fleet-cars has been somewhat softened, it will still have to be undercut, sometime between 2015 and 2020. The EU has set the direction clearly, by not giving only a single bonus for the sale of electro-cars, but a triple.
One has to look at this again more closely. Daimler can sell three S-Class-Mercedes with at least double the amount of CO2-emission, and can compensate this with the sale of two electro-Smarts, the new technical term for this is 'green washing'. It doesn't hurt them all that much to subsidise the electro-Smarts with the profits from the sale of the S-Class.
Perhaps you now understand a little better, why probably every manufacturing group is working on electric cars, particularly those who have large and heavy models in their range. Despite the fact that selling them, is not a particularly rosy prospect. The first test-results are sobering, and show that the present prototypes are still a long way from having a meaningful use by the general public.