|All-electric cars on the floor by 2010|
Energy demand for fossil fuels is growing by about 2% annually, leading to the realisation that increasing fuel efficiency and the production of hybrid vehicles is only a short-term palliative, if a significant saving is to be made in emissions by vehicles.
Manufacturers believe that a maximum of a further 25% increase in fuel efficiency is possible with petrol and diesel engines. Current emphasis is now on converting existing hybrid models such as the Prius to plug-in charge, in an effort to extend their range. All-electric vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Volt, are the subject of major current development, and some models are due to be on showroom floors by 2010.
An important added advantage of the all-electric vehicle is that it has far fewer moving parts than conventional and hybrid systems. An all-electric car can use electricity from the grid, from an on-board generator or from a fuel cell. Current lithium batteries would give a range of about 65km. When the generator kicks in, the range is extended up to 450km, with an average cost of about R2,40 per litre. The same basic car can be used with a fuel cell and smaller lithium battery to give a range of 480km of emission-free motoring. The fuel cell replaces the generator and the fuel tank gives way to a hydrogen tank.
The key to getting the all-electric cars on the showroom floor by 2010 is the lithium batteries, currently under active development but still very expensive. The battery electric cars with 65km range are likely to be popular in town, with fuel cell and extended range vehicles for longer distances.