The end of range anxiety

Electric vehicle makers say a fi x for running out of charge is almost here

JOHN CAREY

THE world’s top carmakers know range anxiety is a major obstacle to EV acceptance. So leaders in the battery EV business are racing to do something about it.

Nissan-Renault chief Carlos Ghosn tersely confirmed the range-doubling goal for the second generation of the world’s biggest-selling EV, the Leaf, on late-night Japanese television in December (see sidebar).

Japan-based automotive website Daily Kanban followed up Ghosn’s interview, and a senior Nissan spokesman was explicit about the company’s aims. “We continue our R&D efforts because we believe that we can do more with battery electric, and very soon take the issue of range off the table,” said communications chief Jeff Kuhlman. “In other words, cars with a comparable range to today’s petrol vehicles.”

How will they do it? While there’s almost daily news of some miraculous lab breakthrough in battery tech, even the most promising of these are years from industrial-scale production. Our prediction is that Nissan will use lithium-ion cells, but with greater energy density packing more kilowatt-hours into a given amount of space. The current Leaf has a 24kWh battery pack. Double this and you also double range.

Tesla’s Elon Musk has already confirmed the company’s third mainstream car will have a 48kWh battery pack. Envisaged by Musk as a BMW 3 Seriesbeater, it’s due in 2017 and will have a “realistic” 320km range.

Musk also promises a $US35,000 ($A44,700) starting price for the car before a $US7500 tax incentive. That compares to the Model S’s $US71,010 for a 305km range and 60kWh battery.

Such a price looks like brilliant value compared with the other anxiety-ending EVs on the way.

After confirming the Aussie-styled Chevrolet Bolt will be put into production, GM has estimated a range of 320km and a target price of $US30,000 after incentives.

All three cars are likely to make it to Australia (if GM decides to build the Bolt in RHD). Here, as elsewhere, they’ll change how people think of EVs, if they can deliver on their range promises.

Leaf to sway buyers

THE Nissan Sway concept revealed at the Geneva show in March is widely tipped to spawn the next-generation Leaf due in 2016. Officially, Nissan senior executive Shiro Nakamure would say only that the Sway “gives a hint of a next-generation hatchback”.

To the point

HERE’s exactly what Carlos Ghosn told a Tokyo Business News channel interviewer about the next Leaf: Q: Is Nissan working on new batteries?

Ghosn: Yes.

Can you tell us more?

No.

Will the range double?

Yes.

That means more than 400km?

Yes.