It's coming faster than we would have thought--mass production of electric cars. Major automakers are targeting 2011 as the year to launch electric cars to the public. Nissan is out in front, and may come in a year early, but Mitsubishi and Ford are not far behind.
Nissan is out ahead of other major automakers on electric vehicles, expecting to launch a vehicle in 2010. The vehicle shown here is a Nissan Cube fitted with an electric powertrain. This body style may not be the electric car that Nissan releases--it is just serving as a test mule. Nissan has also been aggressively working out deals with utility companies to set up charging stations.
Nissan's big advantage is the battery technology it has developed in partnership with NEC. Its laminate lithium-ion batteries will give its electric car a range of 100 miles. The car is expected to cost between $20,000 and $30,000.
Mitsubishi has been using its i model to test an electric powertrain and is in heavy competition with Nissan to put an electric car on sale. This car is called the i MiEV, meaning it is built on the i car platform and is a Mitsubishi Electric Vehicle. Similar to Nissan, Mitsubishi is also partnering with utilities to make sure the cars get tested and infrastructure will be in place.
Mitsubishi showed a concept for its production i MiEV at the New York auto show. The launch car is expected to go 100 miles on a single charge using lithium ion batteries and a 47 kilowatt electric motor.
Ford ramped up its electric car development quickly by partnering with automotive supplier Magna Steyr, which developed a complete electric powertrain. Ford is testing this powertrain in its Focus model, and plans on releasing a Focus Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) in 2011.
In the Focus, Ford packages the motor and battery control unit under the hood, with the lithium ion batteries at the rear of the car. Similar to the electric cars from Nissan and Mitsubishi, the Focus BEV is expected to have a range of 100 miles.
Although not currently a major automaker, Tesla could break into the big time with its Model S, which it plans to launch in 2011. Using technology developed in the Tesla Roadster, the Model S goes for 160 miles on a charge. Tesla has announced a price of $57,400 for the sleek sedan.
A crucial component for making electric cars successful is near completion, the standardization of the charging plug. Rather than have cars from different manufacturers use different plugs, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has developed a five pin smart plug that not only conducts electricity, but sends data about the flow.