RAC Cars News


Major manufacturers turning away from electric cars?

By raccars Published

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The Government has admitted that sales of electric cars have so far failed to meet expectations. In January 2011, a £400 million fund was made available, to provide £5,000 grants to those who purchased electric cars. Even with this subsidy, only 6,709 grants were claimed between January 2011 and December 2014. This under-spend has caused the Government to slash the fund, from £400 million to just £230 million, before the scheme is due to end in 2015. Thereafter, the Government has said it will continue to promote the uptake of electric vehicles with other schemes.

Robert Goodwill, the roads minister, confirmed the under-spend but pointed out that sales of electric vehicles were increasing, saying: "Sales of ultra low emission vehicles have been increasing year on year, but at a slower rate than originally anticipated. We are currently projecting to spend circa £230 million over the period. Grant uptake in 2013 was 335 per cent higher than in 2011, grants in January 2014 were at a record level and 679 per cent higher than the equivalent month in 2013."

Now, it seems that major manufacturers like Lexus are beginning to question the future of electric cars and plug-in hybrids. Instead, they may look to hydrogen fuel cell cars as being the low emissions vehicle of the future. Lexus Europe vice president, Alain Uytenhoven, explained the company’s thinking: "Plug-in hybrids make most sense if you live in a city, but people who live in cities usually have to park on the street, so where are they supposed to charge a car? We believe the fuel cell is a much better technology because it allows you to refuel your car with hydrogen in the same way you refuel it with petrol today."

The hydrogen fuel cell car also uses electric motors to power the vehicle, but instead of this electric power being produced remotely in power stations and then transferred to storage in the car’s batteries, it uses hydrogen as a fuel to drive chemical reactions in the fuel cell, which then produces electricity. This gives two significant advantages over current electric cars. The first of these is range. The average range of most electric cars between charges is around 100 miles. The range of a hydrogen fuel cell car is around 300 miles. This is far closer to that of a petrol car and removes range anxiety. The second factor is refuelling time. Hydrogen fuel cell cars can be refuelled much like petrol cars and do not need to be recharged. These factors could be crucial in positioning hydrogen as the fuel of the future.

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