Fuelling debate on electric cars
Jun 27, 2008 - Edward Stephens - Birminghammail.net
WITH the situation in the Middle East being so volatile
it's hardly surprising that Israel worries about the future
source of petrol for its citizens' cars.
But now thanks to help from the French car giant Renault
it plans to put its worries behind it by abandoning petrol
and going all electric.
Renault believes strongly in the future of electric vehicles
and is currently investing a massive 200 million euros a
year in developing the technology.
It believes that by 2020 up to 20 per cent of all cars
in use in the world will be electric, with most operating
in big cities.
Because of the compact size of Israel and its political
needs it looks set to become the showcase example of what
can be done.
The model could then be copied in major cities throughout
the world on a smaller scale.
Serge Yoccoz, Renault's project director for electric vehicles,
said that by 2011 Israel would be using electric powered
Meganes and Kangoos and by 2012 the company would have created
a new model designed solely for electric car use.
Denmark too is working with Renault in a bid to switch
more motorists to elect ric powered cars.
But it's not just the car company that is prepared to invest
in electric vehicles.
Both Israel and Denmark will be offering massive incentives
for motorists to make the switch.
In the case of Israel the 80 per cent tax on a car will
be reduced to 20 per cent for buyers who opt for electric.
And in Denmark where taxes range from 105 per cent to 180
per cent - depending upon engine size - they will disappear
altogether for motorists buying electric cars.
Mr Yoccoz said it was forward thinking like that which
had encourage Renault to work with both countries.
"We will be the only car maker involved and will therefore
be leading the way," he said.
He claimed the next generation of electric cars would
be cheaper than petrol or diesel models if both the initial
cost and running costs were taken into consideration and
that would inspire people to buy.
The new electric cars being developed by Renault will have
a range of around 100 miles.
"When you consider that around 25 per cent of all Europeans
never drive more than 100 kilometres in a day the benefits
of electric cars are obvious," he said.
The plan in Israel is to have 250,000 "charging points"
in place by 2012. These would be places like car parks,
supermarkets and places of business.
A full charge would take about four hours - and normally
be done overnight - but the average charge would be around
There would also be battery exchange centres around the
country where motorists could pop in and exchange their
low battery for a charged one in minutes, leaving the flat
one to be charged.
It's anticipated that simila r schemes will eventually
be operated in Britain, especially if petrol and diesel
prices cont inue to soar.
Longer term Renault's outlook is focussed on electric vehicles
powered by fuel cells as they offer an extended driving
The company has just unveiled a prototype Scenic model
- the Scenic ZEV H2 - which is powered by a fuel cell and
will be undergoing a major programme of testing.
During a trip to France I had the opportunity to get behind
the wheel of this glimpse of the future, driving it briefly
on private roads.
Externally, apart from the badging, it looks exactly the
same as any other Scenic.
The dials on the dashboard are different, however, and
when you open the hatch the high floor area gives a clue
that there is a rather large tank underneath it - in this
case full of hydrogen.
It's only when you start the car that you are aware of
the real difference - because there is no engine sound.
Like all electric cars - and despite running on hydrogen
it is powered by an electric motor - it is totally silent
even when you pull away.
In fact it's so quiet pedestrians could fall victim to
it because they won't hear it coming, so Renault is working
on developing some sort of noise to make them aware of its
But while it's lacking in noise it's not lacking in power.
It will accelerate from 0- 62 mph in 14 seconds and reach
a top speed of around 100 mph.
It's also surprisingly torquey from the outset and like
all electric cars there are no gears. You just put your
foot on the accelerator and go. It is one continuous power
The electric for the motor is generated by the reaction
of hydrogen and oxygen but so far there are less than 300
hydrogen filling stations throughout the world so this method
is still very much in its infancy.
In the immediate future Renault is continuing with its
strategy of building more environmentally friendly petrol
engines by down-sizing - creating smaller engines with the
power of larger ones which are more economical to run.
Alice de Brauer, the company's vice president for strategic
environmental planning, said they were convinced that, for
volume cars at least, this rather than hybrid models was
the way forward.