Sep 142013
 

300px-Reva_charging

Researchers are aiming to remove the electric car market’s biggest problem – the fear of not reaching the next charging station.

Both in Norway and in Europe there is considerable interest in facilitating electric mobility and removing polluting goods and passenger transport from towns. There are critics out there, and European vehicle sales give no cause for rejoicing, since only 0.2 per cent of private cars sold are electrically powered. However, Norway saw a doubling of sales last year, with a total of 4,009 cars, and the number of electric cars on Norwegian roads is now around 11,000.

Simpler charging is also on its way, and the cost-effectiveness of electric goods vehicles and electric buses is being tested on Norwegian roads.

Electric cars call for experienced drivers

“One of the main challenges in getting more people to choose electric cars is the fear that their batteries will run flat and they won’t find anywhere to charge them,” says Liv Øvstedal at SINTEF. “Although a new generation of electric cars is now on its way, offering rapid charging and a greater range, we realise that the problem of charging and charging stations concerns people who are thinking of buying a new car.
“The cold, damp Norwegian climate represents an added burden for electric car owners. Motorists often need a year’s experience of driving the cars to feel safe with them in all seasons of the year.”

Communication platform in the car

Transport researchers at SINTEF want to make it possible to calculate the range of a car more precisely than at present, and to provide the driver with full information at all times.

“We envisage a system where the car is equipped with a simple GPS unit on which the driver plots the route. The car should be able to order its own charging by looking up charging stations and calculating when it will reach them. If changes occur during a journey, the program should adjust. We are now working on getting all the pieces in place to make this work,” says Øvstedal.

A small technical pilot scheme has been planned in Trondheim, as well as a larger demonstration project next year involving 200 electric cars on the road between Oslo and Kongsberg.
“Many people in Europe have the same ideas as we do, but we have yet to see such a system in practice. We believe we can make a contribution at a European level by organising demonstrations and working towards a business model,” says Liv Øvstedal.

Electric goods vehicles

But what about all the goods transport in town centres, and the big diesel vehicles idling outside shops while they unload goods? Can these be replaced by electric vehicles?

According to Øvstedal, we are keen to point out that Norway has the greatest density of electric vehicles per head of population in the world, but when it comes to goods transport we are a long way behind. Small historical towns in Europe, with their narrow streets, have been using electric goods vehicles for a long time.

Last year, the Norwegian company BRING tested several electric vehicles for express goods delivery, and data from the Grønn Bydistribusjon (Green Urban Distribution) project were so encouraging that the company purchased an electric goods vehicle for permanent use.
The company is now involved in the EU project FREVUE, in which Oslo is one of eight participating European cities. The project will evaluate the operation of four electric vehicles – two large ones approaching 7 tonnes, and two smaller ones ¬– within the area bounded by the city’s outer ring road. They will be used for express door-to-door delivery of packages, such as orders from IKEA.

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