I have been considering the various construction, operating and economic factors relating to practical mass market electric cars. It would appear that most potential manufacturers are locked into designs which need massive investment in new tooling, use possibly the most expensive batteries on the market. Overall family practicality sacrificed on the altar of style and the aerodynamics quasi-religion when its unlikely to be driven long periods at high speed. The first cost of any practical electric family car is prohibitive to most people, then the range is only perhaps 60 miles.
Most people need a car capable of longer journeys, and as far as I can see the most practical solution is to use a cheap lead acid battery pack on trailers. Its not a new idea, Ribble Motor Services ( Preston ) built and tested a prototype electric Leyland National bus in the 1970s, the batteries were carried on a trailer. It could be possible to build a national network of battery trailer interchange stations on a scale similar to the number of small petrol garages in the 1950s. Each station could hold a stock of trailers to interchange and charge batteries on site, perhaps even using local renewable sources.
The trailers would need to be hired out on a common user basis, the value of the energy included in the hire price. It would also be beneficial to provide trailer park / interchange sites on the outskirts of town so that you could rely on the ( perhaps smaller ) vehicle battery alone for the trip into town itself. Perhaps a radical departure away from ” traditional ” mass production car design is needed considering the investment by potential owners.
To be true ” green ” any mass production need to be capable ( with maintenance ) of lasting at least 30 years. Buy an electric car in your 20s and then hand it on to your kids when they first pass their test and start driving independently. There is proven vehicle technology capable of doing this, the ERF SP truck cab with sheet mould compound plastic panels on a strong steel frame. Using the SP cab design as a basis it could be possible to build a vehicle which fits the above criterion. If it was thought about properly you could even send your vehicle in for refurbishment and have it returned with different body styling. Such a vehicle would be likely to retain its second hand value long term, unlike current mass production designs which are normally ” knackered ” at under 15 years old, even if you could theoretically still get the required spares.
I have been thinking about ways to reduce power consumption and improve regenerative braking in electric road vehicles for several years now. I have a PTII motor vehicle technicians certificate ( from 1982 before the syllabus was dumbed down ) with distinction and in my spare time over the years swatted up on railway locomotive engineering.
My idea is based on the principle of the Fell Locomotive ( Built 1950 ) using four diesel engines driving through differentials to provide automatic gear changes. It would probably not be practical to use four small electric motors for a car, but you could use two medium sized driving through a differential. At low speed one motor would be idle and locked, the diff providing a reduction of 2 to 1, at above say 20 Mph the second motor was unlocked and came into use to provide additional power and acceleration at higher speed up to a max of around 70. Furthermore, when braking the second motor could be locked spinning the remaining motor faster thus providing potential extra regeneration to the batteries.
I do have some practical experience of electric motors but only in model railways, some of my models are fitted with Protescap motors. Push a dead one fairly fast along the dead track and the electricity generated will move another slowly. It would be relatively easy to do using the latest electronics and could be the key to improving range especially on a vehicle like a taxi engaged on mostly slow speed city work.
There is probably no real chance of even getting my ideas for electric cars onto the agenda, I’m a bit like John Harrison and his marine clock up against the astronomers of the Longitude Board. It would appear that we have regressed back into the 18th century as far as innovation in science and engineering are concerned, perhaps they have once again become the sole domain of a quasi-religious elite ?