Could electric cars shock the motor market in 2016?
posted on Dec 08 2015 by Roy Shipston
All the signs are that next year will see a massive charge in alternatives to fossil-fuelled vehicles, boosted by the March launch of the Tesla Model 3 to be followed by the Model X – the big electric SUV – with “top secret” US car firm Faraday Future confirming it will unveil an electric to rival Tesla at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show. So it looks as though 2016 could see more and more drivers switching to energy-saving “smart” cars.
Although Faraday is as secretive as the CIA about what it is up to, it is believed its new vehicle will have at least 12% more battery power than the Tesla Model S, which has a range of just over 300 miles.
There are rumours Faraday’s super electric, for release in 2017, might be available on a subscription basis, allowing customers access to various models, depending on their day-to-day requirements. And there is talk the vehicle may have autonomous models, as technology companies and motor manufacturers strive towards driverless cars.
Faraday Future's senior vice president of R&D Nick Sampson has said: "If I plan my journey, the car should know my journey and the places I want to visit because it knows my preferences. The car should learn my desires." So connectivity will be key.
The company’s plans include building a factory at a cost of more than $1bn and it is in negotiations with Chinese investors and a technology firm – thought to be Apple – to fund the project. Original projections were that it would not be rolling out vehicles until 2020. But things change fast in the worlds of cars and technology.
Tesla’s innovative Model X pitched the company into the global SUV market. Designed as a seven-seater family utility vehicle boasting active collision avoidance technology, a bio-weapon defence button plus “falcon-wing” rear doors, it will zoom from 0-to-60mph in a little over three seconds.
The firm claims it is the safest SUV ever. Crash tests in America established the risk of serious injury in a high-speed collision at just 6.5%.
And Honda’s hydrogen-powered five-seat sedan, the FCV Clarity, goes on sale in Japan in three months’ time. Honda claims it can cover around 430 miles on one charge. Its fuel cell stack was originally so large it didn’t leave a lot of space inside the car for much else. But in the latest version it is about the same size as a normal V6 engine. It charges in three minutes and emits only water vapour. Hydrogen-powered cars work by having the fuel cell stack convert hydrogen into electricity, which powers an electric motor via a lithium-ion battery pack. At $63k, Honda thinks it will just be in the range the average motorist can afford.
The major disadvantage of hydrogen is there has to be a hydrogen station near your home to make the vehicles feasible. Two companies are installing hydrogen stations in parts of the US, funded by loans from Honda and Toyota and government grants. But it could be years before they can rival the number of gas stations in the US, if ever. However, oil supplies will run dry one day!
In the meantime, Honda is developing the smart hydrogen station, for home installation. There is no prediction on when they will be available or what they will cost.
Honda rolled-out the original NSX in 1989, with the late Ayrton Senna helping on the development. It was discontinued in 2005. Ten years later and the Japanese manufacturer is preparing to deliver its most exciting product for several years – a hybrid-powered supercar.
The new model was unveiled this year at the Detroit Motor Show. The hybrid is powered by a V6 petrol engine and three electric batteries, giving the four-wheel drive vehicle 550bhp.
Autocar described the new Honda hybrid supercar as “looking like a cross between an Audi R8 and a McLaren 650S”. It has a nine-speed, dual-clutch gearbox and Honda, which tested it on some of the planet’s most demanding race circuits, claims it will deliver “pinnacle supercar performance”. The Dynamics System dial control provides a choice of four driving modes: Quiet, Sport, Sport+ and Track. Honda says the car was made for the “aggressive daily driver”. A super Type R version is rumoured to be following in its slipstream.
Back in 2013 we asked on our blog if ‘electric cars were the way of the future?’. Development has come on leaps and bounds since then, and it makes me wonder what a “smart” electric or hydrogen Caterham 7 might be like? Whatever fancy, new technology such a vehicle would feature, I’d miss that distinctive growl…