International Motor Show: Electric Is Hip, Small Is Great
Future comes as standard ‑ that's the slogan of the 64th International Motor Show (IAA), which takes place from 15 to 25 September 2011 in Frankfurt, Germany. Almost the entire crème de la crème of the automotive industry seems to assess electric mobility as particularly fit for the future. This year, for the first time, there is a special "Hall of Electric Mobility", where automobile manufacturers such as Daimler, Opel, Chevrolet, Renault, Citroen, Peugeot and Mitsubishi present their electric vehicles. Also various suppliers, such as Siemens and Bosch are there with their own booth. Large companies from other industries, such as IBM, BASF and E.ON, as well as several universities complete the picture.
“This multi-industry presentation is intended to showcase the changing value-added chain and demonstrate that tomorrows mobility needs a joint effort leading far beyond the conventional boundaries of individual branches of industry”, Matthias Wissmann, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) said. “This is about network management, renewable energy production, new components and materials, lightweight construction and power electronics, integration in the form of ‘smart communities’ and the ‘smart grid,’ intermodal concepts such as car sharing and telematics services, and, finally, the whole issue of energy storage, including the development of battery cells just as much as recycling and packaging.”
Despite technical advances, the electric car still has to deal with many problems, e.g. expensive batteries and a limited range. Therefore most providers combine the electric motor with a conventional combustion engine to get hybrid vehicles. Many prototypes at the IAA 2011 are range extender models that have a combustion engine as a power producer on board. The Opel Ampara, currently exhibited at the Frankfurt Motor Show, is one of the cars that are already available for customers. It costs 42 900 euros and has a 111 kW electric motor with a range of 40 to 80 km. Thanks to the range extender - a 1.4 liter gasoline engine with 63 kW of power - the range increases to 500 km. Opel states that the vehicle has a CO2 emission below 40 g / km.
From 2013 on, Volkswagen wants to bring electric cars on the market, too. Europe's largest car manufacturer has of course recognised that electric cars without renewable energy would just be a sham. That’s why Volkswagen also plans to provide clean energy for the prospective buyers of their electric cars. Recently, the company announced to invest up to one billion euros in renewable energies, mainly in offshore wind farms.
Other trends at the IAA are small cars and micro cars, often linked with electric drive. The micro cars – some new sort of bubble cars with only one or two seats - are specially designed for the megacities of the world. According to a study by the market research company Frost & Sullivan, there will be about 20 new models of this class on the market by the year 2013. At the IAA some prototypes were on display already, such as the Audi Urban Concept, the RAK e by Opel and the Nils by Volkswagen.
At the will of the German government there should be one million electric cars in Germany by 2020 - a goal that many experts consider clearly too high to be able to achieve. For comparison there currently are 42.3 million cars on Germany’s roads. Of these 37 200 have a hybrid drive such as the Toyota Prius, the Lexus CT 200h and the Honda Jazz. On the other side there are only 2300 electric cars like the Mitsubishi i-Miev, the Citroen C-Zero or the Peugeot iOn.
"The electric car is on everyone's lips, but it will keep being a niche product for a long time," Dietmar Oeliger, transport expert of the German environmental organization NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) stated. "Many innovations at the IAA are aiming at a distant future, or are too demanding to quickly reach large numbers." Therefore, NABU calls as top priority that significant fuel savings must be achieved in the "classical" four-seater with combustion engine. According to NABU the goal has to be a fleet average of 80 g CO2 per kilometer in 2020. The average of new cars sold in Germany currently is at around 160 g.
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