Electric Car Reality Moves Closer (in cities, at least)

The reality of normal people using electric cars full time is moving a little closer, in nine of our cities at least. An £11m plan has just been announced to develop a network of electric vehicle recharging points in nine UK cities: Birmingham, Coventry, Glasgow, London, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Oxford and Sunderland (read more about it here).

At the same time comes news that Renault is unveiling no fewer than four electric vehicle concepts at next week’s Frankfurt Motor Show, heralding the launch of the company’s Zero Emission product range. This is a clear sign that the French manufacturer is committing to electric in a big way. These may only be concepts, but you can be fairly confident that some real production vehicles will be follow them in the not-too-distance future.

Car hire companies are planning to get in on the act, too. Europcar has just signed an agreement with Renault to roll out its Zero Emission range of electric vehicles from 2011. Europcar will also implement the necessary recharging infrastructure at its branches.

Renault’s research shows that 80% of people in Europe currently travel less than 60km per day – ideal for current electric cars, which typically have ranges of up to 100 miles on a full charge. Despite this, most of us occasionally undertake much longer journeys in our cars, giving rise to the need for extended range or easy and rapid recharging/refuelling.

For this reason, I still believe the future will be hybrid more than pure electric, but pure electric vehicles will definitely have a place. I suspect that electric vehicles may provide the basis for a new generation of hybrids, where the electric system is primary and the internal combustion engine is small, secondary, and primarily used for charging.

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