3 obvious improvements for electric cars

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Energy Conservation

Electric CarElectric cars are beginning to offer a real economic alternative. Mainstream and premium brand electric cars are becoming cheaper, and have increased range. Also the required surrounding infrastructure (recharging points) is finally being rolled out in our towns and cities. However there are still some obvious areas of improvement that require attention:

1. Insulation. Heating and cooling of a cars interior is very important for the occupants. With traditional cars this doesn’t strain the engine too matter much because the internal combustion engine produces excess heat which can be diverted to the interior. It is also powerful enough to drive an air-conditioning unit without a noticeably reduction in range or speed. In fact powering an air-conditioning unit with the cars engine, is a more efficient way of cooling your car than opening the windows, because of drag.

This is not the case with electric cars. Heating and cooling these cars has to be done using the limited battery power available and as a result the range is reduced. Therefore preventing heat loss, (or cool air loss in hot climates), in electric cars is much more important than in traditional cars. Some ways this could be achieved are by using triple glazed windows, improving insulation in the cars surfaces and removing any air gaps. Small heat exchangers/ thermal wheels could be used to maintain adequate ventilation with little energy loss. The inner workings of these great devices is covered in a previous article, click here for link.

2. Solar cells. The addition of solar cells to all top surfaces of electric cars would seem to be a good idea. Presently solar cells have a typical life span of 25 years which comfortably exceeds the expected use of an average car. Although these would not provide enough energy to power the car. They would provide a useful free boost, considering that cars spend most of there time parked, they could be slowly refuelling for free during daylight hours.

In the future, if solar cells are provided to cars, and electric cars really become more popular, it would mean that external car parking spaces in sunny areas would be the most sought after. With owners seeking them out. This would have implications for car park and building design. Also it would mean that people would keep their cars cleaner to maximise the solar gain.

3. Wireless recharging. At present electric cars are recharged by a heavy duty wired connection. In public spaces these can be interfered with, and there are safety issues with a small risk of electrocution. But modern smart phones like the Samsung S4, have wireless charging technology available. This technology is currently being tested for electric cars and it must be only a matter of time before this technology is the only way used to recharge electric cars. At present it is a slower way to recharge battery’s and there is a small energy loss involved. But it has the advantage that in public recharging car parking spaces it would be very hard to interfere with. It could even be installed below the road at traffic lights, and in busy town centres, so that the battery’s could be recharging while the car is waiting in traffic.


4 thoughts on “3 obvious improvements for electric cars

  1. When I read about wireless charging of cars, my first thought was “the driver better not have a pacemaker in his chest”! It will require a serious electromagnetic field, on a par with that found in transformers, but with less-efficient inductive coupling (since there is no continuous solid iron core).

    I think a better short-term solution is to have standardised quick-swap battery packs. If the dimensions, connectors and voltages were standardised, you could pull up at the garage, have the discharged pack (or packs) yanked out and charged packs slotted in, in seconds.

  2. Alternately heating can be done by a webasto heater, my old rover had one of these fitted to pre-heat the car on cold mornings. Can be run on marked diesel or even bio diesel. Many coaches have these fitted too.

  3. Regarding point 2, wouldn’t it be more effective to have solar panel shaded car parks instead? This way the interior doesn’t get ridiculously warm, limiting the need to turn on the AC in the first place.

  4. I agree with brian t if we had our law makers standerdise bateries and a usage monitor on each battery pack, the swapping of a battery pack and the charges for the amount of energy used would be easy.

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