Extended range electric vehicles may be our green future

What do you think of when someone says extended range electric vehicle, or eREV?

The first vehicle mostly like to pop into your head is the Chevy Volt, which comes with an electric motor powertrain with a gas range extender for recharging the battery pack when it poops out instead of turning the car’s wheels like a regular engine would.

Somewhere between a true electric car and plug-in hybrid by design, the market for these types of cars has been fairly nascent to this point. This might be changing soon though, as research firm Frost & Sullivan predicts this green car market segment will see rapid acceleration in coming years.

With 14 models of eREV vehicles expected to be available by 2018, research analysts predict, one can expect there to be over 329,000 units by that point. It is believed the market as described here will develop rapidly because “major OEMs have models lined up to be launched within the next three years. Moreover, fuel cell vehicles are expected to be commercialized by 2015.”

Now, to be clear, we have to look at what Frost & Sullivan defines as eREV technology. This includes three applications of this meaning: internal combustion engine range extenders( i.e. the Volt), fuel cell range extenders and micro-gas turbine range extenders. It is seen that the internal combustion range extenders are expected to be the most widely used of the three, with an estimated market share of 77 per cent globally by 2018.

Beyond the Volt, other extended range electric vehicles or technologies we’ve heard of in the past include the Cadillac ELR (think more pricey Volt), a Volvo extender, a Suzuki offering and the Lotus Evora 414E. Apart from the Cadillac choice, it is unclear of some of the others on whether or not they will ever make it to production ready status.

“Range extender technologies overcome the major challenge of range anxiety and extended times taken to charge, by generating onboard electricity with the help of different technologies,” said Frost & Sullivan Automotive & Transportation Research Associate Prajyot Sathe in a statement.

“The integration of range extenders in EVs will result in more than 50 per cent reduction in emissions and significant fuel savings. There is a major focus on engine downsizing which will help lower costs and lead to exponential calibration and optimisation complexity, as the same level of detail and features can be retained even though the vehicle is downsized.”

There’s one thing to be sure of here with extended range electric vehicles – they very well could help lure more consumers into the green car segment who want to drive more efficiently but aren’t quite ready to give up the idea of fueling up at the pump or who have concerns around how far the vehicles can go during day to day use.

* Nino Marchetti, EarthTechling