A few years ago, carmakers took a scattergun approach when looking for alternative-fuel technology, all alternatives were tried and tested, everything from hydrogen fuel cells to, biodiesel and natural gas.
There is nothing better than a worldwide crisis causing plummeting sales and rocketing costs to focus an industry on a well-defined strategy. Now almost every carmaker at Detroit's 2009 auto show - from the giants of General Motors and Ford to the newcomers from China BYD have all unveiled plans to create a mass-produced electric car within two or three years. The starting pistol for the race to go electric has fired. The only question outstanding is, who will be first to cross the finish line?
"Electricity is the future," say automotive industry experts as all roads now piont to that electric propulsion; it’s the most efficient propulsion system and with the recent advances in the technology over the next few years there will be a real proliferation.
Already a California-based start-up Telsa Motors is showing off its $109,000 all-electric two-seat Roadster sports car at Detroit, the only production vehicle on sale to the general public. Tesla also announced it has signed a deal to supply its lithium-ion batteries for an electric version of Daimler's Smart car.
The niche market success is all well and good but the only real prize in the race to go electric will be when someone creates a passenger car that can carry four or five passengers for 350 miles on a single charge that takes 15 minutes, that will be progress.
Several major automakers at the Detroit show said they are hotly pursuing this goal, driven by the rapid development of smaller lithium-ion batteries.
GM has plans to build a U.S. factory to assemble advanced lithium-ion batteries for its Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric sedan, which the carmaker has scheduled for launch late 2010 for a price of £30,000.
Ford said it plans to sell an electric sedan in the U.S.by 2011, while current electric technology leaders Toyota have exhibited a mini electric commuter vehicle the FT-EV for the Japanese, European and United States market from 2012. China’s BYD, which currently doesn’t sell cars in the United States, announced plans to sell plug-in vehicles by 2011. Nissan,has announced it will sell an electric car in the United States as early as 2010.