There are many new and exciting developments in the world of electric vehicles (EVs). Perhaps it’s due to the nature of being an emerging technology looking to cement breakthroughs into the mainstream.
Firstly, the UK’s Highways Agency is reported to be soon start trial charging for electric cars on the move along a section of motorway. Using inductive plates under a road’s surface is not an entirely new thing but its application and testing has been focused on buses up to now. Increasing range and reducing battery size are important aims for the EV industry, so it’s a trial to keep an eye on.
Then there are moves by manufacturers to look across the car’s functions for ways of increasing battery life. For example, working to maximise heating efficiency. Since electric car engines don’t get hot enough to provide the vehicle’s interior heating, an electric heater has been the only solution available – but one that, naturally, drains the battery.
Several EV models are also employing heat pumps. The Nissan Leaf has one refrigerant circuit which can be used for heating or cooling depending on the season, while a new model of Kia is aiming to tap waste heat generated by the car’s components.
Although, unlike the leaf, this one isn’t available in the UK just yet, it has some interesting features. Ventilation can be switched to only the driver’s side when on the road alone, and interior air is recycled to avoid the electrical heating and cooling of unnecessary outside air. The line between comfort and efficiency is a tough one to tread, but these seem like sensible moves.
But it’s not all technological innovation with little regard for other road users – in particular blind and partially-sighted pedestrians. Debate has been going for a while about whether electric and hybrid vehicles should have to simulate the sounds of a petrol or diesel engine to improve safety for people with visual impairments, and now the matter has reached a firm conclusion. The European Parliament has decreed that by 2021, electric and hybrid will have to generate such sounds. While the combustion engine will eventually have its day, it seems like its audio accompaniment may well live on indefinitely.