Ask a group of drivers about whether they would consider an electric car next time they’re buying, and one question dominates their responses: “But where would I plug it in?”
Unless you’ve got a drive, or a garage that’s not full of junk and kids’ bikes, it’s a genuine concern that could significantly limit the appeal of electric vehicles (EVs). Assuming you have a parking space outside your house, cables trailing across pavements and in through windows is an accident – or a burglary – waiting to happen.
But Nissan is currently working on what may be the answer. It’s a revolutionary new technology that replenishes the power cells without the car needing to be plugged in at all. It’s called inductive charging, and works as long as the battery is close enough to a power source. Electricity is induced into it through the air. It already works on a smaller scale with mobile phones – your handset can be placed on a special pad and charged because of the proximity of its surface to the battery. The Japanese firm made public its work on inductive charging at the recent Tokyo Motor Show. As an example of how it could work, bosses talked about installing it into city taxis. Parked in a rank for several minutes at a time, the batteries would be powered up via technology that’s installed a few inches below the surface of the road.
Andy Palmer, head of Nissan’s Zero Emissions Business Unit, explained: “We are quite a long way down the road with inductive charging. We are out of the lab on static charging, but we’re not out of the lab on dynamic applications.” The latter innovation would mean electric vehicles could boost their battery power levels without even needing to be parked.
Nissan also announced it’s 4R strategy – to Reuse, Resell, Refabricate and Recycle batteries from EVs such as the Leaf, which will go on sale next year. It means the power cells wouldn’t be scrapped, even when they’re no longer good enough to be used in a car. “To be going into the battery business is, for us, a big deal and it’s the last piece in the jigsaw of the EV story,” said Palmer. Nissan’s goal is to have EVs making up 10 per cent of its sales by 2020.