SME helps electric cars go the distance
If you are thinking of buying an electric vehicle, one consideration is how far you can go before recharging. An EU-funded project is developing a modular power system for long journeys with fewer stops, encouraging wider use of electric cars. Trials begin in summer 2016.
Electric vehicles can be a great choice for the environment and our energy security. A snap-on range-extender from the EP Tender project could encourage more car buyers to make that choice.
Most affordable low- to mid-range electric cars can do a day’s driving – about 100 km – before their battery runs out. But for longer journeys, regular recharging can add hours to travel time. The EU-funded project’s trailer-based generator system – the tender – can add another 400km before drivers need to refuel, making electric cars a more versatile, more attractive purchase.
With the tender, drivers can also take their cars to areas where recharging facilities are still developing, further supporting electric vehicle uptake. To minimise their use cost and environmental impact – and maximise their convenience for users – the tenders will be distributed through a rental network when they are ready for launch.
About 98 % of average daily car travel is within the range of a standard electric car, according to the project’s analysis of published car use research. But the remaining 2 % of journeys can only be done conveniently if drivers use another car or if they install either a permanent range-extender or a large battery, both of which are expensive and heavy.
This can be a barrier to building a market for greener cars, says EP Tender founder, Jean-Baptiste Segard. “I started to look for a solution to make an electric vehicle not just my choice, but the choice of the majority.”
The French inventor designed energy modules that can be towed behind an electric car, adding in electricity so that long journeys become as convenient as they are using a petrol or diesel vehicle. These range extending tenders – the EP Tender – deliver electricity through a 400V power line, while a small computing device (a CAN bus) connects to the car’s electronics system to regulate the inflow of power. The tenders also contain a globally patented self-steering feature for smooth reversing, adding to their stability and proven crash resistance, he says.
The current version of the tender generates power with a combustion engine with a 35-litre tank – the same size as the engine of a small car. Because electric cars can recharge overnight, when the often windier weather allows 100 % recharging from renewables, an electric vehicle combined with an EP Tender would use one tenth of the fossil fuel of a standard petrol or diesel car for typical car use in France, explains Segard. As technology evolves, the tenders could contain a large battery or fuel cell, for even greater sustainability, he adds.
Trials of five tenders with up to 50 electric cars will start in France in summer 2016 with key commercial clients. EP Tender will also look for industrial partners toward the end of 2016, for manufacturing and financial support.
Should the field tests be positive, Segard plans to develop a tender rental network – the Tender’Lib network – in France and other partner countries. “We have established a very good technical base and are getting strong support from target clients,” he says.
EP Tender’s development has been 70 % financed by the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument. This fund helps SMEs develop innovations that can disrupt existing markets, for new high-growth industries. “It is really fantastic – and is a well-designed programme,” says Segard.
His research suggests he could reach 20-40 % of electric vehicle owners. He predicts that if EP Tender helps develop the electric vehicle industry, this could represent 2 % of the overall car market by 2030 and reach a turnover of €6 million for the company in 2020.