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Electric Cars Can Win 10 Pct Share By 2020: Report

Date: 26-May-10
Country: UK
Author: Gerard Wynn

Pure and hybrid electric cars may grab five to 10 percent of a European autos market by 2020 if governments help overcome cost hurdles, said the authors of an engineering academy report published on Tuesday.

Limits included infrastructure costs of about 5,000 pounds ($7,152) per roadside charge spot, plus costly lithium batteries with a limited range of about 100 miles. In addition, cross-border standards were needed for plugs and billing. "There is no obvious source of funding for such infrastructure," found the Royal Academy of Engineering report, referring to the roll-out of clusters of charge spots.

Driving adoption in Britain were targets to curb greenhouse gases, meaning the fossil fuel-dependent country would also have to invest heavily in low-carbon electricity.

"Any likely future UK energy system will almost certainly involve the electrification of a significant proportion of the transport system," said the report, "Electric cars: charged with potential."

In the near term, gasoline hybrids would continue to dominate pure electric vehicle (EV) models, as their flexibility extended driving range and cut dependence on a charging network.

Advantages of electric cars included lower running costs compared with gasoline, said co-author Roger Kemp of Lancaster University.

He estimated the running cost of the full 100 mile range of a standard battery at about 2 pounds ($2.87), assuming a storage capacity of 20 kilowatt hours and British consumer power prices of 10 pence per kilowatt hour.

In addition to a limited range, re-charging time for batteries was a concern at 6-8 hours or more. Faster charging was possible, but could impact the performance of batteries.

One possible solution was to roll out charging stations, based on gasoline filling stations, where drivers would instantly swap their spent batteries for charged ones, leasing these from the station operator.

Kemp considered that business model, favored by multi-million-dollar California start-up company Better Place, as "complicated."

The supply of particular metals to build batteries, notably lithium, was not likely a constraint, however, said Kemp.

"The (global) reserve base represents sufficient lithium for a billion EV batteries, meaning that lithium shortages do not appear imminent," it said.

"The diversity of possible battery chemistries suggests that a shortage of battery materials is unlikely ... in the foreseeable future," added the report which listed lithium, lead, nickel, sodium and zinc-based chemistries.

(Editing by Keiron Henderson)

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