News Column

Driving forward adoption of electric vehicles

July 2, 2014

Madani Sahari

IN combating the continuous increase in global greenhouse emission and the level of air pollution attributed to automobiles, many nations, particularly the developed ones, have been aggressively exploring the use of energy-efficient vehicles (EEV).

EEV powered by biofuel engines, hybrid electric, full electric and fuel cell are on the list of options available for environmental-friendly solutions. The technologies are there for the take, but one of the major issues is public scepticism in adopting this new mobility, particularly the electric vehicle (EV), which can pose a challenging concern.

One could imagine the public scepticism during the early days of the introduction of mass-produced motorised vehicles to replace the horse carts and coaches. Other than the absence of convenient fuel stations, the gravel road surfaces of that era were only suitable for galloping horses.

Fuel-powered vehicles soon captured the interest of the global populace, who began to appreciate the convenience and comfort of this new mode of transport. Vast network of asphalt roads were constructed and numerous fuel stations were erected along the roads to support the fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

A similar dilemma probably exists in the minds of the local populace towards EV usage. Many may ponder whether the nation is ready to adopt the vehicles on its roads, let alone to be the hub for EV manufacture in the region.

EV adoption and adaption by the general populace will be a gradual transformation process.

International Energy Agency (IEA), a Paris-based autonomous inter-governmental organisation, in their automotive technology roadmap, envisioned a global widespread adoption and usage of EVs, in particular the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and full electric vehicle, will be achieved by 2050, due to urbanisation. However, there are opinions that this might be sooner.

IEA postulated that EV and PHEV sales will begin to grow after 2015 and will reach a combined seven million vehicles per year by 2020. By 2050, it is expected that some 100 million EVs and PHEVs will be sold, contributing more than half of the total vehicles global sales in that year.

Based on this scenario, EV demand by global motorists is on the rise and as such, positive actions towards EV usage and production must start now. This will help the automotive industrialists to capture the potential EV market in the longer term.

EEV transformation will evolve from the current internal combustion engine (ICE) to the next advanced combustion engine featuring high efficiency, environmentally-friendly and fuel economy. In the meantime, engines utilising non-polluting biofuel and biodiesel are entering the global marketplace.

Alternative routes are being adopted by some carmakers through the introduction of hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), a vehicle that combines ICE propulsion system with an electric propulsion system to achieve improvements in fuel economy.

HEV has now entered the local market and its popularity is gaining momentum. Critical support needed by this mode of vehicle propulsion is in the aftersales maintenance and services, which is in need of immediate attention.

Prior to full EV introduction, PHEV will enter the global stage to familiarise motorists with the future non-emission electric propulsion vehicles.

Development of these vehicles may run parallel, but it is foreseen their full on-theroad global utilisation may progress in stages within the stipulated timeframe of the IEA outlook or even sooner.

While EEV manufacturing evolution is proceeding, public awareness and education on EV usage must be instilled.

In the meantime, infrastructure development to support the EV application, such as charging stations, must be given attention and gradually put in place by relevant parties.

On this accord, Malaysia Automotive Institute, Malaysian Green Technology Corporation and a local company have collaborated to introduce a sharing programme for the public to familiarise with the EV driving experience. The jointventure programme is based on the pay-asyou-use concept and will be made available to the public next month.

* The writer is chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: Business Times (Malaysia)

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