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Need 20-30 years more before fuel-cell cars can be put on the road. Interest heightening in electric cars

9, 05. 2008

   Japanese carmakers are engaged in fierce competition for the development and publicity of electric cars which are attracting public attention as the "next-generation eco-cars". Nissan Motor Co. unveiled on Aug. 6, 2008 an experimental model for the vehicle that is scheduled to be put on the market both in Japan and North America in 2010. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Fuji Heavy Industries are planning to start selling electric cars in Japan in 2009. The age of electric cars being popularly used is about to come.

Can run 160 km on 6-hour charging

Interest heightening in electric cars.  The photo shows the “iMiEV” Mitsubishi Motors plans to start selling in summer of 2009.
Interest heightening in electric cars. The photo shows the “iMiEV” Mitsubishi Motors plans to start selling in summer of 2009.

   As electric cars do not use gasoline at all, it is said that the running cost of such cars can be cut to less than one tenth of gasoline cars. For this reason, the public interest is fast heightening in electric cars while drivers are shunning gasoline cars amid soaring gasoline prices pushed up by crude oil price increases.

   There are also the fuel-cell cars as other next-generation eco-cars. The fuel-cell cars are powered by the electricity generated through chemical reaction of hydrogen carried in the fuel tanks with oxygen in the air. Because of the complicated production method, the cost for producing one unit of such cars is said to run tens of million yen. The construction of filling stations to supply the cars with hydrogen to replace the existing gas stations is another major problem. It is widely viewed, therefore, that it will still take 20-30 years more before the fuel-cell cars can be popularly used as noted by a major carmaker. On the contrary, the electric cars getting closer to actual use and they are drawing increasing attention of the public.

   The experimental model unveiled by Nissan Motor carries a lithium-ion battery developed jointly with NEC Corp. The company says that the car gives better running performance as it is fitted with newly developed motor and electric system. It said it will make further efforts so that the car would run about 160 kilometers on a six-hour charging.

   Mitsubishi Motors plans to start selling the electric car "iMiEV" in the summer of 2009. On Aug. 6, the same day when Nissan Motor unveiled the experimental model, Mitsubishi Motors announced through Lithium Energy Japan, the joint venture set up with Mitsubishi Corp. and other companies, that it will start the mass production of the world's first vehicle-borne lithium-ion cells in the spring of 2009. The company indicated that it is strengthening it system for the manufacturing of electric cars in competition with Nissan Motor.

Production cost is more than double that for gasoline cars

   Mitsubishi Motors announced in June that it had started talks with Peugeot Citroen SA (PSA) of France on the conclusion of tie-up between the two companies in the field of electric cars. It is also reported that General Motors Corp. (GM), the major U.S. carmaker that is facing sharp business decline, and Ford Motor Co. are negotiating on tie-up arrangements for the development of new engines. The possible cooperation between the two U.S. carmakers is widely believed to cover the electric-car technology which is in the research activities of GM. The competition over the development of electric cars now seems expanding on a world scale.

   However, electric cars do not seem to roll off the assembly lines without some problems. The production cost is said to be more than double that of gasoline cars because they need expensive lithium-ion batteries to run. Mitsubishi Motors has on its mind to sell its iMiEV cars for 2.5 million to 3 million yen per unit, including subsidies. But such prices are still much higher than those for the counterparts that run on gasoline. More over the distance the electric car can run on one charging is usually half of the distance a gasoline car can run on one filling. The carmakers are competing for the development of electric cars that can run as long distance as possible on one charging.

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