Many people are in favour of electric vehicles in theory, but have concerns about the practical limitations they have as a result of limited battery capacities and long recharge times; however, a new record that was set this month could be enough to change their opinion and disprove some of the preconceptions.
US zero emissions bus manufacturer Proterra set a high benchmark for EV range with its Catalyst E2 bus, which was driven for a total 1,101.2 miles on a single charge, according to CNET.
This was achieved thanks to the impressive array of batteries built into the vehicle, giving it a combined capacity of 660kWh. To put this in perspective, the bus stored over six times the amount of energy found in a range-extended version of the Tesla Model S passenger car.
The feat becomes even more significant when viewed in a broader context, as this is not only a record range for an electric bus but also for any electric vehicle regardless of size. The fact that the Catalyst E2 is big enough to accommodate lots of passengers and is built to survive up to two decades of daily use puts this in perspective.
One of the reasons this bus can offer enough battery capacity to travel for record-breaking distances is that it is built on a modular platform that facilitates the addition of extra cells and other features that might be required. Furthermore, the body of the vehicle is constructed using a lot of carbon fibre elements, which reduces the weight and thus improves the efficiency and range in one fell swoop.
The record set by the bus was carried out in unique conditions; namely, it did not have a full load of passengers and was not being driven in an urban environment. The point being made by its manufacturer is that it should be possible to build a large commercial vehicle with an electric power train that is not hampered by its zero emissions design; instead, it is elevated above its rivals because of it.
Applying electric tech to trucks intended for long-distance transport has complications unique to this market segment, chief amongst which is the need to provide enough power and battery capacity to haul very heavy loads over great distances. There is still a long way to go before it is possible to build an HGV that can come close to matching this record in real-world conditions.
On paper, it is possible to keep adding batteries to increase the range of any electric vehicle; however, this obviously adds to the weight and takes up more space. Various research teams are working on new battery technologies that will have higher densities and thus store more energy in a more compact form; however, the commercial availability of such solutions is still a long way off. This means that hybrid power trains and alternative fuel sources, such as natural gas, will play a bigger role in the short to medium term.