Stellantis is finalizing its 5-year and 10-year plans. According to Automotive News Europe, newly appointed Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato told Italian journalists, during a roundtable event, that all future vehicles from the company would be electrified. They will be built on a new platform known internally as the STLA large-vehicle architecture that will be shared across brands under the Stellantis umbrella.
Tim Kuniskis, in a recent Autoweek interview, was quoted as saying, “I can’t give you a date but I can tell you the future is coming faster than we could have guessed 24 months ago and the shift to electrification is coming like a tidal wave. It’s (electrification) going to enable more performance than we’ve ever seen before, ever. We’ll be able to take the technologies that we know today, and bolster them with electrification and in some cases full battery power. The future of performance is bright with electrification whether it’s PHEV, full BEV, or whatever.”
In light of this, it is important to learn about electric and hydrogen-powered cars. A battery electric vehicle, is a type of electric vehicle (EV) that exclusively uses chemical energy stored in rechargeable battery packs, with no secondary source of propulsion. Battery electric cars are becoming more and more attractive with the higher oil prices and the advancement of new battery technology lithium-ion) that have higher power and energy density (i.e., greater possible acceleration and more range with fewer batteries). Compared to older battery types such as lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries now have an much higher energy density.
Electric cars have traditionally used series-wound DC motors, a form of brushed DC electric motor. They derive all power from battery packs and have no internal combustion engine, fuel cell or fuel tank. (Note- Hybrid electric vehicles use both electric motors and internal combustion engines, and are not considered pure or all-electric vehicles. Hybrid electric vehicle whose batteries that can be charged externally are called plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), and run as BEVs during their charge-depleting mode).
More recent electric vehicles have made use of a variety of AC motor types rather than DC motors, as these are simpler to build and have no brushes that can wear out. These are usually induction motors, or brushless AC electric motors, which use permanent magnets. There are several variations of the permanent magnet motor which offer simpler drive schemes and/or lower cost including the brushless DC electric motor. Once electric power is supplied to the motor (from the controller), the magnetic field interaction inside the motor will turn the drive shaft and ultimately the vehicle's wheels.
Many electric cars, like the Tesla provide amazing acceleration and a good top speed. The Tesla Roadster can go from 0-60 mph in only 1.9 sec. can turn the ¼ mile in 8.9 sec. and has a 130 mph. top speed. Electric cars can significantly reduce city air pollution by having zero tail pipe emissions. With the current U.S. energy mix, using an electric car would result in a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Electric cars are having a major impact in the auto industry and world governments are pledging billions to fund their development and components. The U.S., alone, has pledged $2.4 billion in federal grants for electric cars and batteries.
As of October 2020, the world's top selling highway legal all-electric car in history is the Tesla Model 3, with an estimated 645,000 sales, followed by the Nissan Leaf with over 500,000 sales as of September 2020.
An alternative electric power source is the super capacitor. Lamborghini has released details about their new $3 million 6.5 liter V-12 hypercar, the Sián, which will feature futuristic styling and a hybrid power train that puts out 808 hp. Performance-wise, it goes from 0-60 mph in only 2.5 sec., turns the ¼ mile at 10.3 sec. and has a 220 mph top speed.
The car uses an 48-volt electric motor that is integrated with the 7-speed transmission. The 75-lb. motor gets fed electrons from something called a “super capacitor.” Basically, it’s an electrical component that stores energy, but not really in the same steady pace as a battery. As an analogy, a battery’s current flows like water in a creek, while a super capacitor is more like a geyser. They, however, cannot store as much energy as batteries or hold a charge as long, but they do have higher power density and a longer life span. The motor’s primary purpose is to smooth the jerkiness of the old-tech single clutch automated manual by doling out the torque to fill the lulls between shifts and clutch engagement.
A less popular source of power is hydrogen. A hydrogen vehicle (FCEV) is a vehicle that uses hydrogen fuel for its power. Compressed hydrogen must be stored in a vehicle, either as a super-cooled liquid or as highly compressed gas (5,000 psi).
The power plants of such vehicles convert the chemical energy of hydrogen to mechanical energy, either by burning hydrogen in an internal combustion engine or, more commonly, by reacting hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell to power electric motors.
As of 2019, there were three models of hydrogen cars available in select markets: the Toyota Mirai,
which is the world's first mass produced dedicated fuel cell electric vehicle, the Hyundai Nexo and the Honda Clarity.
A few other companies, like BMW, are still exploring hydrogen cars, while VW has stated that the technology has no future in the automotive world, mainly because such a vehicle consumes about three times more energy than a battery electric car for each mile driven.
Experts say it will be 40 years or more before hydrogen has any meaningful impact on gasoline consumption or global warming. According to former U.S. Dept. of Energy official, Joseph Romm, "A hydrogen car is one of the least efficient, most expensive ways to reduce greenhouse gases." Asked when hydrogen cars will be broadly available, Romm replied: "Not in our lifetime, and very possibly never.”
Another challenge is the lack of infrastructure. Gas stations need to invest in the ability to refuel hydrogen tanks before FCEVs become practical, and it's unlikely many will do that while there are so few customers on the road today. As of 2018, there were only 40 publicly accessible hydrogen refueling stations in the US, most of which are located in California (compared with 19,000 electric charging stations).
Manufacturers are having a hard time selling hydrogen cars. In March 2021, Toyota tried to lure buyers with a $20,000 discount, along with federal and CA incentives (64% off) along with 0% financing. Perhaps, the future will be with heavy-duty vehicles where the energy density is much higher than that of a battery and refueling is much quicker. (Note- In 2013 BMW leased hydrogen technology from Toyota, and a group formed by Ford, Daimler AG and Nissan announced a collaboration on hydrogen technology development. By 2017, however, Daimler had abandoned hydrogen vehicle development and most of the automobile companies developing hydrogen cars had switched their focus to battery electric vehicles).
Compounding the lack of infrastructure is the high cost of the technology and the hazardous nature of the fuel. The best hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles consume more than three times more electricity per mile than an electric vehicle (38% efficient compared to 80% efficiency for EV cars), generate more greenhouse gas emissions, have very high fuel costs ($16.51 per kilogram) and is extremely hazardous. Because of these issues, fuel-cell vehicles seem likely to be a niche technology at best, with little impact on U.S. oil consumption.