The age of innovation for electric vehicles

Since the 1990s, the shadow of oil price volatility caused by the oil crisis is still lingering, and regulations to limit automobile emissions have also followed. In order to avoid touching the net of various mandatory regulations, influential auto giants have turned their attention to the research and development of electric vehicles, taking the opportunity to dig more "gold".

The United States, the world's superpower, has always had a pioneering spirit of "dare to be the first in the world", and electric vehicles, which have always displayed cutting-edge technology, have been greatly benefited by this pioneering spirit. After the introduction of the "ZEV Act" in California in 1990, a group of electric vehicles that represented the best level at that time emerged, and the United States became the leader of electric vehicles. Not only that, European countries have also crossed the sea with eight immortals, each showing their magical powers, and doing their best to show their strength in developing electric vehicles.

GM Impact EV

Figure: GM Impact electric car

Generic Impact

In 1990, GM unveiled the Impact electric car at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The car weighs only 998 kilograms, uses a three-phase AC induction motor, has a top speed of 176 kilometers per hour, and can travel 200 kilometers per hour at a speed of 88 kilometers per hour. The appearance of Impact contributed to the gestation and birth of the "ZEV Act" to some extent. At that time, because of the price disadvantage, this electric car did not have the strength to compete with gasoline cars.

Timeless Classic EV1

Figure: Timeless Classic EV1

The timeless classic EV1

Subsequently, General Motors firmly seized the great opportunity of the "ZEV Act" and developed the EV1 pure electric sedan based on the core technology and design of Impact as a prototype. In 1996, it was exhibited in Los Angeles, San Diego and other places, and was regarded as the pioneering work of modern electric vehicles. In 1999, GM replaced the lead-acid battery of EV1 with nickel-metal hydride batteries, which could recover braking energy, reaching the peak of electric vehicle technology at that time. However, the car didn't get to 100 miles in a few hours on a charge, and the high cost and short driving range meant that the flagship of the electric car was ultimately doomed to be recycled for scrap. Even so, the EV1 is a timeless classic for electric vehicles because of its sleek looks and avant-garde technology.

Air-conditioned electric car Ecostar Ecostar (Ecostar) is Ford's representative of electric vehicles. In Europe, the Ecostar became the first advanced police electric car and is being tested in the UK. The Ecostar adopts front-wheel drive, using sodium-sulfur batteries and three-phase AC induction motors, with a driving range of 160 kilometers and a top speed of 120 kilometers per hour. What sets this car apart is that it has air conditioning, which makes electric vehicles another step forward in terms of practicality.

Th! nk city

Figure: Th! nk city

A full range of environmentally friendly car brands Th! nk

In 1999, Ford put into production the Th! The nk City is the first mass-produced electric vehicle model exclusively for the European market. Small and agile, this hatchback two-seater electric vehicle with a plastic body can easily park in a crowded parking lot. Th! The nk City uses nickel-cadmium batteries with a maximum speed of 90 kilometers and a driving range of about 85 kilometers. However, the reality is often cruel. The original plan was to sell 5,000 units of this car every year. I didn't expect to sell less than 1,050 units in three years, which is very chilling. In 2002, Ford reluctantly announced Th! With the discontinuation of the nk City, the dramatic discount on this characterful city car has dealt a serious blow to the development of electric vehicles. with Th! nk City shares the same disease, Th!, launched by Ford in 2001 The nk Neighbor is a golf scooter, but only 1688 units are sold out of 10,000 units per year, Th! nk Neighbor stepped Th again! In the footsteps of nk City.

In 1999, Ford Motor Company bought Norway's Pivco Industries for $23 million to manufacture electric vehicles and changed its name to Th! nk, the world's only full-series environmentally friendly car brand. Then, Ford also invested 100 million US dollars in the research and development of electric vehicles, as the company's attempt to protect the environment, improve fuel economy and reduce exhaust emissions, Th! nk City and Th! nk Neighbor is Ford's representative model of electric vehicles.

Volkswagen Golf City-Stromer

Figure: Volkswagen Golf City-Stromer

Volkswagen Golf City-Stromer

In 1995, the German Volkswagen launched the Golf City-Stromer in batches with Golf II as the prototype, equipped with lead-acid batteries, using Siemens' three-phase AC motor with a maximum output of 22 kilowatts, and a maximum speed of 99 kilometers per hour. In three years, Volkswagen produced about 200 City-Stromer A3s.

The research and development of electric vehicles has always been more prominent in developed European and American countries. In order to strive for a leading position in the development of electric vehicles and occupy the automotive market of the future world, Japan has also accelerated the pace of developing electric vehicles. Especially after the introduction of the "ZEV Act", automakers such as Toyota, Honda and Mazda accelerated the application of technical patents for new energy vehicles to deal with various emission regulations. Since the 1990s, Japan's application of technology patents for pure electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles has increased significantly.

The IZA with the highest driving range

In 1991, the Tokyo Electric Power Company of Japan and the research and development company jointly developed the "IZA" luxury electric vehicle. It uses a 288-volt nickel-cadmium battery as its power source, uses a permanent magnet synchronous motor, and is equipped with a braking energy recovery device. Although the top speed of the car is only 176 kilometers per hour, at a speed of 40 kilometers per hour, the driving range can be as high as 544 kilometers, setting a world record for electric vehicles at that time. With its outstanding driving range, the IZA could compete with the then-GM Impact electric car.

1997 Toyota RAV4

Figure: 1997 Toyota RAV4

The booming RAV4

In 1997, Toyota's 20 RAV4 electric station wagons successfully completed a two-year 480,000-kilometer test, and took the lead in implementing zero-emission regulations in California, New York and Massachusetts. The RAV4 uses a nickel-metal hydride battery and a permanent magnet synchronous motor, which can reach speeds of up to 125 kilometers per hour and travel 215 kilometers on a single charge. This mighty and powerful electric vehicle uses the parts of the original model, and improves the electronic unit and control technology, which greatly reduces the cost. Average annual sales of the RAV4 reach 300 units, which are leased only. But after 2003, Toyota unexpectedly ended the life of the RAV4. Faced with surging demand for leased RAV4s and a public outcry about the company's approach, Toyota spoke out. Because the chassis of the RAV4 is almost "handmade", the manufacturing cost of a car is as high as 200,000 US dollars, and the rental fee is only 10% of the manufacturing cost.

Micro electric vehicles E-com and Hypermini In response to the actual needs of modern Japanese women's increasingly fast pace of life, Japan's two major auto giants, Toyota and Nissan, designed micro electric vehicles E-com and Hypermini respectively, which have become a landscape of electric vehicles in Japan. In 1997, Toyota began selling the E-com miniature electric car. It uses nickel-metal hydride batteries as the power source, with a top speed of 100 kilometers per hour, and can travel 120 kilometers per 2 hours of charging. Coincidentally, Nissan Motor Company has also developed the Hypermini miniature electric vehicle, which uses a strong lithium battery as a power source, with a maximum speed of 100 kilometers per hour and a maximum driving range of 130 kilometers. E-com and Hypermini can be used for short-distance pick-up, purchase and delivery of goods, etc. They are easy to drive and compact, and are very popular among Japanese women.

The earliest fuel cell concept car Laser Cell TM

The first R&D peak of fuel cell vehicles appeared in the early 1990s. In 1991, the United States developed the world's earliest fuel cell concept car, Laser Cell TM, which uses hydrogen storage alloy hydrogen cylinders with a fuel cell power of 12.5 kilowatts and a driving range of 303 kilometers. The appearance of Laser Cell TM reminds major car manufacturers that "all roads lead to Rome". Fuel cell vehicles have overwhelmed pure electric vehicles with absolute advantages in driving range, attracting many exploratory auto companies to take the lead in this new field of fuel cell vehicles.

Pioneering NECAR Series for Fuel Cell Vehicles

Germany's Daimler Benz saw the results of Ballard's improvement of fuel cells at that time. Instead of developing it independently, it is better to join forces with "little strongmen" to be invincible. As a result, Daimler Benz became the first car manufacturer to cooperate with Ballard, and successively launched the NECAR fuel cell vehicle series, which can be called the pioneer.

The NECAR1 fuel cell vehicle developed in 1994 is mainly used to verify the feasibility of the fuel cell driving principle. The fuel cell engine of this car weighs 800 kilograms and occupies almost the entire space of the vehicle. Only the driver and co-pilot positions can have enough space, so it can be said that this is a "fuel cell mobile experiment built on wheels" Room", in 1996, the NECAR2 based on the Mercedes-Benz V-Class came out. The minivan is powered by two 25-kilowatt fuel cells placed under the rear seats, and has hydrogen storage tanks on the roof for increased passenger space. "Business Week" once commented, "Daimler has accelerated the race to the perfect fuel cell level with an astonishing move. Other rivals in the automotive industry must suddenly accelerate their own fuel cell research or they will be left behind. into the dust storm." Following the successful launch of NECAR1 and NECAR2, in 1997, Daimler launched the fuel cell bus NEBUS (New Electric Bus). operational needs. In the same year, the NECAR3 fuel cell vehicle debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Different from the past, NECAR3 uses methanol as an indirect fuel, which is converted into hydrogen under the action of water vapor to power the car. This is the first time Daimler has demonstrated direct hydrogen production in a car. Due to the fuel cell engine coupled with the bulky methanol reformer, the car can only carry 2 people. In the following years, Mercedes-Benz has successively developed NECAR4 and NECAR5 fuel cell electric cars, which have further improved in various performances.

Toyota's fuel cell vehicle RAV4-FCEV

Japan is the first country in Asia to conduct fuel cell research and development. Former Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi once clearly stated: "Fuel cells are a trump card for opening up Japan's hydrogen society." In 1996, the first-generation RAV4-FCEV launched by Toyota used metal hydrogen storage as fuel for the first time and was equipped with a 20-kilowatt fuel cell. , the top speed is 100 kilometers per hour, and the driving range is 250 kilometers. The following year, the second-generation RAV4-FCEV fueled by methanol came out, with a fuel cell power of 25 kilowatts, a maximum speed of 125 kilometers per hour, and a driving range of up to 500 kilometers, double the first generation.

First-generation Toyota Prius

Figure: First-generation Toyota Prius

The outstanding representative of hybrid vehicles, the Toyota Prius

In December 1997, Toyota Motor Corporation first launched the Prius, the world's first mass-produced hybrid vehicle, on the Japanese market. The first-generation Prius used a hybrid hybrid system consisting of a 52-kilowatt four-cylinder engine and a 33-kilowatt permanent magnet synchronous motor. Second. While Prius has strong power, its fuel economy and emission performance have been greatly improved compared to traditional fuel vehicles. Its fuel consumption is only 5 liters in the combined working conditions of urban areas and highways. In order to open up foreign markets, Toyota launched the second-generation Pruis, which began to be exported to North America in July 2000 and to Europe in September of the same year. As of the end of April 2008, the cumulative sales volume of Prius in the world has exceeded 1 million. Prius also has a fan base of Hollywood superstars, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Julia Roberts, and more. Prius with a good reputation has almost become synonymous with fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles.

First-generation Honda Insight

Figure: First-generation Honda Insight

Honda's Hybrid Insight

In 1999, Japan's Honda launched its first hybrid car, Insight. The car's fuel consumption was as low as 35 kilometers per liter, making it the world's lowest fuel consumption hybrid car at that time. At the same time, it emits only 80 g/km of CO2. The reason why the Insight can achieve such excellent fuel economy and emission performance, in addition to its use of Honda's original integrated motor-assisted hybrid system, also benefits from the car's good aerodynamic performance (air resistance coefficient is only 0.25) . In addition, the use of lightweight aluminum alloy body and low rolling resistance tires are also key measures. However, the market situation of the first-generation Insight was not very optimistic. From its launch in 1999 to the end of production in 2006, its sales were only 17,001 units.

Bib Gourmand Environmental Challenge

In order to turn automobile environmental protection and safety into a social issue of public concern, a series of environmental protection international events have emerged in the automotive industry. In 1998, the Bib Gourmand Environmental Challenge, initiated by the Michelin Group, was internationally recognized as the premier mobility event to promote sustainable human development. As an annual international event, the Bib Gourmand Challenge allows production and concept cars that use a variety of new energy and new technologies to compete. The participating vehicles will undergo a series of tests related to environmental protection, safety and performance, including energy economy, exhaust emissions, carbon dioxide emissions, noise emissions, acceleration, handling and energy efficiency. At the same time, all participants will participate in a series of activities such as field test competitions, international seminars and test drives. In October 2004, the sixth Bib Gourmand Challenge kicked off at Tongji University Jiading Campus in Shanghai Jiading International Automobile City. This was the first Bib Gourmand Challenge held in a developing country. International auto manufacturers attach great importance to this event, and international auto giants such as Volkswagen, Audi, Ford, GM, Nissan, Toyota, Peugeot Citroen, and Hyundai are all absent. It is worth mentioning that many Chinese universities and research institutions also participated in the competition and launched many competition models with batteries as the main power source.

The idea of the tire man originated from the "World's Fair" held in Lyon, France in 1894. The hill at the entrance of the booth, which was piled up with many tires of different diameters, inspired the Michelin brothers. The younger brother said to the older brother: "Look, add arms, it It will become a man!" In 1898, a special character "Michelin Tire Man" made of many tires appeared. In the following months, the "Michelin Tire Man" was clearly named "Bibendun" in French, and appeared frequently in public media and various posters. The auto industry is famous. Later, "Michelin Tire Man" became the symbol of Michelin company.

In the development of traditional vehicles, China has a gap of decades with the world's advanced level, while the gap in the development of electric vehicles is not too big. Rather than chasing after others, it is better to take the lead in representing the future development direction. This is a consensus reached by the Chinese auto industry. During this period, Tsinghua University was the earliest electric vehicle R&D center in China, and its representative work was light-duty electric passenger and truck; while the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has long been committed to the development of fuel cells and gas fuel converters and other related technologies.

Electric vehicles interpret a revolution in energy and drive, especially when the energy crisis and environmental problems are increasingly exposed, it becomes more necessary and urgent.

In December 1997, at the 3rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Kyoto, Japan, representatives of 149 countries and regions adopted the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to limit greenhouse gas emissions and curb the global climate. warming. The promulgation of the "Kyoto Protocol" has impacted industries closely related to automobiles such as steel, petrochemicals and electronics. Governments around the world have taken countermeasures to redefine the development direction of the auto industry, which naturally injects a strong impetus into the development of electric vehicles.

The fate of electric vehicles has twists and turns. If the development process of electric vehicles is compared to the growth process of life, then it is the first opportunity to bring electric vehicles to the world. forgotten by the world. After all kinds of trials, the oil crisis once again reborn electric vehicles, and the second opportunity comes quietly. And the third opportunity brings a brighter future for electric vehicles. Under the umbrella of "environmental protection regulations", electric vehicles have entered the era of exploration in small batch production and practical application. Entering the 21st century, the pace of electric vehicles will become more and more stable! Right now, it's too early to predict who will emerge victorious in this race. However, two things are certain. First, the development of electric vehicles is gaining momentum. Second, success can only belong to those who are prepared.