Environmentally Friendly and Powerful
The drawbacks of electric vehicles were overcome through technological innovations that dramatically increased the performance of the battery and motor. Among these innovations were relatively powerful motors that required only a small amount of energy through the use of a substance called neodymium, and highly efficient lithium-ion batteries that could store about twice as much energy as earlier versions. These components played a major role in popularizing electric vehicles, and Japanese scientists and engineers were at the center of their development.
Left: Nissan LEAF's battery pack, capable of storing more energy than ever before through the use of compact, high-capacity lithium-ion batteries.
Right: The motor efficiently converts the electricity generated by the lithium-ion batteries into power. ©Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
The motor in front is wired to battery packs stored under the seats.
©Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
Just driving over a charging spot connected to a power supply board generates an electromagnetic force that is transmitted to an on-vehicle IPS coil and then converted into electric power to charge the battery. ©Showa Aircraft Industry Co., Ltd
Thanks to these technological innovations, electric vehicles have become environmentally friendly and powerful. To make these automobiles even more popular, however, charging them up with electricity must be made more convenient. With this in mind, charging stations are steadily being built nowadays instead of gas stations, and some very interesting projects are being carried out. For example, in 2010, Showa Aircraft Industry Co., Ltd. began running a microbus that can charge automatically just by driving over charging spots. The company applied a technology called Inductive Power Supply (IPS) that makes it possible to send electricity to a vehicle that has stopped above the charging spot without any need to hook up cables or touch metal contact points.
Another big benefit of electric vehicles is that they drive quietly, making very little noise when running, and so it was in a similar fashion that the long-awaited era of the electric car has appeared on the scene—smoothly and quietly.
(Updated in March 2012)