Friday, August 19, 2005

Japan Redux?

We all know the story of the 1970s - how cheap, fuel-efficient Japanese cars displaced gas-guzzling American models during the oil shock years. Is it possible we'll see a repeat?

Fuji Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi have both announced that they'll begin production of electric cars. Both are small 2-seaters (think SmartCar, not sedan) with ranges from 75 miles to 130 on full charges. However, the Fuji car may have the advantage because of this:
Based on the R1 minicar, the R1e uses a lithium-ion battery can be recharged to 90% of capacity in five minutes. The current prototype can be driven 120 kilometers (75 miles) without recharging, but the distance is expected to be expanded to 200 kilometers (124 miles).
With recharging that fast, suddenly electric cars' last major disadvantage relative to gasoline cars goes away. Even for longer trips, pulling over for a bathroom break and a drink would give you more than enough time to get a 90% charge in the batteries.

Extending the range for the cars would be great - at 120 miles, the R1e's range is about 1/3 that of a gasoline-powered car. If the range can be doubled (or even tripled) the R1e suddenly goes from being a good idea to a necessity for most people.

Now, the more important question is whether or not Chinese and Korean carmakers can compete. I want my cheap EV!

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