If governments and local authorities are really serious about reducing CO 2 emissions and energy consumption, especially in European cities, then they should only allow cars with a maximum weight of 500 kg (1100 lb) to enter city centers, says Paris-based Senior Consultant, Nicolas Meilhan at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.
"Substantial vehicle weight reduction and an accompanying change of enabling regulations and norms is the way forward in the quest to reduce energy consumption and CO 2 emissions," he adds. "Once lighter cars are commonplace, then we should look at converting their drive trains to electric because they will then require much lighter and thus cheaper batteries."
|The Renault Zoe; An overweight electric?|
Meilhan highlights the Renault Zoe as an example of where the auto industry has got it wrong with electric vehicles (EVs). "I like to call it an electric tank because it weighs 1.4 tonnes, 300 kg of which is accounted for by an expensive battery," he says. Meilhan notes that a 500-kg gasoline car—a gasoline-powered Renault Twizy for example if it existed (the Twizy is an EV)—would emit less CO 2 in its lifecycle than the Renault Zoé EV. Moreover, "If you compare the same Zoé with a bicycle, the easiest means of transport in the city, then you have to put more than 140 people into the car in order to make it as energy efficient as your 10-kg bike."
One reason why today's EVs are so heavy is the quest for extended driving range. However, "80 percent of daily trips in the city are less than 60 km (37 miles) so there is not a single reason to put in a battery which has a larger autonomy than 60 km as you can "refuel" your car every day at home" says Meilhan. The best option is to add a small internal combustion engine range extender to cover the 20% of daily trips involving longer driving distances.
The lightweights are here
Meilhan's belief is that the urban car of the future is a small car, but not necessarily electric. "Today's electric vehicles solve the problem of pollution in cities but they do not address congestion and parking," he says. The future of EVs really depends on appropriate regulations being implemented, such as taxing vehicle weight, size and engine power. Making parking even more expensive for regular cars would also help; €200 [US$263] per month instead of €12 [US$16] per month for residential parking in Paris, for example. "This way you might have a chance to change the car market into an electric one, or at least one that emits less CO 2 and consumes less energy, whether it is electric or not," says Meilhan.
The 400-kg Ligier IXO Urban employs a 0.5-L 2-cylinder diesel engine developing 5.4 hp. Fuel consumption is 3.6 l/100km (66 mpg). Top speed is 45 km/h (28 mph).
The Aixam city quadricycle weighs in at just 350 kg (771 lb) and uses a 0.4-L 2-cylinder diesel engine that develops 5.4 hp; fuel consumption is listed as 2.96 l/100 km (79