Europe wants electric car standards

* Standard charger planned * Common across Europe * Vital for development of electric cars...

Europe wants electric car standards

A 'green' blueprint to put Europe at the forefront of electric car technology and uptake was published by the European Commission, yesterday.

Calls for standardisation
The strategy document includes a push for a Europe-wide standardised battery charger, which it claims will be an important step towards making electric vehicles a viable mass-market proposition.

It also calls for the new charging specification to be agreed by next year.

Electric cars spark action
The arrival of several high-profile electric cars over the coming 12 months has created added urgency for the commission.

The policy-makers believe it is vital to provide a standardised charging system to ensure that vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and Vauxhall Ampera make the leap from show cars to mass-market products.

Vital for Europe
Antonio Tajani, the industry commissioner, said that common standards were essential for Europe, because Asian and US-based competitors were already developing their own programmes.

Mr Tajani said: 'Without strong standardisation work, I think it will be difficult to develop a market for electric cars.'

Safety as standard
The commission's strategy plan also includes a common safety standard for electric cars. The new standards are designed to cover all types of energy-efficient vehicles, including those powered by electricity, hydrogen and other alternative fuels.

Electric takes the lead
Mr Tajani also said the commission was impartial as to which technology was preferred, but he suggested that most member states seemed to be forming a consensus that electric-powered vehicles were the best long-term method to create low-carbon transport.

Electric cars coming soon
The European Commission's strategy document is a timely publication, with many electric cars coming to the market over the coming months. These include:

Nissan Leaf
Billed by the company as the worlds first affordable zero-emission car, the Leaf is a five-seat car with a range of more than 100 miles enough, according to Nissan, to satisfy the daily needs of 70% of the worlds motorists.

The car has been specifically designed around lithium-ion batteries, which will give it a maximum speed of 90mph. Nissan says that a full charge from a domestic socket will take eight hours, but 30 minutes on a fast charger will give it 80% of maximum charge.

Chevrolet Volt (Ampera)
Strictly speaking, the Volt isnt an electric car, but a 'Range Extender' vehicle. That said, it is always driven by the electric motor and can be charged from the mains, but it also has a small petrol engine which can kick in when required to power a generator that provides power for the electric motor.

With a full charge, the car will run for up to 40 miles on electric power alone, but unlike a conventional electric car, it can continue running even when the batteries are completely flat.

Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid
This version of the Prius hybrid uses lithium-ion batteries, which are more powerful than the regular cars and they give this version a longer range when running purely on electric power.

Also, unlike the conventional hybrid (in which the batteries are recharged by onboard systems), in this version of the car, they can also be recharged by plugging the car into the mains, again giving it a greater range as an electric car. Then, once the batteries are flat, the car will run as a conventional hybrid.