And the electric car is here

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Fantasy for two or three years, the electric car is just around the corner. While the major brands have used the recent Geneva and Barcelona rooms not so much to show their prototype "electric" to announce their launch schedules. Within a few months, as they say, some of the most important and begin to produce and sell electric cars in significant series.

Is the case with the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which start shipping in Europe next year, some models of Nissan, also scheduled for 2010, and the Opel Ampera, which will be ready to sell at the end of 2011. O Renault, which already has developed a version of the Kangoo Electric, a commercial vehicle, says his communications director, Jesús Presa, "we will begin to produce and sell a large scale in 2011." When you follow a Kangoo electric version of the Mégane.

There are even some, like the Spanish GoingGreen, which will anticipate the large sector. "Is everything ready to launch the Think, an electric car produced in Norway," says its director, Gonzalo Alonso, "from June 15. For now, we will have about 600 vehicles to fleets, but from 2010 onwards and will be sold to individuals. "

The purpose of the Think company is accelerating its production from 2012 onwards. Against this background, the sudden arrival of the electric vehicle can not remain indifferent in Spain, the third largest producer of cars in Europe. Distracted on these issues
-promoting the marketing of vehicles, installation of refueling infrastructure or support to industry, could adversely affect our business. Some countries are already ahead of Spain in the marketing and support networks of recharge.

Our country has not had a prominent role in the technologies related to electric cars. Almost all research on electric vehicles, including hybrids of the two engines have great brands in collaboration with specialists in engine power. "In our case," explains Victor Piccione, head of communication of Ford Spain, we have developed the electric BEV Connect, an adaptation of conventional Connect in England in partnership with Smith Electric Vehicles. "

Spain has not, apparently, no firm role in the sector. Same has happened to the batteries, the critical point in these vehicles, a technology (which seeks the maximum energy per kilogram) and is dominated by Asia and the U.S.. Although there are some battery company and has made research on the topic, none has achieved enough to know how to be considered an ally by the major brands of cars.

This does not mean that Spain will not play a decisive role in this new phase. Like in Spain have joined their gasoline vehicles, it is expected that the big brands remain in Spain to produce their models in key supply. This is because, according to Ford and Renault, from the viewpoint of the assembly there is big difference between when the vehicle is a gasoline or electric. "We will have to do," says Piccione, "some adjustments on the assembly line is not significant." Some brands are hesitating to draw between the electric current from the assembly line or build a new to them.

Renault itself has announced its intention to produce an electric car at its plant in Valladolid from 2012, an option that, as clarified in the company, "is not determined. Valladolid is a strong candidate even though the decision was not taken before the end of the year. "

Most important for Spain, especially in a scenario of 10 years is that the light-component industry is able to adapt to new technologies linked to the vehicle. A complex issue. The electric car is very different from the conventional. Instead of the combustion engine is an electric motor, simpler, easier and cheaper to maintain and incorporate more electronics.

"The mechanics of power has nothing to do with the conventional," says Piccione, Ford. "They disappear all the components associated with the gasoline engine, carburetor, fuel injection systems, exhaust, current engine cooling systems. There is also no gearbox, which is replaced by a direct connection, a switch of two gears (forward and backward). And also change the braking systems, comprising elements to regenerate the battery in the braked. "

How many components will disappear, others will change and be totally new, expanding the electric car will pose serious challenges to the auxiliary industry. "You will benefit," says Piccione, "if it is able to adapt, so I think it will because it has always been very competitive."

To address these challenges, the management of the component industry, Sernauto has already taken several initiatives. "We started to talk to brands," says Maria Luisa Soria, head of R & D of Sernauto, and identify threats and opportunities that will bring the electric car. "

The association is developing studies on the change in different scenarios and to support the industry in developing new products, with the cooperation of Institutes of Technology as INSI (Politécnica de Madrid), or Tecnalia Cidaut. One of the companies have started to prepare is Ficosa.

"We are working," explains Vicenç Aguilera, director of technology company, "to be a partner for those who go for electric cars. We are focusing on the packaging of the batteries in its packaging, in control of their cargo or security in connection with the clashes. " The Catalan company is also working on optimizing the energy consumption of electrical components such as levers or by a communications module fractal antennas.

The change affects even those producing materials. "This is a car that has to be lighter," said Soria, "and it obliges to seek lighter materials."

Batteries also created opportunities. While energy storage technologies are taking the Japanese, Korean or American, batteries, by weight, must be produced in situ. This is the view at Renault, which battery technology will be provided by Japan's NEC.

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