Category RSC Clean Technology Monographs


Although urban delivery vans and buses may well represent the most promising markets for BEVs, another option lies in small cars for commuting or shopping. Such cars might also be used by professional visitors to homes (e. g. social workers, district nurses, door-to-door vendors). Many of these ‘commuter cars’ have been designed and built over the years, either as prototypes or in small production runs, but none has yet succeeded in reaching a mass market – most have finished up in motor museums. There may be several reasons for this, namely: lack of range, especially in winter; poor cabin heating; shortage of recharging points; high cost and relatively short life of traction batteries...

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Urban buses are an attractive target for electric propulsion since their size is sufficient to carry the number of batteries required to provide a workable range. Also, the public relations aspects of operating silent, non-polluting vehicles in city centres are important, since large diesel engines can cause considerable environmental degradation, which includes damage to the fabric of buildings of historical significance.

Numerous countries have been active in promoting electric buses. One of the earliest was the ‘Silent Rider’ (Figure 10.5(a)), which operated in the UK in the late 1970s. Germany also was active in the field and, in 1985, had 20 battery electric buses in the Dusseldorf and Munchengladbach urban areas...

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Delivery Vans

There are rather few battery electric road vehicles in general use, although in the UK door-to-door milk delivery has been traditionally by this means, using specially


Figure 10.4 (a) UK milk-float; (b) Ford ‘Ecostar’ electric van.

designed ‘milk-floats’ (Figure 10.4(a)). This duty involves repeated start-stop operations that are ill-suited to an internal-combustion engine. The short distance to be covered daily (up to 45 km) is ideal for BE Vs. Refuelling with cheap off-peak electricity, and silent delivery early in the morning while customers are still asleep are added attractions. There have been as many as 40 000 milk-floats in use in the UK, although with the advent of supermarkets and universal refrigeration, daily milk delivery is a declining market.

Battery electric ...

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Battery Electric Road Vehicles

At the end of the 19th century, with rechargeable batteries becoming mass – produced, BEVs began to replace horse-drawn carriages. By 1912, several hundred thousand electric cars and vans were in service throughout the world in major cities (London, Paris, New York). For a short time, BEVs, ICEVs and steam-propelled cars were in competition with each other. Gradually, the limitations of steam-driven and electric vehicles became apparent and thus ICEVs prospered. Ironically, it was the invention of the battery-operated self-starter that helped to sound the


Figure 10.3 Various off-road electric vehicles: (a) forklift trucks; (b) belt loader for aircraft; (c) invalid car; (d) golf buggy.

death-knell of the battery electric car...

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Off-road Vehicles

Battery electric traction is employed extensively in situations where the pollution and noise associated with internal-combustion engines are unacceptable. Examples are in hospitals, city parks, holiday resorts, retirement villages, factories, warehouses, railway stations, airports, and mines. Most of these vehicles are forklift trucks, platform trucks or tractors for the handling and conveyance of goods. Airports also operate electric vehicles for conveying passengers in terminals, for loading luggage onto planes, and for pushing out planes from the terminal. Other categories of off-road electric vehicle include invalid chairs, golf-carts, and recreational vehicles. Some of these various applications are shown in Figure 10.3.

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Marine Craft

Another application of electric traction is in submarines. Conventional diesel – electric submarines use their diesel engines for propulsion when on or near the surface and also for recharging the traction batteries that power the vessel when submerged. These craft have exceptionally large lead-acid traction batteries that are specially designed for the purpose. Nuclear submarines (Figure 10.2(a)) do not require air for their reactors and so are able to remain submerged and undetected for months at a time. This is a major operational advantage. In the event of reactor shutdown, emergency power is provided by stand-by batteries that are as large, or larger, than those on conventional submarines...

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Railways and Metros

During the course of the 20th century steam trains were largely phased out and replaced by diesel or electric locomotives. Electric propulsion is now widely employed for mainline railways and metro systems, and is generally acknowledged to be a convenient and clean form of transport. Particular operational advantages lie in the freedom from pollution in the urban environment and in the fast acceleration of electric trains. The downside of electric traction lies in the capital cost of installing the electricity-supply network and the lack of flexibility in not being able to operate on non-electrified track. In principle, it is possible to avoid these limitations by means of battery electric traction, and small battery-powered trains have been used in Germany for local journeys...

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Traditional Vehicles

Tramcars and Trolleybuses

Early in the 20th century, electric tramcars (‘trams’) were a common sight in cities around the world. This was a natural extension of the horse-drawn trams that had existed in the 19th century. It was not until mains-generated electricity became widely available that it was possible to electrify tramways with overhead cables. In many cities, tramlines extended from the business centre into the suburbs and the trams were extensively used by commuters (a term not known at the time) for travel to and from work. A tram that was operated in Bristol, UK in the 1930s is shown in Figure 10.1(a).

There were certain disadvantages associated with trams...

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