Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Lithium and REE: Has the era of the electric car finally arrived? TNR.v, CZX.v, WLC.v, LI.v, RM.v,, CCE.v, RES.v, QUC.v, NSANY, RNO, F, BYDDY,

"As the global market for electrified vehicles grows rapidly over the next several years, lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries in a variety of chemistries will be the technology of choice for auto manufacturers." - this is the most important take out for us and our investment strategy from this report. We have mentioned before that auto makers have confirmed this choice of Lithium-ion technology on a number of auto shows."


Wednesday, December 9, 2009 8:58 AM

Correspondent Eric Reguly writes on life and business in Europe and the United Kingdom.

The Copenhagen climate change conference is a negotiating session on a monster scale. It is also, on the sidelines, a global clean tech souk. Green-energy companies, products and concepts are on display everywhere, from hotel lobbies to caf├ęs and everywhere in between. The lobby of my hotel is crammed with all-electric cars built by Renault, the French auto giant that has a partnership with Japan’s Nissan.
To my great surprise, one of the cars on display– the Renault Fluence – was more than a concept. It could be driven by curious reporters. Within minutes of putting in a request for a spin around Copenhagen, I had the keys in my hand.
The Fluence looked oddly bland for a state-of-the-art machine. It was refrigerator white and resembled any mid-size family sedan. Even the interior presented no obvious clues that the car was powered by the most advanced lithium-ion batteries, not an international combustion engine or the hybrid battery-electric system that made the Toyota Prius famous.
I turned the ignition key. Silence. I gently pressed the “gas” pedal. All I heard was a gentle whirring as the electric motors kicked in. The car accelerated strongly and smoothly. There was no vibration. The Fluence was no sports car – 250-kilos of batteries in the trunk ensured it felt heavy. But the driving experience was pleasant, enjoyable even. And, of course, it was emissions free. In Denmark, at least, this is important. The bike - and wind power - loving country prides itself as Europe’s low-carbon champion.

Unlike the vast majority of all-electric cars you read about or see at auto shows, the Fluence is going into mass production as Renault bets that the era of the electric car, after years of false starts, has finally arrived. The Fluence is one of four electric Renaults that are going into production. Nissan will have its own range of electric vehicles, including the Leaf.
The electric Fluence will be built in Turkey, where a near-identical car with gasoline or diesel engines is already in production, and will launch in Israel and Denmark in 2011, followed by several other European countries.
Why are Israel and Denmark first? Because that’s where Better Place, a company that provides infrastructure for electric transportation, is installing a network of battery-exchange and recharging sites. When the battery on your Fluence runs low, you roll into a Better Place site, where your tapped out Fluence battery will be swapped for a fully-charged one. The process will take only three minutes and involves no grunt work. A hydraulic robot simply removes the battery from underneath the car and slots in a new one.
Earlier this year, the Ontario government signed a partnership with Better Place to install an electric car network in the province. Other partnerships have been signed in the United States, France, Japan and Australia.
Would I buy a Fluence? Hard question.
Renault is doing all the right things. The electric Fluence will come in at roughly the same price as a normal Fluence – about €20,000 ($31,000 Canadian). Typically, the few electric and hybrid cars that exist are far more expensive than their internal-combustion equivalents. Renault is eliminating sticker shock by eliminating the battery purchase. Drivers will lease the battery at a monthly rate. The price, Renault says, will be equivalent to your gasoline or diesel bill.
So what do you get when you buy an electric Fluence? You get a car with a similar purchase price and running costs as a normal sedan. You don’t get the range of a normal car – the claimed range is 160 kms. That’s impressive by electric car standards. It is not enough, however, to get you from your house to the cottage and back. This may change if recharging and battery-swap sites become ubiquitous. In the meantime, the Fluence will be best used as a city or suburban runabout.
What you really get is the satisfaction of driving a car that’s cleaner than an internal-combustion car. It’s not 100-per-cent clean, of course, because the electricity has to come from somewhere and that somewhere could be a grubby, coal-fired generating plant. Renault is showing that practical, cleaner driving doesn’t have to be an unaffordable luxury. That alone makes the car company’s effort laudable."
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