Autocar associate editor Hilton Holloway recently attended a two-day technical briefing on BMW's Megacity Vehicle project and, while he admits that the pure electric Megacity is fascinating in its own right, it's the possibility of BMW introducing a range-extended version at a later date that has him grinning from cheek to cheek. Holloway firmly believes that the range-extended setup is the most promising form of advanced vehicle technology available right now. He describes the virtues of range-extended technology and the drawbacks of pure electric vehicles this way:
Holloway backs up some of his claims by referring to the abilities of vehicles such as Jaguar's Limo Green project and the Vauxhall Ampera, both of which are prime examples of range-extended technology. Finally, Holloway closes with this prediction:One of the biggest problems for pure-electric vehicles is not just the driver's 'range anxiety' but also the huge draw on battery power required by lights and heating in winter. Cold weather also wallops the battery's performance. Using a range-extender layout fixes these problems and should be no more expensive than a pure electric car. The key about combining a petrol engine/generator and battery pack is that it can deliver the performance of a big internal combustion engine along with very low emissions of both CO2 and pollutants.
That's an appealing vision and it makes us bring up the oft-asked question: Will the future of automobiles (long term, say 15-20 years from now) be driven by range-extender technology, or is it more likely that pure electric vehicles will dominate?Ten years from now, the Mk5, all-aluminium, Range Rover will weigh 1900kg, be powered by a 1.3-litre petrol engine/generator and compact battery pack. It will be good for 135g/km and the air coming out of the exhaust will have lower pollutant levels than the air going into the engine. Try calling that a gas-guzzler.