If electric vehicle batteries are the single most expensive obstacle to making EVs more affordable, then one solution is to ditch the battery, right? Well, almost. A German company called ebuggy has come up with an EV battery trailer called ebuggy (what else?).
The trailer arrangement enables car buyers to go for a relatively low-cost EV with a small, lightweight battery for local driving (where range is not an issue). To go on a long trip, all they have to do is stop by the local ebuggy station, hitch up a trailer with a much larger battery, and Bob’s your uncle.
Relay Stations for the ebuggy EV Battery Trailer
Though driving around with a trailer is not everyone’s cup of tea, between private owners, the commercial sector, and government/non-government organizations, there is probably plenty of market to support something like ebuggy.
For that matter, the ebuggy concept is familiar territory to the millions of U.S. drivers who routinely hitch U-hauls, campers, boats, and bike trailers to their cars.
As a one-off range extender, the trailer concept is pretty simple. It only takes a couple of minutes to hook up, which makes it at least as quick and convenient as going over to the local gas station and filling the tank for a long trip.
For even longer trips, ebuggy envisions a network of relay stations where EV drivers can drop off a spent trailer and hitch up a fresh one, also within just a couple of minutes.
That makes things a bit more complicated, but it wouldn’t necessarily put a crimp on the market. In fact, the EV battery relay/exchange concept is already starting to take hold as an alternative to charging stations. The EV battery company Better Place, for example, has been ramping up the introduction of a fully automated drive-through “experience,” where EV owners can switch out their spent batteries in a matter of minutes rather than waiting around for a recharge.
Freedom for New EV Technology
In terms of EV design, the ebuggy concept offers a higher degree of leeway to EV manufacturers, which would be freed up to devote more talent on developing super lightweight, inexpensive EVs for local driving rather than having to accommodate larger, heavier batteries.
The folks at ebuggy also point out that the trailer concept provides a two-for-one deal, by providing EV owners with both a short-range and a long-range option in one car.
Another option would be to buy that tiny new Emo from Tata and rent a larger car for long-distance drives, but that could prove to be a lot more expensive than simply hooking up an EV battery trailer whenever you need it.
They Built This!
That tight focus on affordability and flexibility is no accident, as ebuggy evidently has its eye on the personal mobility revolution under way in enormous new markets like China and India, as well as Western markets where consumers are thirsting for more economical options.
If U.S. car manufacturers want to compete for those customers, they are not going up against a lone company called ebuggy. They will be butting heads with a full-scale public-private collaborative effort by Germany.
That includes a grant from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, along with the participation of companies AERA GmbH Muhlhausen Germany, BVB INNOVATE GMBH Stuttgart, Germany, and HB Technologies AG, Tubingen, Germany, as well as the ISW Institute of the University of Stuttgart.
Unfortunately, back here in the U.S., a certain presidential candidate continues to push the I built this whole thing all by myself fantasy, which certainly does no good for the U.S. business community… except, maybe, in your dreams.
Image: ebuggy EV battery trailer courtesy of ebuggy.
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Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.