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EUROPE
EUROPE: Nanotechnology to improve electronic cars
A EUR44 million (US$66 million) European research collaboration between universities, auto manufacturers and research institutes plans to develop tiny components to help electric vehicles improve their performance so they can better compete with models powered with liquid fuels.

Vehicle manufacturers such as Fiat and Audi will work with the Vienna University of Technology, the BRNO University of Technology and others to complete the E3CAR or Energy efficient electrical car project, with a special focus on how emerging nanotechnologies can boost electric cars' often less than stellar driving abilities.

A project communiqué says: "The most severe concerns for electrical vehicles are the mileage and the operating range," adding that participants would aim to deal with these problems by using nanotechnology-related developments to improve "semiconductor technologies, devices, circuits and sub-systems needed to increase power and energy efficiency".

Project researchers are ambitious and think they can boost energy efficiency by more than 35% compared with existing technologies, saving the use of raw materials as well as energy. The project also aims to develop improved solar energy systems for electric vehicles, which would slash their CO2 emissions levels close to zero.

As for the current limited driving range, high cost and overall limited efficiency of electric vehicles, the E3CAR note argues that for the most part of these issues solutions can be found by developing subsystems for energy storage, battery technology, power conversion, electric power train, energy management and connection to the power grid.

The key thread running through many of these projected improvements is the use of nanoelectronics, using tiny particles in technology to boost battery life, create sensors, connectors and component housing able to resist temperatures exceeding 200oC, and making transistors more efficient by basing them on ultra-thin chips.

Funding has come from the European Union, the European Nanoelectronics Initiative Advisory Council, and by public research funding organisations in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain.

www.e3car.eu

keith.nuthall@uw-news.com
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