The Straits Times: Charged up over design for electric taxi

Singapore and German researchers from the TUM-Create are designing a taxi and hope to have a demonstration model available by 2014. The Straits Times reports.

Charged up over design for electric taxi

Singapore and German researchers aim to get demonstration model ready by 2014

THE first locally manufactured electric car to ply the roads here could be a taxi.

Singapore and German researchers from the TUM-Create research group, tasked with studying the use of electric vehicles and infrastructure in the tropics, have settled on designing a taxi.

‘Electric cars are expensive to buy but cheap to run,’ said Technical University of Munich’s (TUM’s) Professor Markus Lienkamp, the scientific director for the electric-vehicle project.

Because taxis get a lot of mileage and run all day, it makes more business sense to have electric cabs rather than private cars, he explained.

TUM and Nanyang Technological University are joint partners in the TUM-Create Centre for Electromobility, set up in Singapore in late 2010 as part of the National Research Foundation’s Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (Create) programme.

The centre’s studies of local taxi data and interviews with cabbies revealed that taxis here trundle along at an average speed of 33 kmh and travel 200km a shift, two shifts a day. That adds up to more than a million kilometres over a taxi’s lifespan of, say, eight years.

‘What we are doing here could be a blueprint for other tropical megacities as well,’ Prof Lienkamp added.

The researchers aim to have a demonstration model ready by 2014 and hope companies will then pick up the technology and invest in it. Now, they are deciding on the specific package of technologies that will go into the electric taxi.

For example, they must figure out how to boost the range of the car to the 400km a day that taxis typically travel here. Some options include using hydrogen fuel cells, faster battery charging and changing batteries.

The typical range of electric cars is much smaller – for example, the Mitsubishi i-MiEVs used in an experiment here can travel about 160km on one charge.

The researchers must also cut the amount of power that an electric taxi uses for air-conditioning, whether by insulating windows, using reflective surfaces or dehumidifying the vehicle.

Prof Lienkamp did not put a price tag on the prototype or share its specifications, but said the cost of building and running it should be on a par with that of owning and operating a taxi.

But the team is not stopping there.

Professor Ulrich Stimming, chief executive of TUM-Create, said: ‘The taxi is only one part of the electromobility project. It will be a platform for testing all the new technology that we are developing.’

The five-year electromobility project, which ends in 2016, spans the spectrum from battery technology to traffic modelling. But Prof Stimming said five years may not be enough to put the electric taxi on the road.

An electric car by TUM, the two-seater Mute sub-compact, made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year.

Said Prof Lienkamp: ‘We want to diversify energy sources much better than we have done today – we need a choice.

‘And at the moment, in mobility, we have no choice – 95 per cent of the energy in cars is from oil, so we need other options, and that’s what we are looking at.’

Image taken from Tigrikorn

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