Plug-in hybrids represent a perfect middle ground between EVs and the gas-powered cars many are used to. They generally rock a range of around 30 miles, allowing the majority of daily driving to be done without burning gas. But they sport a combustion engine that, depending on the type of hybrid, can either charge the battery or power the car directly.
But these range extending engines are heavy, and take up a lot of space that could be used for more batteries. While 30 miles of range can be enough for the average commute, some may see plug-in hybrids as a compromise.
And so, in order to build a no-compromises, long-range EV many manufacturers are looking towards external range extenders. As reported by Electrek, Ford has patented an EV range extender meant to sit in the bed of a pickup truck. It’s essentially just a generator shaped like a toolbox that can charge your truck.
I think this is a very interesting idea. By making the range extender an external generator they can build an electric pickup truck without any compromises. It’s a full on EV, and those who need the extra range can purchase the range extender separately. Since it’s removeable, drivers don’t need to lug around all that weight unless they’re going on long trips when they need the range. Generators are very heavy though, so I don’t imagine it’s a swap you’ll want to do often.
Researchers at Tesla have had an even more interesting idea. They’ve published work on a range extender that can be towed behind an EV. And in true Tesla fashion, it’s all-electric. It’s a pretty simple idea really. If we’re limited by how much battery we can shove in a car, we can just tow more battery behind it. There is sure to be a limit in terms of weight capacity. But the flexibility given by towing would allow this type of range extender to be used by all sorts of EVs, not just pickups. EVs are actually really good at towing.
Despite this though, I don’t think any of these external range extenders will see the light of day. They are a very good idea, and solve the same problem plug-in hybrids solve in a very elegant way. But this is only a problem today. Battery technology has been making significant advancements in the past few years and isn’t slowing down. So while it is a great idea, by the time it would take for one of these to reach market I don’t think it will still be needed.
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