Taiwanese university unveils new electric vehicles

In response to rising fuel prices, a university in southern Taiwan unveiled three newly invented electric vehicles Thursday, one of which is being considered by a European dealer for mass production.

The three models are a multifunctional lightweight electric vehicle, a hybrid electric vehicle powered by zinc-air fuel and lithium batteries, and a small racing car.

All three are safe, environmentally friendly and are very likely to become the mainstream transportation in an era of high fuel prices, according to Mike Y. K. Guu, president of National Pingtung University of Science and Technology.

The school has been in discussions with a Dutch dealer to mass produce the multifunctional model at an estimated selling price of 10,000 euros (US$13,072), he said.

The inventions were developed by a team of teachers and students at the university’s Department of Vehicle Engineering.

High energy prices and climate change caused by the greenhouse effect have prompted many countries to devote their efforts to the research and development of electric vehicles, and some have already introduced such vehicles in their domestic markets, said Lin Chiu-feng, head of the College of Engineering, who led the research team.

However, there have been obstacles and challenges to the mass production of electric vehicles, he said. The problems include high battery costs, low durability and safety concerns, he added.

He said that zinc-air batteries, considered an efficient alternative energy source, have been successfully applied in small electronic devices but cannot provide enough power for an electric vehicle to travel fast or climb hills.

Thus, the university research team created a battery pack that has high energy density and addresses the safety issue by combining zinc-air fuel battery and high power lithium battery.

The electric cars can reach speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour and the battery pack can power an electric car for 200 kilometers, he said. The team will try to extend the battery life to five or six years and make the batteries more cost-efficient given the difficulties in setting up charging stations, he said.