Range Extender: a system for longer trips
The Range Extender system consists of a small combustion engine coupled with an electric generator used to re-charge a battery pack. The perfect solution before we can completely forget about combustion engine vehicles.
The current transition from combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles requires some intermediate processes. One of these are hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which combine a battery-powered motor with a gas engine. Both function together or in unison and deliver power to the wheels. There is another smart solution which, although it still requires the use of gas, it does so to a much lesser degree and represents one more step towards fully electric mobility: The Range Extender system.
The main difference is that the fuel engine is not designed to move the vehicle, it simply powers the electric motor. It therefore acts as a generator. To give you an idea: it is as if your vehicle has a small thermoelectric power station below the bodywork. It is normally used in emergencies or in specific cases. The system is installed in some electric vehicles that normally move with the energy received from the electrical grid, but sometimes the distances covered exceed their autonomy, which is when the Range Extender can be used.
What better than hearing from a user of the system to understand how it works. And a qualified user: Salvador Ejarque, 55 years of age, is an engineer and chairman of AUVE, the Association of Electric Vehicle Users. “My car has a small petrol extended range engine, i.e.: it charges the electric motor in the event of an emergency. But I hardly use it”.
“In 45,000 kilometres, I have only used fuel for about a thousand at most”.
Salvador Ejarque, chairman of AUVE
Therefore, Salvador uses it, on average, for around two kilometres for every one hundred travelled. His car has an autonomy of around 250 kilometres and its Range Extender is a compact and silent two-cylinder petrol engine, which activates an alternator and is enabled automatically if required, to maintain the battery charge at a constant level. It has a capacity of nine litres and when full, it can cover another 150 kilometres.
The Range Extender is optional and involves an additional cost to the purchase price of electric vehicles in which it can be installed. “For me, it is worth investing in this system rather than in other superfluous luxury features, such as a good sound system or leather seats. Since it really extends the possibilities of your electric vehicle. If you just use it for weekend breaks, it can become the perfect vehicle for your journeys”, explains Ejarque.
It is undoubtedly a smart solution, but, as we said at the beginning, just for this transition period. Autonomy was the Achilles’ heel of electric vehicles until very recently, but they are now rapidly catching up with combustion engine vehicles. Today some electric vehicles can cover 400 kilometres without stopping. And many brands are already announcing future models that will soon reach 600 kilometres. An electric charging network will also be extended in the medium term, which will mean shorter charging times, as technology progresses. Some batteries can already be charged to 80% in just half an hour. A little more than it takes you to have a coffee.