November 2, 2007 Bucking the industry trend towards Hydrogen fuel cells, Subaru has released a vastly improved second cut at a plug-in a battery-electric commuter car. The 65-kilowatt, 5-seater G4e’s new high energy-density lithium-ion batteries give it a 200km range from a charge (more than double the previous R1e’s range) and using a quick-charger it can be topped up to 80% in only 15 minutes. The new Subaru’s stats make it an instantly viable commuter, while underlining the exciting potential this fledgling sector will offer.

With 40 units of Subaru’s older EV R1e battery-electric vehicle already out and being evaluated by TEPCO’s regional sales team and local government officials, Subaru has announced the arrival of an updated 5-door version with more than twice the range thanks to advances in lithium-ion battery technology.

The G4e (which apparently stands for “Good 4 Earth”) has a 65kw maintenance-free electric motor. The aerodynamically-efficient exterior helps to get the most from the battery pack, which is located under the floor of the vehicle to keep a low, stable center of gravity.

Range and charging times are the current bugbears of plug-in battery-electric vehicles, and Subaru has taken a strong step forward in this area. Using a new high-capacity vanadium battery material, they are able to load two to three times more lithium ions onto the positive battery terminal, resulting in an energy density about double what was possible on the previous model.

A normal full charge requires nothing more than a power point and takes around 8 hours to reach full capacity, which will deliver around 200km of normal driving. Subaru has also developed a quick-charger that would allow the battery to be brought up to 80% charge in around 15 minutes. The company envisages that such quick-chargers could be easily located in carparks outside supermarkets and other public facilities. Either way, energy per mile is a lot cheaper than gasoline – as low as a tenth of the price if using off-peak overnight rates.

With snappy looks that stick it straight in the middle of the compact car segment, the G4e doesn’t have the outrageous looks of many concept cars – this is encouraging, as it shows the company might be looking seriously at a production version not too far down the track. And as battery technology seems to be advancing at a rate of knots, and these concepts already look more than viable for the majority of commuters, we wonder how long until something like it does hit the showroom of a major manufacturer.

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