THE star of this week’s Paris Motor Show was a Jaguar supercar. The C-X75 can accelerate to 100kph (62mph) in just 3.4 seconds and has a top speed of 330kph. It is powered by batteries that are recharged by miniature diesel-sipping jet turbines. Although it is a mere experimental vehicle, the excited response shows that carmakers have come to see electric vehicles as part of their future. How large a part will depend on how drivers react to the rather less racy electric offerings from big producers such as General Motors (GM), Mitsubishi, Nissan and Renault.

本周巴黎车展的明星非捷豹Supercar莫属。C-X75提速至100公里/小时(62英里/小时)只需3.4秒,最高时速330公里/小时。该车使用电池提供动力,电池则依靠微型柴油啜吸喷射涡轮进行充电。尽管C-X75还是款概念车,但是从车展上兴奋的反应可以看出轿车制造商们已经从电动汽车身上管窥到他们的未来。究竟未来市场有多大将很大程度上取决于消费者对如通用,三菱,尼桑和雷诺这类汽车业巨头所提供的不拉风的电动轿车的反应。

The first mass-market electric cars are now arriving in showrooms in America, Europe and Japan (see table). They come in three flavours. Pure electric vehicles like Nissan’s Leaf can be driven for 150km or so before they need to be recharged for six to eight hours. Range-extenders like GM’s Volt (the Ampera in Europe) are powered by an electric motor that can be recharged either from the mains or by an on-board internal-combustion engine. Then there are familiar hybrids like the Toyota Prius, now being adapted to take a charging cord and with a longer electric-only range.

现今,在美国,欧洲和日本的轿车展厅里都出现了适合量产的电动汽车(见下表)。它们的动力形式有三种。纯电动汽车,如尼桑旗下的Leaf,续航里程可达到150公里,但它们需要充电6到8个小时。通用沃兰达(在欧洲称欧宝)这类带有增程器,依靠电动发动机提供动力的电动汽车,充电可以依靠外部电源或者车载内燃机进行。与此相类似的是混合动力汽车,如丰田的普锐斯,采用插电方式给电池充电以获取更长的电池续航能力。

Mitsubishi was one of the first away, launching its electric i-MiEV in Japan in April. Production of European models began on October 6th, including versions for France’s PSA group, which will sell the cars as a Peugeot iOn or Citro?n C-ZERO. But GM and the Renault-Nissan alliance are making the biggest push into the mass market. The latter will launch four Nissan and four Renault electric models in the next two years. Carlos Ghosn, head of Renault-Nissan, believes that by 2020 one in ten new cars in Europe will be electric, while hybrids, such as the Prius, will have a similar share of the market.

三菱是最先进入这个市场的汽车制造商之一,该公司于4月份在日本发布了旗下的一款电动汽车i-MiEV, 并与10月6日发布了欧洲型号的电动汽车,其中包括为法国标致雪铁龙生产的型号,该型号将贴标致,雪铁龙商标进行销售。但是通用和雷诺-尼桑才是推动量产电动汽车市场最有力的制造商。在未来的两年内,雷诺-尼桑将推出四款尼桑和四款雷诺电动汽车。雷诺-尼桑首席执行官卡洛斯.格森相信,格森相信,截止2020年,欧洲市场上的新车十辆里有一辆将是电动汽车,而就像普锐斯这样的混合动力汽车也差不多是这个情况。

Governments are solidly behind the new vehicles, which they see as essential for bringing down carbon-dioxide emissions and reducing pollution in cities. The Volt was one of the reasons why the White House propped up GM in 2009 when the carmaker entered bankruptcy. Dan Akerson, GM’s new chief executive, says the company is committed to electrification and has other electric cars under development. Generous government subsidies are on offer: American buyers will be able to obtain up to $7,500 towards the purchase of an electric car.

政府视开发新能源汽车为降低二氧化碳排放,减少城市污染的必要举措而大力支持新车研发。白宫就曾因沃兰特而于2009年扶植即将倒闭的汽车制造商通用。通用新首席执行官埃克森说,通用公司已经开始了电动汽车的生产,并且正在研发几款新车型。高额的政府补贴也开始发放:美国消费者购买一辆电动汽车最高可获得7500美元的政府补贴。

Mr Ghosn reckons incentives will be needed for another four years or so. He thinks electric cars will compete without subsidies against conventional cars only when production reaches about 500,000 per model. It is far from sure that cash-strapped governments will keep their wallets open that long. And other questions loom over the new electric cars.

格森认为,在未来的四年中,还是需要更多的理由让人们来购买电动汽车。他认为,如果没有政府补贴,电动汽车如果想战胜传统汽车只能等到电动汽车每种型号达到50万辆时才能实现。然而事实上,手头拮据的政府不可能如此长的时间地买单。除此之外电动汽车还面临更多的潜在问题。

The big one is “range anxiety”. Drivers are not used to thinking precisely about how far they will drive before returning home. Electric cars (at least the ones without petrol engines to top up the battery) demand that they do. And some tests have suggested that manufacturers’ claims about the ranges of their vehicles are optimistic. A car that is full of passengers and running the heating or air-conditioning will drain the battery more quickly. Yet the manufacturers believe these concerns can be overcome.

最大的问题就是“里程焦虑”。车主们在回家之前不曾会去仔细考虑他们还能开多远。电动汽车(至少指那些没有汽油发动机来充电的车子)却要求车主这么做。尽管很多实验证明汽车制造商所承诺的续航里程是可靠的。车辆如果满载乘客并打开加热器或空调将迅速消耗电力,但汽车制造商相信这些问题都能解决。

So far, BMW has carried out the biggest test of electric motoring. It leased 600 electric Mini Es to drivers in Britain, Germany and the United States. Before getting their cars most drivers said they expected the 150km range to be restrictive. But the driving patterns of Mini E users in Berlin turned out to differ only slightly from those in ordinary Mini s. Even in California, land of freeways and long commutes, Mini E drivers clocked up 48km a day, not far behind the American average of 64km. Most Mini E users recharged their cars at home, and some did so only two or three times a week rather than every night. BMW concludes from these tests that electric cars are suitable for most people and that range anxiety fades as drivers get used to them.

至今,宝马汽车公司已经开始了最大规模的实验来测试电动发动机。公司以租借的形式向英国,德国,美国的司机们提供600辆电动迷你Es。在拿到车子之前,大部分车主说他们希望车子的续航里程能尽可能达到150公里。但是柏林的迷你E用户的驾驶习惯使得测试结果同普通迷你没什么太大区别。在加利福尼亚也是如此,在高速路和长通勤路况下,迷你E用户每天平均行驶48公里,这跟在美国人每天行驶64公里相差无几。很多迷你E用户在家给车子充电,有的则是每周充电2到3次而非每天晚上。宝马汽车公司由实验得出的结论是:电动汽车适合绝大部分人,“里程焦虑”会因熟悉车辆而消失。

Another study, by Deloitte, a consultancy, found that three-quarters of Americans would not consider buying an electric car unless it had a range of 300 miles. But the carmakers do not have to convince everyone at the outset. In Deloitte’s survey, those who were inclined to buy tended to be early adopters of new technologies. They were typically young with a much higher-than-average household income. They were living in an urban or suburban area—commonly southern California—and had a garage with electrical power where they could recharge the car. Such drivers would probably treat electric vehicles as second cars, and prize them for their green show-off value. Mr Ghosn sees electric drive as “a complementary technology”.

由咨询公司德勤进行的另一项调查发现:四分之三的美国人不打算买电动汽车,除非电动汽车的续航里程可以达到300英里。但是初始阶段,汽车制造商们还无法说服消费者。在德勤的调查中也表明愿意购买电动轿车的人都倾向于接受新科技。这类人多是收入较高的年轻人,他们居住在南加州的城市或市郊,车库都备有可以给电动汽车充电的设备。他们愿意将电动汽车作为备用车,而且对电动汽车的环保价值更是赞赏有加。格森认为电驱动属“补充技术”。

A further problem, which government subsidies have not entirely eliminated, is “sticker shock”. Electric cars are expensive. BMW reckons they will be a premium product, which is why it plans to launch a light electric citycar with a fancy composite body in 2013. Renault is trying to hold down prices by separating the cost of the battery from its new electric car, the Fluence. In Britain the car will cost around £18,000 ($28,660) after a £5,000 government subsidy—about the same as a diesel-powered equivalent. Buyers will lease the battery for about £80 a month. Renault believes drivers who are used to paying regularly for fuel will tolerate this charge. Leasing the battery should also alleviate concerns about its reliability. GM is responding to the same concern by guaranteeing the battery in its Volt for eight years or 100,000 miles.

更深一层的问题是“价签休克”,这也是仅凭政府补助而无法完全解决的问题。电动轿车价格昂贵。宝马汽车公司认为电动汽车将是一种高级货,因此他们计划在2013年推出一款小型钢木组合车身的电动汽车。雷诺也正在试图通过将电池与车身分开销售的方法来降低Fluence的价格。在英国,一部电动轿车政府补贴5000英镑后的售价约为18000英镑(28660美元),这个价格同柴油车相同。雷诺相信,经常加油的车主不会在乎每月花80英镑租借电池的费用,而且租借电池可以降低车主对电池稳定性的担忧。为回应类似担忧,通用公司为沃兰特所用的电池提供8年或10万英里的质保。

One issue that is important to many buyers is how the value of electric cars will hold up in the second-hand market. The answer will not become clear for several years. Some in the industry think that a shortage of cars could drive up prices, at least at first. But they could plummet if the batteries cause problems or users find the range of the vehicles too limiting.

对于很多消费者来说另一个重要的问题就是电动汽车在二手车市场的保值性。这个问题可能在未来的几年内都不会有答案。一些业内人士认为,至少在一开始,由于车辆的短缺,价格可能会上涨。但是价格也有可能因电池问题或者消费者感觉续航里程太短而暴跌。

Electric cars are evolving quickly. Although he refuses to reveal figures, Mr Ghosn says the cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of battery capacity for Renault-Nissan cars has fallen by half in four years. Earlier this year Boston Consulting Group estimated that electric cars will not be fully competitive until costs fall to about $200 per kwh. That would substantially reduce the cost of the 24 kwh battery used by the Nissan Leaf. According to industry rumours, Renault-Nissan has got its costs down to below $400 per kwh, so if it can continue this progress its cars will become much more competitive.

电动汽车发展之快,格森表示:“在过去四年,雷诺-尼桑汽车电池容量每千瓦时成本已经降低一半。”但是他没有透露具体数据。2010年早些时候,波士顿咨询集团预计在电动汽车每千瓦时成本降到200美元之前没有足够竞争力。这就意味着用在尼桑Leaf上的24kwh电池成本要大大降低。据传,雷诺-尼桑已经将每千瓦时成本控制在400美元以下,因此,如果能继续按此趋势,他们的汽车将会有更大的竞争力。

Other technical improvements are on the way, including systems that could charge a battery in as little as five minutes. Such developments should make electric cars more usable and increase their popularity. But that will cause another problem: early adopters may find that technology changes so rapidly that their shiny new electric cars soon seem old-fashioned.

其他技术也在不断更新,包括5分钟充满电的系统。这类技术的发展将使电动轿车用途更加广泛,更加流行。但是,这也会引起其他的问题:早期的购买电动汽车的车主会因为技术发展太快而感到他们刚买不久的新电动汽车很快看起来就过时了。