Range extender technology for electric vehicles that overcomes 'range anxiety' is set for a rapid boost as more models embracing a supplementary engine solution hit the market, according to consultants at Frost & Sullivan. 

Frost says that currently the market for range extenders is nascent and only one extended range EV (eREV) model (GM's Volt/Ampera) is available. However, more than 14 models are expected to be available by 2018, according to Frost forecasts.

Frost & Sullivan estimates the total market for range extenders to be over 329,000 units by 2018.

eREVs will be equipped with different applications such as internal combustion engine range extenders, fuel cell range extenders and micro-gas turbine range extenders. Internal combustion range extenders are expected to be the most widely used technology.

“Range extender technologies overcome the major challenge of range anxiety and extended times taken to charge, by generating onboard electricity with the help of different technologies such as internal combustion engine, fuel cell stack and micro-gas turbine,” said Frost & Sullivan Automotive & Transportation Research Associate Prajyot Sathe. “This is fuelling the trend toward plug-in hybrids and eREVs.”

An eREV consumes very little fuel, as the primary function of an internal combustion engine or fuel cell or micro-gas turbine is recharging the battery, rather than powering the wheels. Therefore, the extra miles are added at minimal cost.

“The integration of range extenders in EVs will result in more than 50 per cent reduction in emissions and significant fuel savings,” Mr. Sathe adds.

“There is a major focus on engine downsizing which will help lower costs and lead to exponential calibration and optimisation complexity, as the same level of detail and features can be retained even though the vehicle is downsized.”

The market for range extenders is expected to develop at a rapid rate as major OEMs have models lined up to be launched within the next three years. Moreover, fuel cell vehicles are expected to be commercialised by 2015. Such trends will have a positive ripple effect on the uptake of extender range technologies, Frost & Sullivan maintains.