July 7, 2008,10:19 +0900(JST) Impact of Superconducting Electric Cars (1)
I expect that high-temperature superconducting technology will make a breakthrough in this century, and will be recognized as one of key technologies that will help resolve problems relating to the environment and ecology, which should be addressed on a global scale.
High-temperature superconductive material was discovered in 1986, igniting a technology boom dubbed "superconductivity fever," which almost became a social phenomenon. However, the boom ended suddenly. Since then, superconductivity technology has been marginalized as an R&D theme addressed by a limited number of research institutes and corporations.
Under such circumstances, Sumitomo Electric has diligently carried out research on superconductivity applications. This may sound like boasting, but I would say that in the field of superconductivity technology, our company now comes second to none in the world.
Our bismuth-based high-temperature superconducting wire has already reached a level sufficient for practical use, and has won the Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun newspaper's Best 10 New Products Prize and various other awards. High-temperature superconducting technology is one of our flagship technologies that demonstrate Sumitomo Electric's R&D achievements. The superconductive wire is used in power cables and ship motors, etc. For more information, click here.
As a closer-to-life application of high-temperature superconductive technology, recently we prototyped superconducting electric cars. As detailed in the Company's press releaseof June 12, Sumitomo Electric prototyped the first electric vehicles in the world to be driven by superconducting motors, with the intention of demonstrating the feasibility of practical use of high-temperature superconductivity technology, and of proposing an application in the automotive industry, whose market is huge.
As you can see in the photo above left, the car looks like an ordinary passenger car. But open the hood, and you will find it very different. Basically, this is an electric car. Unlike standard electric car motors, however, the motor uses coils made of superconducting wire, the entire motor being housed in a container filled with liquid nitrogen.
I took the opportunity to have a test ride. I will write about that next time.
[ This superconducting electric car was displayed and test-driven publicly at the Integrated Exhibition of the Environment in celebration of the Hokkaido Toyako Summit, held from June 19 to 21 at Sapporo Dome. In addition, the superconducting motor will be exhibited at the Environmental Showcase, held from July 7 to 9 at Hokkaido Toyako Summit International Media Center. ]