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Most electric vehicles don't go quite as far on a single charge as a standard car goes on a tank of gas, yet. But that's changing fast.

New EV range records seem to be set every week, and a small start-up company from Bochum just upped the range ante again.

BEA-tricks, spearheaded by engineer Daniel Sperling, modified a Citroen Berlingo with 10 of the same lithium ion batteries used in the SmartForTwo (total output: 180 kWh), and drove it 621 miles (1000 km) from Flensburg to Munich.

The little delivery van left a public eco-charge station in Flensburg and drove directly to the eCarTec in Munich, accompanied by an escort vehicle, with two drivers switching back and forth throughout the exhausting trip, which saw the van driving on country roads, highways, and the high-speed Autobahn. The modified delivery van reached Munich at the start of the eCarTec trade fair after a 17 hour trip, safely and without incident.

"We still had charge remaining," said Sperling proudly. "We could have gone another hundred miles, no problem." The remaining charge was perhaps due to a higher average speed than expected - between 30 and 50 miles per hour for both drivers. The team had calculated a 20 hour drive, and so arrived early.

Sperling feels that his record is more relevant to the average consumer than some of the other standing range records, as his vehicle drove on public roads with commercially available batteries rather than with prototype equipment or on closed tracks. He points out that the record-breaking Audi A2 equipped with Kolibri batteries burst into flames two months after its record trip, and that the 1000-mile Schluckspecht-E made its trip on a closed track under ideal conditions.

"We made the drive under real conditions in normal every-day traffic," Sperling said. "We have shown what we can do with our batteries." Data collected from the ground-breaking trip will be used to develop improved battery technology for the SmartForTwo.

Source: Gas 2.0

The battery range of Electric vehicles is often cited as one of the main barriers of mass production. This is the main sticking point for manufacturers when planning a run of production for consumer market vehicles, keeping production at low numbers as in the Chev Volt or Nissan Leaf, two of the first "everyman" electric vehicles manufactured for mass markets, but with limited production.

A battery charge lasting 35 mi. (Volt) or even 100 (Leaf) may not be as attractive to the everyman who spends a lot of time in traffic to and from his/her worksite, or who wants to visit relatives 100 miles away. Certainly not as attractive as some of the current gas sippers that range from 500-800 mi. on one gallon of gas.

The EV landscape is changing rapidly though, especially in the crucial area of battery range, as lithium battery manufacturers race to eliminate "range anxiety."

Recently, Gas2.org reported a modified Citroen "fleet" vehicle, travelled a total of 621 miles in a euro test drive in regular traffic conditions. BEA-tricks, spearheaded by engineer Daniel Sperling, modified a Citroen Berlingo delivery van with lithium-ion batteries used in the ForTwo Smartcar, and drove it from Flensburg to Munich, a distance of 621 miles, on a single charge.

The small company's engineers reported it took them 16 hours. They had originally calculated 20 hours and felt they had another 100 miles in the charge at least.

Now critics will point out that this wasn't a trial of a major auto manufacturer with a finished, fitted, battery pack, but that of two gung-ho entrepreneurs looking for their niche in a new market. Granted, that was certainly the case, however the results could be profound for the "delivery van fleet market" in the short-term, and the overall EV market in the medium term.

After all, isn't that how other gung-ho entrepreneurs changed entire industries? Just when people said "it can't be done" people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford et al, stepped up to the plate and showed us all how inginuity and vision can change our world.

As the first baby steps are taken towards an electric vehicle future, in the form of the Chev Volt, Nissan Leaf etc., keep your eye on the "delivery fleet" market around the world. For instance, Ford is becoming a leader in transforming delivery fleets into EV fleets with their Ford transit connect vans.

The automobile world is on the verge of massive change and those bold enough to take this young bull by the horns will profit massively. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Auto Manufacturers:

Ford (NYSE:F)

Besides having a growing production line of gas powered vehicles, Ford has become an early leader in the transformation of delivery van "fleets" with their transit connect program.

GM (NYSE:GM)

The Volt may not out sell gas powered vehicles in show rooms this year, but it represents a "first mover" advantage in the eventual mass production of EVs.

Nissan (OTCPK:NSANF)

The leaf gives Nissan more of a "first mover" advantage than the volt, but only slightly.

Hong Kong listed BYD (1211-HK) (OTCPK:BYDDF)

A real sleeper in the space. In 2008 it got a lot of press after the venerable Warren Buffett revealed a large investment in the Chinese auto and battery maker. Yes, they make automobiles for the largest growing market in the world, and they make both lithium-ion and Ni CD batteries both. They also manufacture lighting.

Battery manufacturers:

BYD

(as mentioned above)

A123 Systems (AONE)

Manufacturing of nano-iron phosphate cathode powder, electrode coatings, fabrication of battery cells and modules, and assembly of complete battery pack systems.

Ener1, Inc. (NASDAQ:HEV)

Production of lithium-ion cells and packs.

Lithium producers:

Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (NYSE:SQM) largest producer of lithium in the world. Produces lithium as a byproduct of its massive potash operations in Chile. (One drawback is that, because it is solely a brine producer, it sells lithium only on the spot market, which precludes it from signing long-term contracts with auto makers who need a guarantee of supply which the spot market cannot offer.)

Talison Lithium (OTC:TLTHF) and (TLH-TSE)

The largest "pure" lithium producer in the world.Currently produces lithium from spodomen at Greenbushes, Australia plant and supplies 300 customers world wide, mostly in China. Currently producing at capacity, with plans to increase capacity by 100% in 2012 to meet demand. Spodomen producer able to sign long-term contracts with auto makers or any buyer. Acquired major brine properties in Chile in 2010 and plans to become the first supplier with both spodomen and brine production, thereby guaranteeing long-term and low price production.

Lithium Juniors:

Rodinia Lithium (OTCPK:RDNAF) (RM-TSE)

Owns 3 of the top 25 lithium properties in the world. Two best properties are at the Salar De Diabillos in Argentina and Clayton Valley Nevada.

Western Lithium: (OTCQX:WLCDF) (WLC-TSE)

Large clay deposit in Kings Valley Nevada and a partnership with Argonne National Labratory to collaborate on producing better lithium products.

Disclosure: I am long OTC:TLTHF, OTCPK:RDNAF, OTCQX:WLCDF.

Source: Electric Cars Poised To Overcome Their Biggest Hurdle