Sustainable Energy

This could transform the way we drive

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
This could transform the way we drive

The way we fuel our cars is changing, with electric vehicles becoming increasingly popular ways to get around and help safeguard the environment.

The U.S. Department of Energy says that if hybrid or electric vehicles completely replaced light-duty conventional ones, U.S. dependence on foreign oil would fall by between 30-60 percent. Plus, carbon pollution from the transport sector would fall by up to 20 percent.

nldazuu | RooM | Getty Images

Amid the scandal currently engulfing German auto-maker Volkswagen – accused by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of cheating on air pollution tests – there has perhaps never been a better time to embrace electric transport.

Despite all of the possible benefits from electric vehicles, one significant hurdle still remains: Developing a large enough charging infrastructure to ensure they can be used over long distances.

French company EP Tender is hoping to overcome this hurdle with a system that helps to keep electric cars moving: a portable petrol engine that users can rent and "bolt on" to their electric cars in order to increase range.

"It is obviously a paradox to put a combustion engine behind an electric vehicle," Jean-Baptiste Segard, EP Tender's founder, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.

"But the reason is, it is so much better to burn petrol 2 percent of the time, which is those very occasional long distance trips, than 100 percent of the time," he added.

"So by doing that 2 percent of the time it allows you to be electric 98 percent of the time instead of petrol 100 percent of the time."

Segard is confident that as electric cars become more popular, his device will gain traction.

"We already have detailed contacts in Chengdu in China and… in central California," he said. Segard added that a pilot programme was being planned in the town of Hickman, California.

Europe was also being targeted as an ideal market for the trailer. "We will probably go for Germany as one of the first countries and Holland and Belgium, for example."

The Netherlands is currently leading the way when it comes to electric car uptake.

The city of Amsterdam, for example, has more than 1,000 charging stations, with Amsterdam City Council targeting 4,000 by 2018. What's more, all taxi journeys from the city's main airport, Schipol, are made in Tesla Model S electric vehicles.

"Now we have… almost 10,000 unique users in Amsterdam making use of the charging infrastructure," Bart Vertelman, Project Manager for Electric Mobility in Amsterdam, told Sustainable Energy earlier this year.

"But it's still the beginning of the… transition to cleaner and smarter mobility in the city," he added.