A few years ago, electric hybrid cars started to become available. They used a gasoline powered generator to power electric motors that in turn drove the car. These hybrids had no ability to be charged from the electricity grid and the distance they could go strictly on battery power was very limited. Currently there some companies developing "plug-in" hybrid cars with more battery capacity that also have the ability to be charged from the electric grid. There are even a few fully electric cars being produced in small quantities. Are electric vehicles finally ready to go main-stream?
Electric Car Technology is Needed and Ready!
Main Reference: Wikipedia
- Plug-in/Hybrid electric cars are being developed by most major auto companies. General Motors is due to release the Volt in 2010. These cars can utilize stored electricity from the grid for typical to-to-work or errand driving but allow the use of a gasoline powered back-up engine for longer trips.
- Tesla Motors is selling a 100% plug-in roadster that gets 244 miles per charge.
- Converting to plug-in electric cars would help reduce the need for imported petroleum from politically hostile countries and instead would utilize electricity generated from domestically produced energy.
- The use of plug-in electric vehicles would help promote the use of "green" electricity such as wind or solar power that minimizes the production of carbon dioxide.
- Plug-in electric vehicles would reduce the need to purchase gasoline from the greedy oil companies.
- Lithium Ion batteries currently used in cell phones and computers can hold much more power per pound that the lead-acid batteries currently used to start cars.
- Lithium-Ion batteries are safe. The over-heating and fire issues that occurred with early Lithium-Ion batteries on some cell phones and laptop computers have been resolved.
- The lithium-ion battery design is still evolving and improving. Stanford University researchers have reported a new design of the lithium-ion battery using nanowires can hold ten times more energy that current Lithium-Ion batteries.
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Electric Cars Are Not A Slam Dunk.
Main References: Design News; Forbes
- Even the best batteries (Lithium-Ion) weigh 80 times more than gasoline with equal energy content.
- Batteries are very expensive. For the 40 mile plug-in version, engineers are struggling to achieve a manufacturers's cost target for the batteries of $3400 per car. This will translate into roughly a $7000 cost for the end user. A consumer would need to be save a lot of gas to justify the extra cost.
- The full charge / full discharge cycle of a plug-in hybrid stresses the batteries more than a traditional hybrid. Accelerated testing may not give the same results of one cycle per day for ten years. The manufacturers are concerned about warranty costs if they back the batteries for 120,000 miles or 10 years.
- There is a concern that the batteries be domestically produced. One of the goals of plug-in electric cars is to reduce imports of oil. What have we accomplished if we swap batteries for imported oil.
- Plug-In recharging only works in limited applications where the car is driven only a few miles per day and then parked at home overnight. Recharging generally takes about six hours.
- The overall impact on imported oil will be very limited since battery power only makes sense for personal vehicles. Most commercial vehicles, trucks, buses,boats and airplanes will continue to rely exclusively on petroleum based fuels.
- The supply of quality lithium ore is not able to support the growth in batteries for both consumer electronics and a large automotive demand. Currently the only economical lithium ore deposits are located in South America. Toyota is so concerned about supply that for their plug-in hybrid, they decided to stay with less efficient Nickel-metal hydride batteries.