Electric Cars: Plug in Today!

Call it an electric vehicle (EV) or call it a battery electric vehicle (BEV), but a rose by any other name would still smell sweet if it utilized green technology. Electric cars flourished in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but limitations like low top speeds helped seal their fate. Advances in manufacturing processes of internal combustion engines, the starter motor, increased mileage ranges, and cheaper gasoline production methods all helped to nudge electric cars off the road. Of course there are those who say that big oil was behind the defeat of electric cars. There has been some credence given to these sorts of claims by the fact that GM had developed an electric cars in the 1980's only to have it shelved after pressure from oil companies. With emissions from 600 million vehicles contributing to global warming, hybrid electric cars are the probably the next best alternative we have. Yet companies like Tesla have put pure electric cars back on the map. Not only are they beautiful to look at, they are a pleasure to ride. As time goes on more and more car companies will move first to hybrids, but then ultimately to fully electric cars.

Where are all those electric cars?

A completely electric car doesn't yet exist for mainstream commercial use. There is a neighborhood class of electric cars, or personal electric vehicles (PEVs). While the battery can recharge overnight while you sleep, a 30 to 40 mile range isn't likely to sit well even with the little ole' lady from Pasadena.

What about Hybrid Electric Cars?

The practical solution for now is electric hybrids that utilize two fuel sources. Gasoline-electric cars are a cross between a gasoline-powered car and an electric car, and a mild electric hybrid has enhanced performance as a first priority and fuel economy second. 

The Chevrolet Volt, scheduled for production in 2010, is an extended-range electric hybrid car that will use gas or E85 ethanol. Its battery can be recharged while driving, and its estimated driving range is 640 miles. A full electric hybrid pursues optimal fuel economy, and cars like the Toyota Prius Hybrid and the Honda Civic Hybrid fall within this latter category. Since all electric hybrids use some gasoline, it is a compromise, but reduced emissions and minimized shortcomings of the electric car are a start, yet far from the ideal vision of a complete clean fuel car.

Hybrid electric cars also allow for the transition in terms of infrastructure to fully electric propulsion system. Hybrids just might be around until enough electric and /or battery stations are around in order to keep charging the fleet of electric cars. Ultimately as new sources for primary energy (like wind and solar) come on board a greater incentive for manufacturers and consumers to develop and buy pure electric cars may in fact occur. One can only hope as the world faces dire predictions of peak oil and global warming that these vehicles and infrastructure can be developed and built quickly and inexpensively.

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