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Is the Electric Car Really Dead?

Is the Electric Car Really Dead?

Wither the electric car? After a serious upsurge of interest among the major automakers during the 1990s, those same companies have recently acted—some would say conspired—to drive a stake through the heart of the all-electric vehicles.

General Motors developed the prototype EV-1 in 1990, and as a result, the California Air Resources Board issued its groundbreaking Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate. But fairly quickly, the auto manufacturers and the oil companies mobilized to attack and undermine the mandate, and lo and behold, by 2003, trucks, vans, and SUVs made up more than half of all passenger vehicles sold in the United States, and average fuel efficiency of the nations cars had declined by nearly 50 percent. Several hundred happy consumers who had bucked the trend and leased EV-1s from General Motors were shocked when the company called in the leases, demanded the return of every last vehicle, and literally crushed them, thus ending its electric vehicle development program. Meanwhile, GM filed a lawsuit against the state of California to destroy the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate.

In spite of these depressing developments, improvements in battery technology, the continuing growth of electric power generated with renewable resources, and increasing public concern about climate change and instability in the fossil fuel markets add up to real hope that electric vehicles will become commercially available in the foreseeable future.

An electric vehicle runs on an electric motor and contains a battery pack to store electrical energy The great advantages of EVs are emissions and operating cost. EVs have no point-of-use emissions, and research has shown that even taking into account the power plants that generate the electricity an EV releases 90 percent less emissions than a comparable gasoline-powered car. An EV can also be powered by solar energy, which of course would be the ideal scenario. EVs also are cheaper to operate than internal combustion vehicles. They donít need tune-ups, fuel and oil filters, oil changes, or mufflers, and because they have fewer moving parts, they require less maintenance.

The liabilities of electric vehicles are what present the problem. The high cost of conversion ($5,000 or more for a typical passenger vehicle) and the limitations in range imposed by current battery technology (still only 50-60 miles before a recharge is needed) continue to conspire against EVs.

The current phase of EV development is called the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, or PHEV. Itís just what it sounds like, a hybrid car that you can plug in and recharge. PHEVs offer zero-emission performance for everyday short-distance driving as well as the convenience of traveling 400 miles on one tank of fuel for trips over the batteryís capacity!

For more information on the cutting edge in electric vehicles, check out www.hybridcars.com and www.pluginpartners.com

Read more: Do Good, Life, Transportation

Adapted from Solar Living Source Book: Your Complete Guide to Renewable Energy Technologies and Sustainable Living by John Schaeffer (New Society Publishers, 2008).

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

15 comments

+ add your own
4:25AM PST on Jan 17, 2012

Thanks for the article.

12:55PM PDT on Jun 3, 2011

Hydrogen take 4 times more energy to begin with. The fuel cell PEMS are $500K and up, the tanks can't hold much even at 10,000 psi. It can't even regenerate or connect to the GRID like V2G-101.com EVs can.

No hydrogen is still 20 yearsw off and the H2 is made from 85% fossil fuel.

12:50PM PDT on Jun 2, 2011

I am thinking that hydrogen is the future, although electric does contribute to a green environment as well.

5:27PM PDT on May 30, 2011

You and I who didn't buy them, of course. Shame is, they made a killer car and no one came (after GM spent a billion to develop it. Shame on you and me (mostly you, I don't have a car).

4:35AM PDT on Apr 25, 2011

it's too expenisve... but i hope it will make a big comeback soon

12:06PM PDT on Apr 22, 2011

Things change!

Who Killed the Electric Car?

1911 – “I did,” said Charles Kettering, “with the electric starter on
the 1912 Cadillac. Henry Ford offered my electric starter on the 1914
Model T, and he and Edison stopped their electric car manufacturing
plan to use Edison's new batteries.”

2011 – “We did,” said Brit Cella Energy CEO Stephen Voller, “with
our new discovery to make $1.50 per gallon synthetic hydrogen
gasoline with no carbon emissions (using nanotechnology).”

2011 – “We did,” said VolksWagen, “with our new advanced
diesel technology, aerodynamic design, and light weight composite
components to achieve 285 mpg in our concept ‘1 L Car’.”

And,

2011 – “We did,” said VolksWagen, “with our new light weight, two
cylinder–four piston opposed engine producing 300 hp and 100 miles
per gallon using gasoline, diesel fuel, or ethanol.”
See video: http://www.engineeringtv.com/video/Opposed-Piston-Opposed-Cylinder

11:54AM PDT on Mar 15, 2011

There are literally Millions of Electric forklifts being used in this country every day and night, 8, 10, 12 hours at a straight. Recharge at the end of the shift and Bam, good to go the next day. It really isn't rocket science.
shows how a little bit of brainwashing (from the oil men) has really gone a long way for the internal combustion powered vehicles.
And Hurt our country and health in the process.

8:36AM PDT on Mar 13, 2011

Electircs are coming back stronger than ever. We have subsidiexed oil for over 30 years and the USA hit peak oil in 1970 , we now import 50% at a cost of close to 1 Billion a day. A gas car is still only 20% efficient. They make deadly pollution!

An electric can go 100-300 miles depending on the vehicle and is 80% efficient. It can charge Off Peak and use excess that gets dumped at night. If you have solar like I have had for over 10 years you run on clean renewable energy that runs my home and car and helps the utility. My system is only good for about 40 more years and took 8 1/2 years to pay for itself but I think it priceless.

5:11AM PST on Mar 12, 2011

Thanks for the info.

4:01AM PDT on Nov 5, 2010

Electric is the future

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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