ColGlobe At The Spoof

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reality Check: Electric Cars

Why are we driving cars with internal combustion engines? I have heard that it is because of the cost electric cars, and that our current battery technology is not feasible, but NONE of the reasons I have found have much, if any, basis in actual fact. Here is a reality check: Electric cars are affordable and available, and the long-term savings is far higher than any basic list price.

A Brief History Of Electric Cars
The very first automobiles were electric cars. For more than 80 years, electric-powered vehicles were considered to be the only feasible solution for self-powered transportation, and there were far more companies investing in electric carriages than any other form of locomotion. Thomas Alva Edison spent a decade working on electric motors and batteries, and achieved a large industrial following. During the first 10 years of the 20th century, electric vehicles were almost as common as internal combustion engines.

The Electric Car Fades Away
And then a man named Henry Ford began to mass-produce the first automobiles, instantly putting companies which still built vehicles by hand at a disadvantage, and Ford was using a gasoline powered engine. Within a decade, 90% of the electric car manufacturers had quietly faded away. Oddly enough, the final blow to the electric automobile came from another electric device, the electric car starter. Freed from cumbersome and dangerous hand cranks, the average person flocked to gasoline powered engines.

Auto And Oil Companies Have Resisted Electric Cars
Something you may not know is that the United States government has known since 1966 that electric cars were the most viable solution to mounting air pollution. Instead, oil and automotive companies, which had become to of the world's leading economic booms, lobbied to resist change. The result was an ever increasing cost of the vehicle, as more and more costly environmental components were added to the original engine. Today's automobile engine costs as much or more for it's environmental control devices than for the engine itself. 

What Does The Electric Car Lack?
The electric car has a zero cost environmental control system. It has no emissions. That means there is no tailpipe, not catalytic converter, no exhaust manifold, and no carburetor. There is no gas tank, and no engine coolant system, and none of the hoses that those systems require. It will not require a starter. The entire brake system is much too complex for an electric car, which stops when power is removed, and braking can be done using magnetic or centrifugal forces. And the electric motor is only about the size of a microwave oven, much smaller then a gas engine.

What Are The Negative Aspects Of Electric Cars?
So what is missing from an electric car? Until recently, they had a maximum range of about 60 miles, and this frightened people away from buying them, never mind that the average person rarely goes more than 50 miles from their home. They have also tended to be slower than gasoline powered engines. And to buy them, you had to purchase cars that were not mass-produced, and which cost a small fortune to make. Until recently.

What About Modern Electric Cars?
Things have changed a lot more than you might realize in the last 10 years. The maximum range for a fully electric car today is nearly 300 miles, which is not substantially different than a gasoline engine. And while there are not going to be any racing cars made that run on electricity in the near future, highway speeds on today's electric vehicles can be as high as 50-70 miles per hour, depending on the vehicle.

What About The Cost Of Electric Cars?
The Tesla Sportster is probably one of the most flamboyant electric cars on the, and has a list price of over $80,000. Economy electric cars can be picked up for under $10,00, and a sedan styled auto will run anywhere from $25,000 to $60,000.  If you are willing to give up the speed and range, take a look at some values for under $30,000. But that still puts a sedan model in the same general price range as a gasoline powered model. And doesn't even take the savings into consideration.

What Savings Can I Get From An Electric Car?
The cost of charging an electric car is around one dollar. You could fairly accurately estimate that you will spend around $3 for EVERY tank of gas you formerly used. The average person can expect to drive maybe 12 thousand miles in a year, and that would cost something close to $1200 or more in fuel, as opposed to around $100 for an electric car. And this doesn't count the 8 oil changes, 2 sets of brakes, antifreeze, transmission fluid, air filter, and other required maintenance of a gasoline motor. There are no emissions inspections. In all, your first year savings could very easily be in the neighborhood of $2,000, or more. And that is the first year.

Who Needs An Electric Car?
Anyone on a budget needs an eletric car. They are more than 10 times cheaper to own and operate than a gasoline or diesel engine, which much more than offsets the intitial purchase cost. Anyone who drives less than 20 miles to their job, or less than 1000 miles per month could drive en electric car without any inconvenience at all. Anyone interested in causing less damage to the environment should drive an electric car. Anyone who drives. Anyone who breathes would be healthier with an electric car.