The Pros And Cons Of Electric Vehicles

We have all at some time seen (and probably travelled in) trains, trams, buses and boats that are powered by electricity. What is perhaps less well known is that the first battery powered vehicles were on the market in the early 1900’s. These electrified carriages had a top speed of around 14 miles per hour and a range of about 18 miles. These automobiles remained popular until the development of the internal combustion engine, which made possible vehicles of greater power, speed and range.

The issue of global warming due to pollution has become a hot issue. Oil prices have been escalating like never before. These factors, together with the realization that the earth’s reserves of oil will run out within the next few decades, have led to renewed interest and research into electric vehicles. These vehicles have several major advantages over gasoline powered vehicles.

The motors that power these vehicles emit no noxious exhaust gases. This is good news for the environment which currently absorbs millions of tons of exhaust fumes daily. These carbon dioxide emissions are seen as contributing significantly to global warming, while other exhaust gases increasingly pollute our air.

Electricity is cheaper than gasoline, so battery powered cars are cheaper to run. They will become more economically viable as the price of crude oil continues to escalate. It has been estimated that the energy required to run an electric car is approximately one fifth that required to run a gasoline powered car. This gap will widen as the oil price continues to rise.

Battery powered cars require less maintenance. They do not need regular oil changes and are not subject to the same wear and tear as internal combustion engines. In addition they have far fewer moving parts that need to be maintained.

The major disadvantage at this stage is the limited range made possible by current battery technology. Battery powered cars typically have a range of around one or two hundred miles before needing to be recharged, and a typical charge takes several hours. As with any rechargeable battery, the car’s batteries have a finite number of charge/discharge cycles and in time will need replacement.

Electric cars are still very expensive, due mainly to the high cost of batteries. Surveys have revealed that US and English consumers are not willing to pay more for an electric car with limited range, and this inhibits the mass transition from gasoline to battery powered cars. However, as battery technology improves we can expect to see more battery powered vehicles on the road. Mass production will result in lower prices.

Both gasoline and electric cars have advantages and disadvantages. It is, however, becoming very clear that our current rate of oil consumption is not sustainable (in terms of cost, availability and pollution) and that sooner rather than later we will have to find a viable alternative. Right now, electrically powered vehicles offer the only alternative.

The History of Battery Electric Vehicles

Battery Electric Vehicles or BEVs, predated the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles. It was between 1832-1839 that Robert Anderson, a Scottish businessman, invented the first electric carriage and Professor Sibrandus Stratingh from the Netherlands designed the first small-scale electric car which was built by his assistant Christopher Becker in 1835.

The storage battery improved, firstly by Gaston Planté, a French physicist who invented the lead acid cell in 1859 and the first rechargeable battery. Then, in 1881, Camille Faure developed a more efficient and reliable battery which became so successful in the early electric cars. This discovery caused battery electric vehicles to flourish, with France and Great Britain being the first nations to support widespread development of electric vehicles.

Prior to 1900, battery electric vehicles held many speed and distance records, the most notable of which, was the breaking of the 100 km/h (60 mph) speed barrier. It was by Camille Jenatzy on April 29, 1899 in a rocket-shaped vehicle named Jamais Contente (Never Happy) which reached a top speed of 105.88 km/h (65.79 mph).

During the early 20th Century, battery electric vehicles outsold gasoline powered vehicles and were successfully sold as town cars to upper-class customers. Because of technological limitations, these cars were limited to a top speed of about 32 km/h (20 mph). The cars were marketed as “suitable vehicles for women drivers”. Electric vehicles did not need hand-cranking to start.

One of the downfalls of the battery electric vehicle was the introduction of the electric starter in 1913. It simplified the task of starting an internal combustion engine which was previously difficult and dangerous to start with the crank handle. Another was the mass-produced and relatively cheap Ford Model-T. Finally, the loss of Edisons direct current electric power transmission system. He was battling with George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla over their desire to introduce alternating current as the principal electricity distribution. Edison’s direct current was the load for electric motors.

Battery electric vehicles were limited to niche applications. Forklift trucks were battery electric vehicles when introduced in 1923. BEV golf carts which were used as neighborhood electric vehicles and were partially “street legal”. By the late 1930s, the electric automobile industry had disappeared until the invention of the point contact transistor in 1947 which started a new era of electric vehicle.

In 1959 the Henney Kilowatt was introduced and was the world’s first modern transistor-regulated electric car and the predecessor to the more recent battery electric vehicles such as General Motors EV1. Only 47 Henney Kilowatts were produced, 24 being sold as 1959 models and 8 as 1960 models. It is not clear what happened to the other 15 built but it could be possible that they were sold as 1961 or 1962 models. None of the 8 1960 models were sold to the public because of the high manufacturing costs, but were sold to the electric cooperatives who funded the project.

It is estimated that there are between four and eight Henney Kilowatt battery electric vehicles still in existence with at least two of the survivors still driven periodically.

Battery electric vehicles have had issues with high battery costs, with limited travel distances, with charging time and the lifespan of the battery, although advancements in battery technology has addressed many of those problems.

At the present time, controversy reigns over battery electric vehicles. Campaigners, (et al) for BEV’s are accusing three major US automobile manufacturers of deliberately sabotaging BEV efforts through several methods, for instance, failing to market, failing to produce appropriate vehicles, by failing to satisfy demand and using lease-only programs with prohibitions against end of lease purchase.

In their defense, the three major manufacturers they have responded that they only make what the public want and the current trend is that the public doesn’t want battery electric vehicles.

Although we have the technology to manufacture and provide BEVs, one of the biggest downfalls for the prolific production of BEVs is the extortionate cost of replacement batteries. In some cases the cost of replacement batteries can be more than the price of the whole vehicle, especially when buying used battery electric vehicles.

What You Need to Know About Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicle technology has been around for more than 100 years, but the current iteration of EVs has only been available since 2008 when the Tesla Roadster was brought to the market. The Tesla is now gone, but a whole slew of vehicles have emerged including battery electric vehicles (BEV), hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV).

All the different names mean one thing: you need to understand what is out there to ensure that you get the type of vehicle that meets your needs, advances your lifestyle or both. Let’s take a look at electric vehicles and what these cars mean for you and your wallet.

Fuel Savings — Across the board, EVs of all stripes use less fuel than conventional internal combustion engines. BEVs use no gasoline, deriving energy strictly from the electric grid. Hybrids, whether conventional models or the plug-in variety, rely on a gasoline energy as well as a battery pack to drive these cars. FCEVs are rare, but include the Honda FCX Clarity, a vehicle that runs on hydrogen.

Reduced Emissions — ‘Tis true: you’ll pollute less with an EV, but you’ll still have some impact on the environment, sometimes indirectly. Vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf EV tout not having a tail pipe, suggesting that driving such a vehicle means no pollution is emitted. However, the Leaf taps into the power grid and coal burning plants supply the power hat helps EVs run. Thus, the Leaf and vehicles like it indirectly pollute. Hybrids pollute too, but less so than conventional models as these run on gasoline only part of the time. FCEVs offer no pollution whatsoever as these vehicles run on hydrogen.

Vehicle Costs — You’ll pay thousands of dollars more for an EV than you will pay for a comparable gas-powered car. Sometimes those differences can be measured in the tens of thousands of dollars. Electric battery packs are expensive, costing manufacturers $8,000 to $12,000 to produce, a cost that is passed on to the consumer. However, if you keep your vehicle for many years you may recoup this cost. Moreover, federal tax credits and local incentives can reduce your ownership costs.

Recharging Inconvenience — Except for conventional hybrids and FCEVs, you’ll need to recharge your vehicle for it to run on electric power. You’ll also face a limited vehicle range of 65 to 90 miles between charges. If you buy a plugin hybrid, such as the Chevy Volt, you extend your range as a small, gas engine kicks in. You’ll still pay for gas, but use less of it.

One area that is hard to quantify with electric vehicles is actual mileage. The Environmental Protection Agency has attempted to come up with a comparable number, but those figures may not tell the whole story. Much caution must be exercised when shopping for an EV as well as any new car.