Almost everyone has seen images and video clips of Ed Begley and his electric car. If you think electric cars are something relatively new, guess again; electric cars predate gasoline and diesel vehicles by many years. Between 1832 and 1839, a Scottish inventor by the name of Robert Anderson invented the first electric carriage. Electric cars, produced in the USA by Anthony Electric, Baker, Detroit, Edison, Studebaker, and others during the early 20th Century outsold gasoline powered vehicles. The limitations of the cars were evident in their top speed of 20 mph, which limited them to town driving. They were very successful, however, and marketed towards women because of their clean and quiet ride, and the fact that they didn't need to be hand cranked.
This all changed when Cadillac invented the electric starter in 1913. This innovation made cranking the internal combustion engine easier and less dangerous. That, coupled with the emergence of the cheap-to-own Model T Ford, brought about the demise of the electric car. By the 1930's, electric vehicles were only manufactured as fork lifts and industrial vehicles.
What is an Electric Car?
An electric car is a vehicle that runs on a battery-powered electric motor. An electric car is less expensive to run than a gasoline powered vehicle by a power of 10. It typically runs on nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries. These batteries, which have replaced wet cell batteries in most instances, give the car a range of up to 200 miles before charging is needed. Lithium-ion cells, the kind of batteries used for laptop computers, are of interest but they may present a fire hazard.
Let's Look at Some Facts
The Toyota RAV4-EVis a vehicle that is a good basis for comparison. Toyota discontinued sales of the RAV4EV in 2003, citing poor sales performance, but this mini SUV could be fully charged within 5 hours. It had a top speed of 78 miles per hour, and a range of about 117 miles per charge. At gas costs of $3 per gallon, and adding the cost to charge the RAV4EV, we can see that the it got the equivalent of 111 mpg. The car was environmentally friendly and emitted no green house gases. Too bad Toyota quit selling them -- one just went for $67,300.00 on eBay!
What is Available Today?
There are many electric cars available today, although many have been designated as "neighborhood electric vehicles" in the United States. This does not stop their popularity, however. Electric vehicle ownership has risen from 1,607 in 1992 to 55,852 in 2004. Today there are two electric cars available - the Zap Xebra and the NMG (No More Gas). These vehicles are small, efficient, and affordable. The NMG is considered part motorcycle/part automobile. Highway approved, it can reach speeds of 70 mph. Other vehicles are in the works; the Tango will be offered by Spokane-based Commuter Cars Corporation, and the Think. The Think was popular in Europe, Where it was called the CityBee. Ford purchased the Think in 1999 and sold it to a European firm that promptly went bankrupt. A team of Norwegian investors is trying to resurrect this fine little car.
What are Disadvantages?
The biggest pitfall of electric cars is the battery. Replacement costs are high, and deep charging cycles can quickly deteriorate the condition of the battery. Many advances have been made in recent years, but the biggest maintenance cost of an electric vehicle is still replacing the battery.
Think Electric Cars are for Wimps?
If image is important to you, and you have deep pockets, consider buying the Tesla roadster. It is a sleek, beautiful car that turns heads wherever it goes. This two-seater goes from 0 to 60 in about 4 seconds, is 100% electric, and gets the equivalent of 135 mpg. It averages about 200 miles per charge, and costs ll of two cents per mile to operate. It emits zero greenhouse gases, and is one of the best looking sports cars on the road today. The only thing missing is the powerful sports car roar.
An electric vehicle is a good choice for those who have short commutes and are concerned about the impact greenhouse gases have on the environment. With our dependence on foreign oil, and the global warming of the planet, an electric vehicle makes good sense.
Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.