Gasoline-fueled cars will be left on history’s roadsideWritten by Nick Shultz | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In the early 1900s, electric cars made up about 25 percent of all vehicles sold. The advent of cheap, internal gasoline engines and the development of that infrastructure led to the early demise of the electric car industry.
Things have changed in dramatic ways the past several years, and electric cars are becoming viable. The recent demand from the White House for vehicles that average 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2016 and stiffer tailpipe emission requirements will only benefit the electric vehicle industry.
An electric car is exactly what the name implies. It is a vehicle that operates solely on electric power. It derives that power from a storage battery. Electric cars have several advantages and disadvantages compared to their internal combustion engine counterparts. Perhaps the greatest advantage is that they are emission-friendly. The industry refers to total electric cars as “zero-emissions vehicles.” That means they don’t pollute the environment. The reality is somewhat different, however. The batteries themselves must be disposed of properly or they will create an environmental hazard.
Another advantage of electric vehicles is the amount of torque they produce. Torque is a useful measurement. The famous auto racer, Big Daddy Don Garlits, said, “Horsepower sells cars, but torque wins races.”
An electric car produces a lot of torque from the moment the motor starts to spin. The torque production in electric cars tends to decrease as revolutions per minute increase. An example of how this advantage applies to the real world is the locomotive train. Most of the trains we see on the railroad tracks are powered by electric motors.
They have diesel engines on board, as well, but those diesels are simply providing the electric energy necessary to power the electric motors.
The biggest disadvantage is how far an electric vehicle can travel before a battery recharge is necessary. Most electric vehicles on the market will run out of energy somewhere between 50 and 120 miles. Using the air-conditioned system in the summer or the heater in the winter could seriously limit the miles traveled before a recharge is necessary. Driving at night will limit overall miles available, too. This limited range may not be a big issue in a large metropolitan area where the consumer is only travelling a few miles to and from work. Here in the Midwest, however, the limited mileage range of the electric vehicle could make it difficult to justify to the consumer.
As battery technology improves, so will the range of these vehicles. Automotive engineers have been steadily working on the problem and the future looks bright. A reasonable range, for rural customers, is still several years away.
The cost of the batteries is expensive, too. The cost ranges from $3,500 to nearly $9,000, depending on size, and the life expectancy can be as little as three years. Consequently, most electric vehicle manufacturers are warranting the batteries for five or more years. The cost of the replacement battery is simply folded into the original price of the vehicle. Once again, however, those numbers will only get better as technology and production costs improve.
The cost of an electric vehicle is significantly greater than its gasoline-powered counterpart. Electric vehicles, available in the U.S. market, cost about $10,000 more than a standard vehicle, although proposed tax advantages for their purchase could come to fruition.
Using $2.50 per gallon of gasoline as a baseline, the cost of recharging an electric vehicle could equate to an astonishing 175 mph. If a carbon tax is passed by Congress, the cost of a recharge will most probably rise.
As more and more electric vehicles are sold, we can expect Congress to impose a road-use tax in order to recover the tax revenue lost on gasoline sales.
Another consideration is their size. Almost all electric cars are subcompact. Many of the electrics I reviewed may actually be considered mini-designs. Once again, however, as technology improves, the size of the vehicles will most certainly increase.
Virtually every major automotive manufacturer has plans for the production of an all- electric vehicle by at least 2012 for sale in the U.S. market. Our grandchildren will probably only see the gasoline vehicles we drive today in parades or at auto shows. The electric car will help clean our environment and aid in destroying our nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
Nick Shultz is an instructor of Automotive Technologies at Owens Community College. He is an arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau who specializes in cases involving the Ohio and Michigan Lemon laws. He is a certified master automotive technician by ASE, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. Shultz, a Toledo native, will take questions at email@example.com.