BACK TO THE FUTURE WITH ELECTRIC CARS
Electric Cars were in vogue in the late 19th century – until the superior power of the internal combustion engine stormed the markets in the early 20th century. Like in fashion, technology has come a full circle. Electric cars are cool, once again. Improvements in electric battery technology and raising concerns over use of fossil fuels and air pollution have made electric cars gain popularity in the last 20 years.
Electric cars are propelled by electric motors powered by electric charge stored in batteries. The current technology in electric motors make them 3 times more efficient than the internal combustion engines in energy usage.
Advantages of Electric Cars
The biggest advantage of the electric cars are that they are environment friendly – firstly, they do not have tail pipe emissions. Smog in cities, largely caused by vehicular emissions, would be hugely reduced if electric cars were adopted popularly. Secondly, they make less noise making the roads quieter than the constant hum of the internal combustion engines. Thirdly and most importantly, production of electric energy is far less polluting with green energy alternatives (with wind, solar and hydel power) than burning of fossil fuels.
There are hugeÂ environmental benefits and more electric cars mean less oil imports. This makes it attractive to many countries choosing to lower their carbon emissions. Currently, more than 30 models of electric cars are available mainly in the US, China, Japan and Western Europe. Nissan is planning to launch the best-selling Nissan Leaf in India this year. Many countries in the world are offering subsidies and incentives to electric cars. More and more countries will see electric cars zoom in their streets.
With so many factors going for it, why are they not more popular, you might ask! Well, for the simple reason that they cost more. Lithium ion cells and the battery packs that hold them are quite expensive. That makes these cars more expensive to buy and maintain. Currently the cells cost $200 – $250 per kilowatt hour. But this is quite cheap compared to five years ago when per kilowatt hour cost was as high as $1200. Advances in technology only promises further reduction in these costs. Tesla Motors is said to be working on a $35,000 car that can run upto 200 miles in a single charge.
The other major drawback of these cars is that they need to be charged every 100 or so miles. This makes it difficult for highway driving as there might not be charging stations available. But this is a classic chicken and egg syndrome. Â Mass adoption of these vehicles is sure to guarantee more charging stations but availability of charging stations is a pre-condition for mass adoption.
While the Nissan Leaf is the largest selling model in this category, the Tesla Model S is the coolest car available today. It is a top selling car among all cars in countries like Norway and Sweden, with its 24 kWh/100 km battery pack (equivalent to about 38 km/litre fuel efficiency).