Monday, September 24, 2007

The Future Is Electric

The future of cars, that is, according to the New York Times article excerpted below:

Trading the internal combustion engine for batteries could bring well-publicized advantages: reducing pollution, raising mileage, promoting energy independence. E.V.’s and plug-in hybrids could deliver the gasoline equivalent of 100 miles a gallon or more. For consumers, that would in effect roll back the clock to buck-a-gallon gas. Car owners could save money in their sleep, recharging in the off hours when electricity is cheapest.
And compared with hydrogen fuel-cell cars, the infrastructure for electric cars already exists, requiring only more plugs in more places. Aside from home recharging, it would be easier to install pay-per-use outlets at curbsides and in parking lots than to spawn a network of hydrogen filling stations. Wal-Mart and McDonald’s might offer convenient electricity for customers or employees.
Sounds good? There is one problem. There is still not a single E.V. or plug-in hybrid available that can approach the driving range, interior room and performance of a typical gas-powered family sedan, at anywhere near the price that an average consumer would pay.
From a technical standpoint, the Tesla Roadster may well be the most impressive E.V. yet. But this plug-in two-seater, based on the Lotus Elise, is cramped and has near-zero cargo space. Its $100,000 price is well beyond the budget of even most sports car buyers.
So automakers, including Tesla, are again assuring Americans that practical, affordable E.V.’s are on the way.
Experts say the cars’ arrival hinges on two make-or-break issues:
Developing safe, affordable lithium-ion batteries lasting 100,000 miles.
Overcoming a psychological barrier among people who can imagine the benefits — but who can also see themselves stranded with a dead battery and no place or time to recharge.
As for batteries, progress has been made, but more is needed. The EV1 started with old-school lead-acid batteries; today’s hybrids have more robust nickel-metal-hydride units. But the most efficient batteries are lithium-ion, the kind found in cellphones and laptops. These cells would double or triple the power of, say, a
Toyota Prius battery pack, but at half the weight or size.
Prabhakar Patil is chief executive of Compact Power, a company vying to power a G.M. plug-in hybrid based on the Chevrolet Volt concept car — and to have them ready by 2010 or 2011. He was previously chief engineer for the
Ford Escape Hybrid.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see another Christian standing up against the careless trashing of God's earth. But there is an alternative way of getting planet-friendly cars. We don't have to wait on carmakers, and is shown by the EStarCar.

It is designed to be made by small teams in small premises all over the planet. Production is therefore infinitely scalable and local to demand.


Nobilangelo Ceramalus*

(*pronounced noble-arn-jillo kerra-marliss)