Saturday, May 23, 2015

Comeback of the Electric Car

We always think about electric cars as something new, but 100 years ago was "the first golden age" of electric car.

Thomas Edison and his electric car in 1913

1915 Detroit Electric Brougham 130 km range, 32 km/h top speed, Nickel–iron batteries, US$600.00, 13,000 cars were mainly sold to women drivers and physicians who desired the dependable and immediate start without the physically demanding hand cranking of the engine“.

In 1912, 33,842 electric cars were registered in USA
  • 38% of all cars (40% steam cars, 22% gasoline)
  • stigmatized as “women’s cars”, some had fake radiators to pretend they had an engine
Declined with advance of gasoline cars
  • invention of electric starter and muffler solved cranking and noise problems
  • mass production and related low price of gas-powered vehicles resulted in dramatic decline in EV production

They have many advantages:

Environmentally friendly
  • EVs (all electric vehicles) have no tailpipe, no direct emissions or pollution
Energy efficient
  • EV converts ~60% of electrical energy to effective wheel power; internal combustion engine converts only ~19% of energy stored in gasoline
  • Even in Alberta with our dirty grid electricity, there is less direct and indirect pollution from driving an electric car than from driving internal combustion car!
  • Equivalent of 2l/100km or 118mpg
  • Electric car owners are more likely to invest in green electricity
Performance benefits
  • Electric motors provide quiet, smooth operation, stronger acceleration and require less maintenance than ICEs
  • Acceleration like a sports car
Very low operating cost
  • It typically takes 8-10  years of gasoline and maintenance cost for an average car to pay for Nissan Leaf EV including the 8-10 years worth of electricity to run it!
  • Recovers over 90% of kinetic energy with regenerative braking
  • 3 times more efficient energy conversion with electric motor
Reduced energy dependence
  • You know what energy is going to cost you, how many times your electricity bill went up because of the long weekend?
But as almost anything else they have their disadvantages:
Driving range anxiety
Recharging time
  • 4-8 hours for typical car, Tesla and BMW can recharge 80% in 30 min. and electricity is free from Tesla charging stations
Upfront cost
  • Electric cars are more expensive mostly due to low volume production and high battery cost

Would you consider an electric car next time you buy a vehicle?

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