Electric Cars Are Going To Rule The Road

Fossil fuels are a limited resource that will eventually run out. That’s a fact, but there are strides being made to replace fossil fuels with synthetic products made from organic material, such as corn and algae. What’s spurring on the burst in alternative fuel research is the high price of fossil fuels, and the need for cleaner alternatives. Basically it now makes financials sense to develop alternatives. This is the same motivation for the research and development of hybrid and full electric vehicles.

Electric cars make the greatest impact on reducing demand on fossil fuels, while at the same time are more beneficial to the environment.

To be clear, the definition of an electric car is a vehicle propelled by one or more electric motors, using electrical energy stored in some form of energy storage device, such as a battery. An electric car with both electric motors and a combustion engine is a hybrid, and not categorized as an electric vehicle.

The world’s first true electric car was built in 1888 by German manufacturer, Flocken Elektrowagen. Electric cars were popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. Technological advances in internal combustion engines, coupled with mass production of internal combustion engine vehicles making them less expensive brought about the decline in electric vehicles. During the fuel crises of the 1970s and 1980s interest in electric cars saw a resurgence, but it was short-lived. The 70’s and 80’s electric cars were expensive, the batteries huge and slow to charge, and even when fully charged the distance they could travel was limited. With so much going against them, these early electric cars never went into mass production. However, since 2008, electric vehicle manufacturing has come into its own with advances in battery technology and smaller, lighter and more efficient electric motors. With increasing crude oil prices, and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions publicly recognized, the last 5 years have seen sales of electric cars increase year on year.

The benefits of electric cars over those with internal combustion engines are a significant reduction in air pollution because electric motor driven cars emit no tailpipe pollutants. The reduction in greenhouse gas reduces the rate by which the ozone layer is being depleted, slowing global warming. Less overall consumption of fossil fuels lessens dependency on foreign oil as well, which in turn reduces concerns about oil prices and supply disruption.

Electric cars still face hurdles. The predominant hurdles are the higher cost of purchase, a lack of recharging infrastructure, and drivers’ fear of batteries running out of energy before reaching their destination. However, these shortcomings are rapidly being addressed. Many service stations, and a great many cities, are installing recharging facilities. More recharging facilities will eliminate “range anxiety”, the worry that batteries will run out before arriving at a destination. All new technology is costly when first introduced, but as demand increases, followed by production, purchase prices go down. Already the gap between electric cars and fossil fuel powered vehicles is closing.

The leader in electric car sales in 2012 was Japan with a 28% global market share. Next was the United States with 26% of the market, followed by China at 16%, then France with 11%, and Norway at 7%. A list of current production passenger cars and utility vehicles that are highway capable are:

  1. Mitsubishi I MiEV
  2. Chery QQ3 EV
  3. Chery JAC J3 EV
  4. Tazzari Zero
  5. Nissan Leaf
  6. Nissan Smart
  7. Wheego Whip LiFe
  8. Mia Electric
  9. Volvo C30 Electric
  10. BYD e6
  11. Bolloré Bluecar
  12. Renault Kangoo ZE
  13. Renault Fluence ZE
  14. Renault Zoe
  15. Ford Focus Electric
  16. BMW Active E
  17. Tesla Model S
  18. Honda Fit EV
  19. RAV4 EV
  20. Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV
  21. Roewe E50
  22. Mahindra e2o
  23. Chevrolet Spark EV
  24. Fiat 500e
  25. Volkswagen e-Up!
  26. BMW i3

An impressive list, but many more electric cars are in the planning stages, and a great deal of research and development is being invested in electric powered vehicles by all car makers. As electric vehicle production increases prices will become more comparable with combustion engine and hybrid vehicles.

As more electric vehicles take to the streets the demand for fossil fuels and alternative, synthetic fuels will slow, extending the life of oil reserves. This is important because although vehicles burn a great deal of oil, manufacturers of plastics, lubricants, etc., have few alternative raw materials that can replace petroleum. Without crude oil, the products that define our current lifestyle and standard of living will be drastically changed.

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