Friday, 29 July 2011

Electric cars - three questions

Question one: Are electric cars really better for the environment?Electric cars are often promoted as “zero emission” vehicles – which critics jump on as false advertising, because while they produce no harmful emissions at the exhaust pipe, the clean air benefits are limited based on how the electricity is sourced.

estimates from the MIT Electric Vehicle team, an electric vehicle charged from the existing US grid emits about 115g/km of carbon dioxide (CO2) on a well-to-wheel analysis, compared to a conventional US-market petrol car that averages 250g/km. However, over here in Europe, where we have less gas guzzlers (emissions below 115g/k)m, the advantages are much more limited.

Perhaps the crucial element that critics overlook is that the goal is to produce electricity from renewable sources – in France, which has a clean energy grid, well-to-wheel CO2 emissions from an electric car would be just 12g/km. Only in a worst case scenario would incremental electricity demand be met by coal – in reality, it is much more likely that the electricity we use will continue to get cleaner and so the environmental advantages of electric cars will only expand further.

Question two: Will electric cars save drivers money?As much as many of us might like to think we are environmentally motivated, in these tough economic times it’s hard not to think about our budgets and so it’s no surprise that many potential drivers are put off by the high price tags associated with electric cars.

true, electric cars are more expensive than petrol cars primarily because of the high cost of batteries. This is a major stumbling block with a survey undertaken by Nielsen for the Financial Times 76 per cent of Brits are not willing to pay more for an electric car than for a petrol car. However, there are signs that electric car prices could come down – the Renault Fluence ZE, for example, will be priced at less than $20,000.

However, perhaps the most important consideration is long term costs. Nissan estimates that the five-year operating cost of the LEAF electric vehicle, for example, would be $1,800 – this compares to around $6,000 for a comparable petrol car.

Question three: Will electric cars run out of charge before I reach my destination?Ah, range anxiety. Surely this is the biggest stumbling block towards the progression of electric cars – and who will ever forget that infamous, and controversial, image of the Tesla Roadster running out of power on the Top Gear test track?

Cars with internal combustion engines can of course be considered to have an indefinite range because they can be refuelled so easily and quickly. By contrast, many electric cars have been targeted on the statistic that the average American drives fewer than 40miles each day and so they have been developed for urban driving. However, there are a number of electric cars with a far more substantial range. The Tesla Roadster, for example, can travel 245miles per charge.

The key of course, is the development of electric car infrastructure. DC Fast Charging Stations are being implemented across the US and it is hoped that by 2013 they will cover the entire country. There are similar developments elsewhere too, with Australia recently placing itself at the forefront of the electric car race thanks to an agreement with battery swap stations

The rest is up to you... but when the petrol / gas runs out, what choice will you have???
The image of electric cars is slowly changing and with it, the doubts surrounding their future appear to be disappearing.

So perhaps it’s time to stop asking questions and start embracing the future – and for governments to take the steps that are necessary to make electric cars the norm and no longer just a niche alternative.

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