Monday, 17 October 2011

a billion cars

Globally, there are just under a billion motor vehicles on the road today – and 98 per cent of them run on petrol or diesel.

But, like it or not, we are going to have to find a new way to power our cars as fossil fuel reserves run out.

The sales of ‘electric cars’ may be disapointng by not really much of a surprise.

With a £30,000 price tag for a family-sized electric car, of even the most ardent environmentalist must surely be dampened by showroom prices..

And given that, thanks to new technology, most car makers are now able to offer smaller engines but with higher performance, cars are becoming cleaner and far more economical.

It’s not unusual now to find both petrol and diesel powered cars that will average more than 60 miles per gallon. And, with some of the smaller five-seaters priced at less than £12,000, it’s easy to see why the average car buyer is swayed by the bottom line.

Add to that the worrying factor is how easy it would be to find a charge point to re-charge an electric car. The truth is, however, the average motorist in the UK leaving home with a fully charged car would have no such problem. In fact, the average daily mileage for 80 per cent of the population is under 30 miles.

Electric cars like the Nissan Leaf have a range of 110 miles, and a quick charge system takes just 30 minutes to restore up to 80 per cent of battery power with a public quick charger.

At-home charging using a 240V-16A outlet takes around seven to eight hours for a full charge and will usually be carried out overnight to take advantage of cheaper off-peak electricity.

You may need a second car if you are heading to the coast at the weekend but, for most people’s daily commute, exhausting the car’s battery is not a serious consideration.

To fully charge the Leaf costs just £2, but the downside is the car costs just over £30,000 so it’s a case of doing the maths to see if you can make going green financially viable for you.

A halfway house is Vauxhall’s Ampera, which will run for up to 50 miles or so on electric power before reverting to petrol.

The Ampera is probably about half as cheap to run as a small diesel as long as you don’t exceed the 50 miles per day range.

Vauxhall says 9,320 miles will cost around £438 of electricity but to cover the same distance using a petrol engined car would set you back three times as much.

Unlike pure electric cars, however, if you do exceed that range there is no problem, The car switches to its 1.4-litre petrol engine with a further range of 310 miles. And even when using the engine the wheels are powered by electricity as the petrol engine powers the electricity generator.

Once home a full charge is achieved in four hours and costs around £1.

The Vauxhall Ampera will hit UK streets next year, but even with a government subsidy of £5,000 it will still cost £28,995.

Electric cars may be silent, clean and efficient, but, for most buyers, the real shock they get is when they see the price tag, and until that changes sales will continue to be slow.

Are electric cars the future? I have been debating this for months, and I still don’t think we have an answer. You need money to save the planet, and the planet is in financial standstill or recession.

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