The internal combustion engine has been with us for well over a century. It has only been just recently that the industry has sought out the possibility of replacing it with an electric version that runs clean, lean and green. The electric car proponents and manufacturers just might be ahead of themselves in the wishful thinking department. A grave marker hasn’t been written for the internal combustion engine just yet.
Fear of losing power in an electric car before reaching destination is humorously termed “range anxiety.” This is the fear of depleting the on-board battery and being left with no means of propulsion. The scare is real since most, if not nearly all, of the electric cars produced as prototypes, new special edition models or experimental vehicles, cannot travel more than 100 miles before a recharge. The near future will undoubtedly bring about more efficient battery technologies, but the fact remains that there will have to be major leaps to add range to the electric car. Electric car batteries are subject to deficiency problems when the weather is cold, drastically cutting down on the performance. A typical gasoline engine with a 20-gallon tank and rated at 25 mph can yield 500 miles.
Slow Market Growth
The public may swoon and talk about fully electric vehicles, but they are not inclined to buy them. Only 17,000 electric cars were sold in the United States in 2011, which translates to one-tenth of 1 percent. That figure represents the number of F-series trucks that Ford sells every 10 days. Drivers have stuck with their newer internal combustion engines, and those truly adventurous souls have transitioned to the hybrid – a combination of gas and electric. The electric car sounds like a wonderful, futuristic idea, but a stigma and leeriness remains with it, making it a hard sell in a mass market economy.
Electric Car Batteries
The chief component-substance of the electric car battery is lithium. Lithium is extremely costly and time-consuming to extract from the planet. The resources for it are also limited, creating a problem with raw material supply. Then comes the manufacturing process of the batteries, which further complicate things. Lithium oxidizes almost instantly, requiring a special process to deal with it. Manufacturing Lithium batteries for vehicles pushes production costs past normal parameters, requiring other ways to cut costs, like hiring cheap labor. Recycling lithium batteries requires a tedious process, different from all other types of battery recycling. It is debated whether it is worth the cost to even attempt to recycle them. Some of the high-end battery cell packs can cost as much as $20,000 to replace, and they are more subject to the intricacies of weather since they are the main power source.
The problem with electric cars is that they must be charged after a trip or during a trip. The charging process can last up to six hours to fully saturate the battery for another run. This can prove to be an inconvenience for anyone who hasn’t planned the trip thoroughly or must get to a destination at a prescribed time. Battery charging stations have not yet begun to dot the countryside, and just finding one could be a real hassle. Conversely, gas stations are everywhere, easily reached and accessible at all hours.
Speed and Price
The Triac, an electric car produced by Green Vehicles Inc., has a top speed range of about 70 mph. This might be sufficient for normal highway driving, but would be inferior on stretches of road where the posted limit was higher, such as those in Europe. Such sustained speeds, or even normal highway speeds, would significantly reduce the battery charge. The Triac, a three-wheeled, two-seat vehicle has a price tag of around $20,000, and this is considered a very reasonable price. Many hybrid and gasoline engine vehicles can be had for considerably less.
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