Electric Cars a Viable Alternative?

Are electric cars a real alternative to the internal combustion engine? The short answer is no! The truth is, we are still a long way from replacing ‘old faithful’.

A Renault Concept Car: Z17

Various car makers have started (or will soon) introducing new models onto the market, among them Renault amid a lot of hype about industrial espionage. What a free promotion gift that was!

In general, they fall into three basic categories based on range. The ‘city’ car has a range of up to 100 miles, the ‘intermediaries’ with 100 to 200 miles, and the ‘top’ class which can supposedly reach 350 miles like the ZAP-X. The one thing that stands out is the price. You pay through the nose for extra mileage! The estimated cost of a ZAP is $60,000.

Range is the driving factor for any electric vehicle i.e.: How far can I drive before recharging, and how long does it take to recharge?

The BBC’s Brian Milligan and Mini

I read with some interest an article by a BBC reporter, Brian Milligan, who made a journey from London to Edinburgh in Scotland, a distance of 484 miles, in an all-electric Mini. It took him four days! “Well”, the pundits might say; “at least he made it”. It’s interesting to note that he did return to London by train, and the car was returned on a trailer.

While his vehicle was not perhaps the optimum for such a long drive it does highlight many of the problems associated with electric cars.

The Mini is advertised with a range of “155 miles under ideal driving conditions** (104 miles estimated under normal driving conditions)” with a charging time of “Approximately 4.5 hrs (240 volt, 32 amps outlet)”. In reality, the intrepid reporter was faced with a somewhat different scenario.

First and foremost, the trial took place in winter, which automatically reduced battery power by up to 25%, giving only 70 to 80 miles per charge. Secondly, charging times were between 6 and 8 hours and not the 4.5 as advertised.

Also, you will not find anything in electric car brochures telling you that running the heater or radio will significantly reduce battery life. Driving at night, when you need headlights, drains the battery even quicker. During his journey North, Brian Milligan spent many cold periods in the car because he was forced to sacrifice warmth for range.

Route Details

Upon completion of the journey, taking into account charging times, his estimated speed over the 484 miles was just 6 m.p.h. Not exactly mind-boggling! He was however sensible, for he made sure he had plenty of reading material with him in the form of thick books with which to while away the endless hours of recharging the batteries every 70 to 80 miles.

You can read first-hand an account of the journey on the BBC website under:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12138420

Zapa – 350 Miles?

Not what I would call an inspiring advertisement for the use of electric cars. There are of course other alternatives on the market that may fair better than the Mini, but I wouldn’t bet on much of an improvement.

If you need a car just to get around town then it is feasible to invest in electric, for short journeys are within the capabilities of an electric vehicle, but that means you would also need a ‘normal’ car for longer journeys, which makes it an expensive business. Oh! And don’t think about taking much luggage with you when you go to visit mother-in law, for just about every nook and cranny in the car is reserved for storing the batteries!

Apart from the obvious frustration of not knowing if you will reach your destination on an ‘electric’ journey and maybe freezing in the process, there is also another serious problem if we all ‘Go Electric’.

Millions of Vehicles?

No-one seems to have thought about how our power sources are going to survive thousands, maybe millions of cars being plugged in to feed their power hungry batteries!

It seems to me we are slowly staggering from one major problem to an even greater catastrophe!

There can be little doubt in anyone’s mind, that the current power output in all countries could not possibly handle the huge demand for electricity when everyone drives battery powered cars. It’s a logistical impossibility!

It would mean a huge increase in the number of power generating stations, which would either accelerate the use of the world’s valuable resources, or require a massive expansion in the number of nuclear generators. This is turn would increase the nuclear waste.

It is certain that ‘Road-Side Assistance’ companies would see a large increase in workload rescuing drivers with dead batteries. If you are thinking of starting a business that would be the way to go!

Other alternatives like bio-fuels and hydrogen are not worth thinking of, for they too have serious drawbacks. To run bio-fuels we need land to grow the crops from which it is made, and experience has already shown that we cannot, for we need the land to grow food.

Volatile and Dangerous

Hydrogen is considered by some to provide an alternative, but by its very unstable and volatile nature, we cannot use it unless some means of safely storing and transporting the gas is found.

So far as I can see, the only viable alternative to our current crisis is the Hybrid.

Hybrid – The Only Viable Alternative (for the moment)

It is true we will not be ridding our planet of its most contaminating influence, but going hybrid will give us a breathing space in which we can hopefully find a more satisfactory solution. Hybrid cars do not need to feed off our power grids but charge themselves when running ‘old reliable’, and judicious use of the system will reduce the output of dangerous gases considerably.

The evidence is here that it’s quicker by train.

May your batteries never run flat!

Roy.



2 Responses to “Electric Cars a Viable Alternative?”

  1. Earline Davidson Says:

    Thank you, I have just been searching for information about this topic for ages and yours is the greatest I’ve discovered till now. But, what about the bottom line? Are you sure about the source?

    Like

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