Mar 27, 2010

Electric cars a major environmental threat?

Electric cars a major environmental threat? It wasn't long before the war of words began on the efficiency of electric cars and their impact on the environment. Today's comments from controversial author Clive Matthew-Wilson paint a gloomy picture of electric cars as "often less efficient and more polluting than the petrol cars they replace". The report is here...  

Haase -
Everything has the 'potential to be a environmental threat when miss managed' wind, hydro, solar, geothermal all have there issues.
Yet when compared to historic use or future continuation of a fossil fueled world, all are clear winners to the environment. Anyone arguing that fact is either a liar, charlatan, fool or a hybrid of the three ;-) 

- Short answer, not in near future
100 years of over optimistic dreams and failures plague the future of electric cars

"Electric Vehicles Charge Ahead in US blindly ahead of a market that peaked in 1912"
Clearly more energy efficient cars NEED to be in our near future... but if the way we use electric cars isn't more efficient, they will never exceed their current 1% of market. On a personal note I love several electric car designs and hope we can find a viable and sustainable onboard energy storage system to finally make electric vehicles a reality.

The fact is electric vehicles as a fleet were far more a reality at the 'turn of the century, than they will be in the next two decades.

It was not until 1895 that Americans began to devote attention to electric vehicles after an electric tricycle was built by A. L. Ryker and William Morrison built a six-passenger wagon both in 1891. Many innovations followed and interest in motor vehicles increased greatly in the late 1890s and early 1900s. In 1897, the first commercial application was established as a fleet of New York City taxis built by the Electric Carriage and Wagon Company of Philadelphia.

New York City Electric Taxis - electric vehicleThe early electric vehicles, such as the 1902 Wood's Phaeton (top image), were little more than electrified horseless carriages and surreys. The Phaeton had a range of 18 miles, a top speed of 14 mph and cost $2,000. Later in 1916, Woods invented a hybrid car that had both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.

1918 Detroit - electric vehicleBy the turn of the century, America was prosperous and cars, now available in steam, electric, or gasoline versions, were becoming more popular. The years 1899 and 1900 were the high point of electric cars in America, as they outsold all other types of cars. Electric vehicles had many advantages over their competitors in the early 1900s. They did not have the vibration, smell, and noise associated with gasoline cars. Changing gears on gasoline cars was the most difficult part of driving, while electric vehicles did not require gear changes. While steam-powered cars also had no gear shifting, they suffered from long start-up times of up to 45 minutes on cold mornings. The steam cars had less range before needing water than an electric's range on a single charge. The only good roads of the period were in town, causing most travel to be local commuting, a perfect situation for electric vehicles, since their range was limited. The electric vehicle was the preferred choice of many because it did not require the manual effort to start, as with the hand crank on gasoline vehicles, and there was no wrestling with a gear shifter.

While basic electric cars cost under $1,000, most early electric vehicles were ornate, massive carriages designed for the upper class. They had fancy interiors, with expensive materials, and averaged $3,000 by 1910. Electric vehicles enjoyed success into the 1920s with production peaking in 1912.

The decline of the electric vehicle was brought about by several major developments:

  • By the 1920s, America had a better system of roads that now connected cities, bringing with it the need for longer-range vehicles.
  • The discovery of Texas crude oil reduced the price of gasoline so that it was affordable to the average consumer.
  • The invention of the electric starter by Charles Kettering in 1912 eliminated the need for the hand crank.
  • The initiation of mass production of internal combustion engine vehicles by Henry Ford made these vehicles widely available and affordable in the $500 to $1,000 price range. By contrast, the price of the less efficiently produced electric vehicles continued to rise. In 1912, an electric roadster sold for $1,750, while a gasoline car sold for $650.
So what killed the electric car?
Math :-O