But most people want more from their cars than just the daily commute--and gassing up takes minutes whereas re-charging takes hours--so sufficient demand never materialized. Hybrids, though they do use gasoline, are as versatile as conventional cars--and the coming plug-in hybrids (covered previously in this column) promise to substantially increase efficiency, to perhaps 100 miles per gallon or more, by using the electric motor exclusively for short runs and commutes and the gas engine only for long trips.
Even though all-electric vehicles are not currently in vogue, innovative engineers are busy working to improve them. Technological advances in battery life and engine efficiency mean that electric vehicles may be able to roam farther than ever before. According to EVWorld.com, drivers looking to go electric will soon have a few options:
California-based Tesla Motors will soon be accepting deposits on orders for its Tesla Roadster, and plans its first deliveries for 2007. Tesla claims its car can go 250 miles on a charge, which can even be extended further through its regenerative braking technology, similar to that which is employed in the hybrids.
And Spokane, Washingtons Commuter Car Corporation is taking orders for its Tango 600 (a kit you have to assemble) and its Tango 100 and 200 models (fully assembled), with plans to deliver by 2007. Actor George Clooney was Commuter Cars first customer. The Tango can only go 60-80 miles on a charge, but boasts of its ability to go zero to 60 in four seconds and attain a top speed of 150 miles per hour.
Elsewhere, California-based AC Propulsion is working with Toyota on a Scion electric conversion, and Cleanova, based in France, is developing an electric Renault Kangoo, a popular European car.
One consideration to keep in mind about electric vehicles is that, if your utility is a dirty coal-fired plant, tapping that power could mean creating more pollution than driving a gasoline powered car. But progress in renewable energies may well solve that problem and help usher in a new era for electric vehicles.
; Tesla Motors
; Commuter Car Corporation
GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek/, or e-mail: email@example.com.