Electric cars are only a niche-market today. Electric motors find application rather in Hybrid cars than in cars that are powered only by electricity. But using electricity for power has many advantages. The most important is that electricity is the form of energy which can be made in various ways and there is a very good electric infrastructure in contrast to for example hydrogen stations, etc.
The 2006 documentary film “Who killed the electric car?” explores the appeareance and the “death” of the first battery electric cars in the USA, specifically the EV1. It blames the consumers, the oil companies, the car companies, the government and the hydrogen fuel cells. The oil companies are alleged to have supported efforts to get rid of this competing technology and they allegedly bought patents to prevent the use of high-performance batteries in these cars. The automakers are accused of bad commercialization and to pressure the government to suit against California’s attempt to limit pollution.
Nevertheless, the electric car could make a comeback. The soaring oil price and ever greater environmental consciousness make the electric car look more attractive. Projects like the Chevy Volt could make the electric car more fashionable and suitable for daily use. The Chevy Volt combines a lithium-ion battery – which will be the only power source for a range up to 40 miles – with gas or ethanol which will recharge the battery when empty to extend the range up to 640 miles. Unless driving more than 40 miles a day the Chevy Volt won’t use any gasoline and produce zero emissions.
A big step for electric cars is the Project Better Place which could turn Israel into the world’s first country with a large number of electric cars on the streets. The Israeli-American entrepreneur Shai Agassi started the project, raised $200 million and got the endorsement from the Israeli government. A Danish energy company joined the project and plans to offer a similar service in Denmark where wind turbines could provide the energy needed. In both, Israel and Denmark there would be hundreds of swap and recharging stations around the country where the battery could quickly be replaced by a fresh one to extend the range which is about 125 miles. As the development of high-performance batteries is still going on and will take years to get batteries which offer a better range, the drivers will pay a monthly subscription which will be less than the average monthly spending on gasoline and always use the newest batteries. Renault-Nissan will produce the car in larger numbers by 2010.
However, hybrid cars seem to be the more marketable and established kind of “green car” for now. Yet, this time, electric cars are not likely to disappear as they did in the 1990s. And in the long therm, electric cars could become the car forthe masses. As soon as they’re marketable and better batteries can provide a range of several hundred miles, the electric car could replace the established gas-driven cars and reduce the independence on ever more expensive oil. The environment would benefit from lower CO2 emissions and there are plenty of possibilities to make the electricity needed out of solar, wind and other ecofriendly energy sources.