Monday, January 3, 2011

Electric Cars Going Mainstream This Year

Nissan & Chevy are just now beginning delivery of their electric cars.

An electric car had actually been introduced at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair by Ferdinand Porsche. The car broke speed records and had a range of about 30 miles. Later he combined the electric drive with an internal combustion engine, creating the "System Mixt." a gasoline-electric hybrid that broke more records. A century later the first electric-gas hybrid vehicle was introduced to the US in 1999 by Honda with it’s Insight, followed the very next year by Toyota’s Prius.

Some consumers had expressed “range anxiety” about electric cars. “Range Anxiety” is the concern that an electric vehicle will run out of power with no recharger nearby, or that the driver may need to wait hours to recharge away from home.

How is Range Anxiety being addressed?

1. More EV charging stations.

There are three levels of EV chargers. Level 1 and 2 power the internal charger.

  • Level 1: 120 volts & charges in 11 hours.
  • Level 2: 240 volts & charges in 6 hours.
  • Level 3: 480 volts in under 30 min.

The Nissan Leaf can take all three levels. The GM-Volt can take level 1 and 2.

How do you find a EV charging station?

2. The EV batteries have increased capacity.

The Nissan Leaf website says that “depending on the conditions, when your battery is new your range may vary anywhere from 138 - 62 miles.” For the majority of drivers, that battery capacity will handle the commute to and from work with stops for shopping, even without charging.

3. EV with gasoline engine - a safety-net

The GM Volt’s approach is all-electric power to wheels with a small internal combustion engine that GM calls an “emergency generator” to the batteries. Since the battery-only range is about 25-50 miles (depending on conditions) , the gasoline engine can increase the range to about 400 miles.

4. Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)

PHEVs have the ability to drive on batteries only, after charging, with a full-size engine that can be used after the batteries are depleted. They will be coming to Ford, Toyota, Volvo and Peugeot showrooms in 2012, with BMW, Mitsubishi, and Volkswagen in 2013.

Google has tracked a fleet of Hybrid and PHEV vehciles for two years, getting over 100 mpg in the city. See the details.

5. Swappable batteries

Drivers go to a “switch station” which swaps their low batteries for a fully charged ones. The swap is faster than refuelling at a gas station. Will auto manufacturers standardize their batteries and access?

Much of the innovation is coming from Silicon Valley, and we look forward to reporting it. Please send insights and news items to

As published by Larry Holser on


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