What is an all-electric car (EV)?
An electric car is a car that is propelled by an electric motor, or motors, that run on batteries that have “stored” electric energy. The batteries use energy according to the types of driving and the driver’s input (via acceleration and braking).
Electric cars are not a new idea. Crude electric vehicles originated in the 1830s, and the first successful electric vehicle in the United States was introduced around 1890. It was, essentially, a six-seat electric wagon. By the early 1900s, electric vehicles accounted for approximately one third of the vehicles on the road.
But, because of advances in gasoline powered cars, demand for electric vehicles fizzled after the early 1900s. Electric cars were, for a long time, more expensive to produce and they had a limited range. Ford’s gasoline powered model T, introduced in 1908, was a break-through in the mass production of automobiles, selling for around $650 compared to an electric car selling for $1750.
There were few advancements in electric cars until the late 1960s to early 1970s. Gasoline powered cars were dominant because of advances in engine technology and because gasoline was cheap. And, the limited range of electric cars along with their much higher prices, suppressed demand for the vehicles.
Gas shortages, and escalating oil prices, in the late 1960s and 1970s, resulted in manufacturers and consumers to look for alternative sources of energy to power automobiles. In 1976, Congress passed the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research Development and Demonstration Act. This bill authorized the Department of Energy to support research and development of electric and hybrid cars.
There were modest advances in electric cars from the 1970s to the early 1990s. The biggest obstacle was the limited range and top speed of the electric cars. Conventional gasoline engine technology produced much more efficient and cleaner engines, so electric cars drew little interest during the time period.
In 1990, with the passage of the Clean Air Act Amendment and the 1992 Energy Policy Act, coupled with stricter California and Federal Government transportation emissions regulations, manufacturers started modifying existing cars and improving electric cars. Electric cars now had better performance and many had extended their driving range to 60 miles, and, they were now better able to compete with the conventional gasoline powered cars.
The introduction of the Toyota Prius Hybrid in 1997 was the major breakthrough of mass production of electric cars in the United States. In 2006, Tesla Motors announced plans to manufacture an all-electric luxury sports car that would go more than 200 miles on a single charge. In 2010, Tesla received a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy toward establishing a manufacturing plant in California for the sole purpose of producing all-electric cars. In the same year, Chevrolet introduced the Chevy Volt and Nissan introduced the Nissan Leaf. The Volt was the first mass produced plug-in hybrid and the Nissan Leaf is an all-electric vehicle, or EV, meaning that it has an electric only propulsion system.
With the Recovery Act of 2009, The Energy Department invested over $115 million to help build a nation wide system of more than 18,000 charging stations in the United States. The major auto companies, and other private businesses, installed public electric chargers at more than 8,000 separate locations with over 20,000 charging outlets.
The Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office supported new battery technology that improved plug-in electric battery range. Their research helped develop the lithium-ion battery used in the Chevy Volt. Over the past four years, The Department of Energy’s Investment in battery research has directly contributed to 50% savings in the battery costs of all electric vehicles which in turn has lowered the cost of producing all-electric cars (EVs). This has resulted in making the all-electric cars more affordable to the average consumer.
There have never been as many choices of electric cars as there are today: 23 plug-in cars and 36 hybrid models available in all shapes and sizes. Examples are the 2-seater Smart Ed, the mid-sized Ford C-max energy and the luxurious BMWi3 SUV.
With gasoline prices soaring, and the cost of EVs dropping, the demand for all-electric plug-in cars has escalated There are now more than 234,000 plug-in electric cars, along with 3.3 million hybrid cars on the road.
In summary, the all-electric cars are here to stay because:
- There is a nation-wide system of charging stations with many more locations and chargers planned in the near future
- The ability to charge your car, in the the convenience of your own home, using the same 13 amp power supply as your vacuum cleaner or TV.
- They are more affordable.
- They have much longer battery range.
- They are virtually maintenance free.
- They are environmentally superior to gasoline powered vehicles because of their zero emissions. * The future of automobiles is here, now. *
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