Are Electric Vehicles Ready for Prime Time?

Okay, so you are ready to do your part to reduce fossil fuel usage and you are considering an EV (Electric Vehicle). Several manufactures are marketing EV’s, but which one is right for you? Everyone has different driving styles and needs. How far can you go on a 100% EV? How reliable are they? Are there any savings? Some of these questions will be answered below to help you determine if this technology is ready for you.

There are three types of EV’s available. But, are they ready for prime time? You decide.

  1. Dedicated EV- Electric only
  2. Extended EV Electric with gasoline engine
  3. Plug-in hybrids

Dedicated EV is an electric only vehicle. There are four models available or expected out by 2012.

  1. Nissan Leaf is a four-door five-passenger hatch back pure battery electric vehicle. It has an expected range of 100 miles between charges, which Nissan says is sufficient for 90% of Americans. It takes eight hours or more to fully charge with a 220-volt outlet and longer with a 110-volt outlet. The starting price is estimated at $33,600. The warranty on the battery and related hardware is eight years or 100,000 miles. The estimated cost to replace the battery is $18,000. Expected availability is December 2010.
  2. Mini E Cooper is a two-door two-passenger pure battery electric vehicle. It has an expected range of 156 miles under ideal conditions. Most drivers get about 100 miles between charges. It takes approximately 3 hours to charge with a 240 volt 48 Amp outlet or 4.5 hours with a 32-amp outlet. If using a 110 volt 12 amp outlet it takes approximately 26.5 hours to charge. This is a two-passenger vehicle because the battery takes up the entire back seat. The regenerative braking takes a little getting used to, the system kicks in as soon as the driver lifts his foot off the accelerator pedal. This causes the vehicle to begin slowing before the brake pedal is applied. BMW is leasing these vehicles as part of a special program. They are developing a replacement based on the BMW 1 Series, which is due out in 2011.
  3. Ford Focus EV is a four-door sedan based on the redesigned 2012 Focus. The prototypes have a 23-kilowatt hour lithium-ion battery pack with an estimated range of 100 miles. Charge time is approximately 6 hours on a 220-volt charger.
  4. Tesla Roadster first started selling in 2008. It has a price tag of $111,000, it is a two-seater sports car. It is based on the Lotus Elise with a fiberglass body. This car is a rocket, it can accelerate from zero to 60 in under four seconds. It has a range of 245 miles with a massive 53-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Full charge takes 3.5 hours on a proprietary 240-Volt 70 amp charger. It has a very stiff and jarring ride with a very basic interior. It is awkward climbing into the cockpit because of the tall wide sill. The loud battery-cooling fans emit a constant roar behind you. Tesla is developing a lower cost $50,000+ model S sedan expected to be released in 2012.

Extended EV electric with gasoline engine

The Chevrolet Volt is the only model that falls within this category. It is a four-door four-passenger sedan. The Volt does not have a rear bench seat like most vehicles because of the T shaped battery pack. It has a range of 40 miles on electric power. GM states this is sufficient for 75% of commuters. Once the battery level drops below a certain level, a small gas engine kicks in to provide enough electric power to run the electric motor. The overall range is 300 miles before filling the gas tank or charging the batteries. GM says the Volt can run with never being plugged in. However, it will impact the fuel economy. Charge time for the Volt is four hours on 220 volt or eight to 10 hours on 110-volt outlets. The Volt charges faster than the dedicated electric vehicles because it has a smaller battery. The battery warranty for the Volt is the same as the Nissan leaf. The warranty on the battery and related hardware is eight years or 100,000 miles. The starting price for the Volt is $41,000. The replacement cost of the Lithium-ion battery is approximately $8000, which is $10,000 less than the Leaf. The electric motor produces 149 horse power and 273 pound-feet of torque. Those torque numbers are about the same as a V-6 engine.

Plug-in Hybrids

There are no manufactures producing plug-in Hybrids as of this writing. However, there are some aftermarket companies producing aftermarket add on batteries for the Toyota Prius. The extra cost of these add on batteries is approximately $11,000. This added battery boosts the gas mileage by approximately 50% for the first 35 miles. Once the battery is depleted, the Prius reverts back to its regular hybrid operation at which time the fuel economy drops slightly below that of a standard Prius because of the added battery weight. Toyota is field-testing the plug-in Prius for commercial use. There are no expected models for retail customers until 2012.

Some things to consider before purchasing an EV

What are your driving habits? What are the longest distances you will be traveling? When driving a pure electric vehicle; if the battery runs out completely with no charging stations available you will be stranded. With the long charge times, it will take some time to make the vehicle usable again. This is where the extended range Volt becomes more practical. Filling up the gas tank is faster than waiting for the battery to charge.

Using other electrical features like the Air Conditioning, Heating, Lights, Wind Shield Wipers and playing Music; engineers say this can consume approximately 50% of the battery power which will reduce the vehicles range.

Lithium-ion technology battery life is undetermined, however, the eight year 100,000 mile warranty on the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf do give some piece of mind.

Cost savings

An EV costs about.04 cents per-mile (depending on the electric rates in your area). You can compare that to a Toyota Corolla at 30 mpg paying $2.80 per gallon, the per-mile cost is.09 cents.

Government incentives

The first 200,000 EV buyers from each automaker are eligible for $7,500 federal tax credit. There are also some regional incentives; for instance, California will offer an additional $5000 tax credit for “zero emission” vehicles. Check your area for local incentives.

To conclude, there are four 100% electric vehicles available by 2012. One extended range vehicle, which could be zero emission if your driving range is within the available battery level. And there are the more common Hybrids, like the Prius which runs mostly on regular gas but with great mileage and with the future pilot of the Prius as a plug in, this vehicle will eventually fall within the extended range category.

Is the EV ready for prime time? Your driving habits and needs will tell. How far do you drive daily, can you plugin at work? Are most of your driving needs around town? This is where the greatest benefits will be realized. What part of the country do you live in? Will an EV work in your environment? Parts of the country with extreme heat or cold will require more battery usage to heat or cool the vehicle, which will reduce the range. Will this reduce your cost savings?

With government incentives, the cost of one of these EV’s can be reduced to a more acceptable range, keeping the cost closer to a conventional gas vehicle. There are also reduce maintenance costs with an EV, no oil changes and the electric motors are mostly maintenance free.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles Are the Future of the Auto Industry

With the rise in the price of gasoline, more and more people are taking interest in electric vehicles as means of transport. Another major advantage of electrically operated vehicles is that these vehicles offer pollution free means of transportation. Therefore even if 70% of people start using an electrically powered vehicle, we will be free of global warming caused by emission of gases like CO and CO2. There will be almost no instances of cancer caused by pollution.

Electric vehicles are more energy efficient than the contemporary vehicles wherein the electric vehicles operates at approximately 47 percent of effectiveness, while a contemporary vehicle operates at about 19 percent only.

But the electric car which can truly replace a traditional car is still in the conceptual stage as the electric vehicle would need continuous electric power from the batteries. The major disadvantages of present day electric cars are the time period required for recharging the batteries and their limited range

Now, it has almost been a century since the electric car has been popularly discussed, but recent developments in the hybrid electric vehicles technology and the growing concerns for the environment has revived the drive for an hybrid electric vehicles and this has become a realization today

Due to this problem of recharging batteries, a new type of design conceptualized in the minds of researchers and they came out with a solution. The researchers have put forward a new electrical vehicle fitted with on board electric power storage system and means of generating power. The generated power would be stored in the storage system and would be used to drive the vehicle. This new type of vehicle is called hybrid electric vehicle or HEV.

The present day storage system in hybrid electric vehicle comprises of stack of lead acid batteries as these can be charged in parallel with the load. The generating system consists of electric generator powered by internal combustion engine.

Researchers are optimistic about the performance of the hybrid vehicles. They are sure that the hybrid electric vehicle or HEV will be far more fuel efficient than the traditional vehicle powered by internal combustion engine.

The Basic Technical Specification Of RC Electric Vehicles Simplified For Beginners

When you are browsing RC automobiles online and decide to check the details of an RC electric vehicle that you are interested in (let’s suppose it is an high speed on road racing car), this is what you will likely be presented with, if you are on a quality, customer-focussed website, that is:

– SP28404 brushless motor
– SP28405 brushless electronic speed control
– Anodized aluminium centre drive joint
– Compact front/rear differentials
– Suspension arms with adjustable Width
– Anodized aluminium radio tray
– Solid shock towers and front/rear bumper
– High quality on-road tires with chrome sprayed rims
– 7.2v 1100mah Ni-Mh battery power required
– 7.2v 1500mah Ni-Mh battery or 7.4v 1300mah lithium battery pack is optional
– Anodized aluminium motor heat guard
– High duty front bumper foam provides
– Vehicle length: 265 mm
– Vehicle Width: 140 mm
– Height: 80 mm
– Wheelbase: 174 mm
– Track Width: 77 mm (F/R)
– Gear Ratio: 10.6:1
– Ground Clearance: 8mm
– Net Weight: 790g
– Wheel Diameter: 49mm
– Wheel Width: 18mm

How do you make head or tail of this fairly detailed specification for your rc electric vehicle, without it resulting in your eyes glazing over? Help is at hand right here. Let us go through these features one by one and you will be overjoyed with enlightenment.

SP28404 brushless motor
This is the latest, more advanced, powerful type of motor, which is reflected in the overall (higher) starting price of the automobile in which it is fitted. The benefits to you are a potentially speedier, more dynamically efficient RC vehicle, with the added bonus that it should be simpler to maintain. RC automobiles with brushed motors however, are the classic, conventional types.

SP28405 brushless electronic speed control
The RC electric vehicle’s speed is regulated with an electronic speed controller (abbreviated to ESC). This is the component that controls the drive motor mentioned above, together with the general electronics. Most automobiles come integrated with the motor and ESC, but are separate purchases in the more enhanced set-ups.

Anodized aluminium centre drive joint
More commonly known as the RC electric vehicle’s drive shaft, this is the central rod that runs from the front to the rear of the automobile. Being made of aluminium makes it lighter without compromising on the vehicle’s overall stability and sturdiness.

Compact front/rear differentials
A differential is a device that in most cases incorporates gears and is designed to drive each pair of front and rear wheels with equal force, but still allows the wheels to rotate at different speeds. Differentials on good electric vehicles are high performance.

Suspension arms with adjustable Width
The suspension arms provide your RC vehicle with powerful cushioning, as in a conventional car. Being adjustable allows the vehicle to be driven at optimum suspension on different terrains, especially when running over bumpy or rocky ground and when turning corners.

Anodized aluminium radio tray
This is tray that houses the in-built radio receiver in your RC vehicle. Being anodized gives it increased corrosion and wear resistance, making it harder than bare aluminium.

Solid shock towers and front/rear bumper
Integrated with the suspension system, the shock towers provide a damping effect on the overall vehicle suspension.

High quality on-road tires with chrome sprayed rims
The specification for this RC electric vehicle relates to an on road racing car. The makeup of the tires is important here. It is like differentiating between a mountain bike, with its thick, knobbly, high-friction tires and a road bike, with its slimmer, low-friction tires and a less prominent tread. It all comes down to performance requirements on the terrain that the RC vehicle was designed/intended to run on. The chrome rims adds a splash of quicksilver that finishes off the wheels nicely.

7.2v 1100mAh Ni-Mh battery power (required), 7.2v 1500mah Ni-Mh battery or 7.4v 1300mah lithium battery pack (optional)
7.2-volt nickel cadmium batteries are standard power sources, often referred to as battery packs. Although they are identical in size, they differ in capacities ranging up to 3700mAh typically. As the battery pack is extra, it is advisable to go for the largest capacity that you can afford, if you desire more running time (the downside is that you’ll need more time to charge it up).

Anodized aluminium motor heat guard
Unsurprisingly, your RC electric vehicle’s motor will get very hot. The guard thankfully provides protection against heat, which results from high speed running.

High duty front bumper foam
As with conventional, real-world automobiles, the front foam bumper needs to deliver maximum protection to your RC vehicle against impacts.

Vehicle dimensions
Length, width, height, ground clearance, net weight, wheel diameter and wheel width are self-explanatory.
Your RC electric vehicle’s wheelbase will be the length from the leading edge of its front wheels to the trailing edge of its rear wheels.

Track refers to track width, the distance between the center of the left tire and the center of the right tire.

Gear Ratio
This is the relationship between the numbers of teeth on two gears that are meshed or two sprockets connected with a common roller chain, or the circumferences of two pulleys connected with a drive belt.

So, there you have it. We’ve just covered some of the basic technical terms that you are likely to come across when you are enjoying your time shopping for your future RC electric vehicles. Whatever you do, don’t be fazed by these terms – think of it as an educational experience, a journey of discovery that is a part of your enjoyment of RC electric vehicles.