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How far will they go?
Typical electric vehicles (EVs) with lead-acid batteries have a useful range of 50 to 90 miles on a single charge, depending on the vehicle. An EV with the more expensive nickel-metal-hydride batteries can have a range of 100 to 200 miles. Prototype vehicles have driven over 300 miles on a charge, under realistic driving conditions.
How fast will they go?
Fast enough to get a ticket. Most commercially produced EVs have an electronic governor that limits the speed to 80mph. Electric racers commonly exceed 100mph. Electric dragsters have turned in times under 10 seconds and over 150mph in the quarter mile. The T-Zero can out accelerate most exotic sports cars. An EV has exceeded 200mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats. How fast do you want to go?
How long does it take to recharge?
That depends on the capacity of the electrical connection used. Commercially built vehicles are generally designed for a charger connected to a 240 volt, 40-amp service (similar to an electric stove or dryer); this will provide a full charge in 4 to 6 hours. An ordinary household outlet, 120 volts, 15 amps, will provide a full charge in 10 to 12 hours.The most common use of an EV is to drive during the day, then come home and recharge overnight. It takes only a few seconds to plug in, in the comfort of your own garage. Then your vehicle recharges while you eat, watch TV, and sleep.Fast charging is really only needed if you are expecting to exceed the range of the vehicle during the day. 15-minute fast chargers have been demonstrated.
Are EVs practical?
For many, if not most people, yes. Studies show that most cars are driven less than 40 miles per day. This is well within the range of a typical EV. Other than the limited range, electric vehicles can do everything that a gasoline-powered car can do.
But I can’t drive it to the beach.
No. An EV is not well-suited to long trips. (Although if there were a few fast chargers at the fast-food restaurants along I-40, you could drive to the beach.) But it is common for a family to have more than one car. An EV makes an excellent second car.
How much do they cost?
At present, EVs are being made in quantities of a few hundred at a time, essentially hand-built vehicles. Their price is typically in $30,000 to $40,000. If made in similar quantities to gasoline-powered vehicles, the price would be similar as well. After all, an electric motor is much simpler than a gas engine.
Won’t my electric bill go up?
Yes, some. But your gasoline purchases will go down by even more. EVs are more efficient than gasoline engines, and cost less per mile to drive.
What about summertime power shortages?
If you charge your vehicle at night, you will not contribute to the peak loads during the after noon.
What about these new hybrids? I hear they are electrics that you don’t have to plug in.
The Toyota Prius and Honda Insight and Civic hybrids are very nice cars, and they get great gas mileage. They use electric motors and a small battery pack to achieve this efficiency. However, they should be looked at as very efficient gasoline-powered cars; the only way to put energy into them is at the gas pump. They are not zero-emission, and they will not go far without the engine running. A pure electric vehicle is even more efficient, and can be recharged from renewable sources like solar and wind. Hybrids are only half of the solution.
What about fuel cells?
Fuel cells are exciting technology. They make electricity from a chemical reaction (as do batteries), and you can continuously feed in more chemicals, so the range of the vehicle is limited by the size of the fuel tank. The primary reaction uses hydrogen, but there are systems that can take a hydrogen-rich fuel such as alcohol, natural gas, or gasoline.But it will be several years yet before fuel-cell vehicles are on the road. Battery powered vehicles can be built today. And fuel cells themselves are not a magic bullet. You still need to provide the fuel to go into the cell.
Can I put solar cells on the car and drive for free?
Sounds great doesn’t it? But solar cells need to be big and flat and slanted towards the sun. The amount of space available on a car is really not very much. The solar power you could collect on a sunny day would be enough to drive only a few miles.A better arrangement is to put solar cells on the roof of the garage and use them to charge batteries.
Can I put a generator on the other wheels and recharge as I drive?
No. Sadly, the laws of physics dictate that there is no free lunch. The generator on the rear wheels would slow the car more than the motor on the front wheels would move the car. (The same goes for windmill on the roof, and other such ideas). What you can do is use a generator to slow the car in conjunction with the brakes; every time you stop you recharge the batteries just a little. This won’t make a dramatic increase in the range of the car, but every little bit helps.
Where can I buy an Electric Vehicle?
Although all the major manufacturers have built a few EVs, none are offered for sale in this area. Most have been made available for lease only, under various restrictions, mostly in California. The manufacturers are being cautious, at best, about introducing electric cars.You can buy used electric vehicles at reasonable prices, though you have to be prepared to maintain them. See the TEAA web page for addresses of these companies and ads for used vehicles. You can also buy electric bicycles and scooters from several vendors.
Can I build one myself?
Yes. You can convert a car or pickup to electric for $5,000 to $10,000 in parts plus about 150 hours of labor, plus the donor car. For very popular vehicles, the Volkswagen Rabbit/Golf and the Chevy S-10 pickup, complete kits are available.
Where can I get more information?
Visit the Triangle Electric Auto Association's website: http://www.rtpnet.org/teaa/There you'll find links to lots of resources.