Alternative-Powered Vehicles pick up steam

Battery power electric cars have been around since the turn of the century but never been the mainstream. The biggest reason is that gasoline has so much energy in a gallon it makes it very difficult to compete against. Think about it, gasoline is convenient, relatively safe, easy to transport and store and huge, huge volumes are available. You can pack a lot of energy in that 20 gallon tank to be able to drive 400 miles. Gasoline is relatively clean also. Gasoline is also the source of energy as opposed to just a storage medium. Crude oil is pumped out of the ground and just has to be refined; battery or hydrogen powered cars have to get their energy from another source such as a power plant driven by water or coal. To say electric or hydrogen cars don’t pollute at all is false, they get their power from the power stations that have their problems with pollution.

Lead acid batteries have been used for over 100 years. They have lots of advantages but is real old technology having lots of limitations.

Nickel metal hydride batteries are used in all hybrid vehicles now. They have the advantage of being able to put out lots of power for short periods of time and also to be able to be charged (energy put back into the battery) quickly. Nickel metal hydride batteries can go through this cycle for years without any ill effects. The down side of these batteries is they are expensive ($3,000 to 5,000) and don’t store that much energy. Put in an electric vehicle, they would only be able to go around 10-15 miles.

Lithium-ion batteries are being used in pure electric cars. They are used extensively now in low powered applications. Laptop computers, cell phones and cameras are just a few uses of them now. Lithium-ion batteries have the ability to store energy better that any other battery used now, can go through the charge, discharge cycle many times making it the best battery we have at this time. OK, now the bad news, they are expensive. The cost just for the batteries in the Leaf for the manufactory is $12-15,000. Yes, they also have a life cycle that is they will wear out.

The only true all electric "mainstream’ all electric vehicles are the Leaf by Nissan and the i-MiEV by Mitsubishi. Other semi mainstreams is the Tesla, made in California. It is a very promising vehicle with a few models. Tesla has the support of Toyota, they are "sharing" technology.

General Motors has a vehicle called the Voit, which really is a plug in hybrid. It has lithium batteries and can drive 40 to 60 miles before the gasoline motor kicks in to get you to where you are going. Toyota Prius came out with a plug in hybrid last month also. It is said to get up to 62 miles before the gasoline motor kicks in.

Both the pure EV (electric vehicle) and plug in hybrid are engineering marvels. The EV has the distinct disadvantage that when the batteries run out of energy, you are not going any farther. It takes 2-3 hours, even with high power charges to charge the batteries to near capacity. EV vehicles are great for around the town driving, charging them at night when the power grid has extra unused energy. For a trip to southern California, it would be difficult. High powered charging stations have been or are going to be built along the I-5 corridor but that means every 60-80 miles, a 2-3 hour charge would be a must.

My prediction is that the plug-in hybrid vehicle will be the most efficient main stay of the motoring community.?

It has the best of both worlds with the least amount of environmental impact reducing everyone carbon foot print.

Also, small high powered, very efficient gasoline engines are being produced with many improvements to boost fuel mileage. CAF, corporate average fuel efficiency is being mandated to increase by our government. Look for much better fuel mileage in newer vehicles.

As I was looking over the past articles I have written, 5 years ago I predicted that the plug in hybrid would become more popular. It was about the time that the hydrogen power vehicles were the talk. I have maintained for the past 15 years, hydrogen powered vehicles would never happen, hydrogen is a very poor way to store energy. Well, they have all but dies from the news.

Written by George Rode


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