The world around us is evolving all the time with driverless cars looking to shape the future of transportation over the next few years. But before we reach that next milestone in motoring technology – what’s the deal with these infamous electric cars everyone seems to be talking about
A shocking discovery that changed everything
Back in the early 1800’s, A French physicist who went by the name of Gaston Planté successfully designed the lead-acid battery, which would be classed as the first viable means of storing rechargeable electricity onto a vehicle. Over the years it would undergo improvements and the world would eventually witness the birth of the first ever combustion engine. Quite a step up from the 100 years or so before of relying on steam and coal to get us from A-B! However, the first ever practical electric vehicle was actually made in London in 1884 by a gentleman called Thomas Parker, who was also responsible for electrifying the London underground!
Fast forward to 2004 where Tesla began development on the ‘Tesla Roadster’ – an all-electric, right-hand drive, sports car that first became available to the general public in 2008 for a whopping £86,950! Since then many manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon in a bid to create the next economical, low-emissions and high performance vehicle that still keeps the comfort and reliability of a standard diesel or petrol car.
What is the difference between hybrids and electric cars?
There are 3 types of electric cars on today roads, and not all of them are pure electric. Parallel PHEV Hybrids (Parallel Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) such as the Toyota Prius run on a combination of the two. An electric battery is the primary use of power but there is also a backup combustion engine that kicks in when the battery dies, so rather than being stranded it should give you just enough time to get to an outlet to plug in and charge up.
Then we have a slight variation of the one above called a Series-PHEV (Series Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) which is pretty much exactly the same thing, the only difference being with the Series Hybrid is your foot is always connected to the electric motor! But both of the above still rely on fuel.
Finally, we have the BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) the most environmentally friendly out the three, and the one manufacturers are striving to get more people driving on the roads. BEV’s solely rely on the electricity stored in the battery pack to charge the electric motor, in turn this powers the wheels. Once the power is depleted, it requires being plugged into a wall socket or dedicated charging unit before it can get going again.
So there’s a bit of history and technicality behind the electric car and the types that are now available today. Aside from the obvious benefits and affects they have on our environment in terms of tail pipe pollutions and reducing our overall carbon footprint. What other advantages do electric cars have?
Is the electric car worth all the noise – or lack of?
If you go for a BEV based vehicle –
- They let off 0 emissions so you are exempt from fuel tax.
- Incur very low maintenance costs as there are no oil filters to change, coolant reservoirs to top up, or brake fluid compartments.
- Recharging the cars is much cheaper than the cost of fuel. (For example, models like the Nissan Leaf (30kw-hr, 112mpg), 19kw will get you as far as 100miles for 68p whereas petrol will cost around 96.9p a litre to get you that far!)
- No congestion charges to pay
- Cheaper to lease on finance than a standard car
- Government grants in the UK & US for going ‘green’
- FREE PARKING (in most places)
Now the downfalls… It’s safe to say there aren’t many! The main fear would be running out of juice half way through a journey where there is nowhere to charge up! This is why it is recommended to keep a spare battery in case of emergencies. The only problem is the batteries themselves aren’t cheap to come by and you could be looking at a few thousand £’s even to replace the battery in your car. But the good news is they usually keep for up to 10 years! So, it still probably works out cheaper when you think about how many MOTs and services our current cars have to go through in that time! In the next few years hopefully most petrol stations, car parks etc. will have the facilities to simply plug in and charge up no matter where you are, so this fear and worry of running out of power half way to your best mates wedding should be eradicated! 😉
This dude sums up the electric car perfectly!
RIP gas guzzlers – the green kids are born
So there we have a general overview of the electric car. We can see the benefits and the very few disadvantages. But will many people take the leap and leave behind our beloved and trusty combustion vehicles, for something which could be a revolutionary improvement to how we get around? Maybe if the entire world became acceptant of BEVs now, that may leave room for a more relaxed attitude towards the driverless cars expected to hit our roads in 2020! But only time will tell!