I don’t know about you but frankly, I am very excited about the reintroduction of electric cars. I say “reintroduction” because this is not the first time in history that electric cars have been available.
In fact, electric cars date back to the 1880s when a number of entrepreneurs first built cars using lead-acid batteries, a technology that had been around since before the civil war. Electric cars gained in popularity over the next several decades but declined rapidly by the 1920s due to two factors: 1) improved road infrastructure requiring vehicles with longer ranges and, 2) worldwide discovery of large petroleum reserves that made affordable gasoline widely available.
But in more recent times, most everyone can recall the General Motors EV-1, the first mass-produced electric car in modern times. Introduced in the 1990s, it still used lead acid batteries, weighing as much as 1,200 pounds.
Whether or not you believe in the conspiracy theory that big oil killed the proliferation of electric vehicles, the fact is that it was not until the early 2000s that electric cars were once again available.
In the 21st century, Nissan took a bold step introducing their Leaf as the first mass produced electric car. But it was really Tesla that spearheaded the more wide-spread adoption of them by first building a two-seater sports car (essentially an electrified Lotus Elise sports car) and then began producing luxury models. Today, anyone who travels to California will see Tesla models everywhere.
All this talk of electric cars may sound like blasphemy from a self-proclaimed car lover. However, the fact remains that unlike internal combustion engines that can only build up torque as engine speed increases, electric motors provide 100% of the torque as soon as you press the accelerator. And Tesla took this to the extreme with their “Ludicrous Mode”. If you are not familiar with this, just Google “View Ludicrous Mode” to see the expressions on the faces of passengers as the accelerator is pressed.
This torque feature is most exciting for someone like me. I have not gotten to experience it personally in a Tesla, but my son has an electric Volkswagen Golf and my brief drive experiencing the rapid acceleration convinced me this was a car to drive.
The biggest draw back to the electric car has always been what is referred to as “range anxiety,” one of the two main factors that led to their decline in the last century. Early electric models had ranges of just about 100 miles which really limited their usefulness. That combined with the lengthy recharge time made them no competition for traditional gasoline-powered automobiles. But that is starting to change with high speed chargers, more advanced lithium ion batteries, and the recently announced potential by Samsung for a solid-state battery that could have a range of 500 miles and be re-charged up to 1,000 times (that makes for a 500,000-mile vehicle).
So, I as see more and more news reports of companies announcing the introduction of electric cars, it gets even more exciting.
Every major car company has announced the introduction of an Electric Vehicle (EV). Cadillac is following Tesla’s opening with a luxury EV and Porsche is introducing an EV sports car to compete with the Tesla Model S. Tesla is also planning an ultra-modern, cutting age EV pick-up and is testing an electric semi-tractor. And to compete with the Tesla truck, ubiquitous gas-guzzler Hummer is launching an EV truck. Even ultra-high-end sports cars producers are also announcing superfast EVs.
But in the more affordable but still sporty arena, Ford is building an electric Mustang (the Mach-E), a car I would love to test drive. It carries the Mustang name but is actually a 4-door cross-over SUV. I know I wrote recently about all the cars I would never own, but this is an EV that I would seriously consider owning.
Some car makers have even proposed the unthinkable of becoming exclusively an EV manufacturer. No doubt to counter the “Dieselgate” scandal, German producer Volkswagen has announced its entire lineup will be all electric by 2026. Volvo is proposing a similar approach.
With the proliferation of online commerce, I was pleased to see that UPS was planning to replace their ubiquitous brown trucks with EV trucks. Their initial order is for 10,000 of these vehicles. In some cities, you will begin to see these delivering your packages later this year.
But beyond the desire for super-fast acceleration, I recognize that our environment cannot handle the uncontrolled proliferation of gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles. By 2025, many major European cities will totally ban the operation of internal combustion powered vehicles (gas and diesel) within their downtown borders. None of this has been legislated for US cities yet but it could potentially as a Zero-Emission Vehicles Act was introduced in Congress last year that would ban the sale of internal combustion vehicles by 2040.
Often the argument against EVs is they are no less polluting as the electricity to charge them is produced by “dirty” coal or natural gas. Also argued is the lack of an electrical grid that can handle the additional demand. But the fact is that the replacement of the century old incandescent light bulb by first CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Light) and then LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) have quietly reduced total electricity consumption significantly, even in a growing economy. So, the generation capability basically already exists to charge these cars; it just needs to be better distributed.
While an EV may not be for every use, as the ranges getting longer and the recharge times get shorter, they will become a larger and larger proportion of the number of vehicles sold world-wide. If I were still working full-time, I would definitely consider purchasing an EV for my daily commute. But even though I am not commuting on a daily basis, I still might consider purchasing an EV, like the Mustang Mach-E in the future.
So, keep an eye out for more and more EVs on the road. It is exciting to think that my grandkids might actually learn to drive in an EV…
…instead of a gasoline powered engine. And maybe they will offer me a ride in their sporty EV!