These also have many potential benefits. First and foremost is the reduction in the emission levels of the car. Pollution has been a bane, adversely affecting ecology as well as making it uncomfortable for everyone who has to live with it. Through almost zero tailpipe emissions, green house gas release into the atmosphere is reduced. Along with it, the dependence of any country going for electric cars reduces its dependency on foreign nations for its fuel supply which directly affects the state of economy. Moreover, electric motors have relatively high conversion efficiencies of up to 75%as compared to IC engines which convert only 20% of gasoline energy at maximum.
Despite of the promise of greener pastures by the electric car, it is yet to enter the automobile mainstream. It faces several hurdles and limitations in being adopted by all and sundry. First factor that backs people off such an alternative is the initial cost of car. The main component of this cost is the battery pack. With mass production, it is expected that the rates will decline. But investments on expectations are highly risky and not many people want to take such a leap of faith. Other factors are the lack of public infrastructure to overcome the ‘range anxiety’, where a driver fears that the battery might just run out before reaching home and there is no charging point around. Most of the electric vehicles are not capable of high speeds.
As of 2011, there are only a few highway-capable models available in the market. Electric cars are aimed at reducing the use of fossil fuels. But this makes us think that where does the energy to produce electricity come from? Many power plants still rely on fossil fuels to operate their boilers. Thus complete migration would only be possible only when there is a huge investment to replace the existing infrastructure and its dependence on fossil fuels. Most people would be plugging in their cars to recharge at night when it is not in use. This could also cause potential load problems on the electric grid. Also, the batteries would charge using the conventional 220V sockets and hence would take all the more time to recharge. A possible solution to this would be to have a smart energy plan where the charging would be done on ‘Level 2’ 240 Volts charger rather than the conventional 120 V chargers, reducing charging time and for this, a large load would be given to the grid. Fuel cells offer much promise on many fronts like weight reduction, increased battery performance and life, capacity etc. and are an area of active research. Hydrogen as a fuel would reduce the harmful emissions to zero and is quite abundant.
Several countries like US, UK and China have pledged federal grants for electric cars and batteries to hasten up the process. Local governments offer tax credits, subsidies and incentives to reduce the purchase price of electric cars. Many European Union member states provide tax reductions and exemptions for people going in for purchasing electric cars. Many companies like America Electric, Commuter Cars, ElBil Norge, Fly Bo, Global Electric Motorcars (GEM), Modec, REVA etc. have been rolling out various electric car models. The influence has been such that even IC engine car manufacturers have started to manufacture electric car variants. Some of the common names are Toyota, Hyundai, Mahindra, Honda, Chevrolet, Nissan etc.
Despite of all the marketing strategies and all the push being given by the governments to popularize electric cars among the people, not everybody understands the importance of switching over to alternative energy solutions right now. And the scenario is expected to remain so until the manufacturing cost is brought down and the performance is brought up to the level where they can directly compete with the gasoline cars and outdo them. This all rounds up again to the weakest link in the electric car manufacture chain, the batteries. But we’ll need to understand the need, if not for us, then for the generations to come. Electric car is one such investment!
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