Once the embodiment of a seemingly far-fetched future, electric cars are on the brink of becoming a mainstream reality. However, as their turn in the spotlight moves closer, questions continue to surround their impact on the environment.
Arguably the main reason electric cars have gained momentum in recent years is that they are seen as a green solution – a way of not only reducing our dependency on oil, but a way of driving down carbon dioxide (CO2) and other harmful emissions. However, now reports suggest electric vehicles are unlikely to ever offer a viable alternative.
Bad news electric car fans, one respected industry publication thinks we’re all barking up the wrong tree.
An investigation by E&T Magazine suggests that long-term limitations in battery technology could restrict electric cars to under a 100-mile range-while rapid charging could limit the battery life to two years.
Published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, this month’s issue of E&T magazine features the details of the institute’s investigation, which it says raises serious questions about the viability of investing into the production of EV batteries using lithium-ion or any other current technology. The Institute is concerned that the millions required to build supporting infrastructure for electric cars would also be a poor investment, suggesting that the Government would be better placed to encourage the development of high efficiency diesel models and hybrids.
With other studies hinting that consumers may resist switching to electric cars until their overall performance more closely matches conventional models, limits in battery technology are forcing manufacturers to restrict plans for electric car models- with no solution apparently on the horizon.
So are electric cars the future or not? Our verdict
While the points raised in the E&T article are valid, in our opinion they fail to take into account the bigger picture.
Electric cars are not the fundamental solution for all environmental issues. Costs, initially, are likely to be prohibitive, as is the lack of charging infrastructure, and yes, the limitations of battery performance and range. There’s no denying too that despite being marketed as zero emission vehicles, electric cars will harm the environment if the electricity they use is sourced from non-renewable energy – although whether this surpasses the impact of even the cleanest petrol and diesel cars is open for debate.
Nevertheless, what electric cars do represent is part of the short term solution and potentially a much larger part of the long term solution to our environmental and transport needs. Over the next five years chances are that uptake will be relatively slow but electric cars with a 100mile range, or even much less, will offer a desirable alternative and a vastly cheaper recharge cost for the sort of short journeys that are covered by the majority of the population.
In the long term, prices for electric cars and their batteries should fall as the technology becomes more widely available. Similarly, greater investments are being made in renewable energy – and as wind, solar and biomass is used to generate power, the negative impact of electric cars will be greatly reduced making them significantly more environmentally friendly than even the cleanest internal combustion engines.
Unfortunately, the E&T article wields the sword on electric cars based on how they appear today and ignores their potential in the future. Technology will progress; and with some electric cars already achieving a range in the region of 250miles (such as the Tesla Roadster), governments pouring funds into battery research and renewable energy becoming more widely available, electric cars should prove to be a viable and desirable alternative.
A London hotel is set to offer electric cars for hire to its guests free of charge.
Base2Stay in Kensington is to offer its customers up to four hours of free hire of an Citroen EV’ie throughout the summer, Travelmole.com reports.
The car, supplied by rental firm, Move About, will then be hire out for out at £4 per hour, £20 for a half-day or £30 a day from October 1, 2010 when the hotel ends its freebie offer. Even so, this apparently works out cheaper than bike hire for the family.
The car can be re-charged for free at the hotel too.The EV’ie is based on the Citroen C1 and seats up to five people. It has a 60-75-mile range, a top speed of 60mph and a full charge time of six to seven hours.
The car is also exempt from the city’s congestion charge and qualifies for free parking in many areas.