Electric Cars

English: A Tesla Roadster, Reva i and Ford Th!...
A Tesla Roadster, Reva i and Ford Th!nk electric cars parked at a free parking and charging station near Akershus fortress in Oslo, Norway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all have to drive and many of us must drive quite a bit. Urban sprawl and suburban development have insured miles upon miles of roads ready for commuters and miscellaneous traveling. The improvement of manufacturing and relative decrease in price has enabled many people to own personal cars. The overwhelming number of cars (812 cars per capita (1,000 people) in the United States) understandably leads to road congestion and pollution.

As early as 1997, hybrid vehicles have been available for purchase all over the world. Hybrids run on both gasoline and electricity, meaning they have higher gas mileages (40.4 mpg) and reduce gasoline use. Hybrids were the only relatively sustainable transportation option available for personal ownership for many years.

Even more recently, fully electric vehicles have appeared on the market. Since they do not have internal combustion engines, they do not contribute to air pollution and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. No tailpipes means no emissions of volatile organic compounds, particulates, hydrocarbons, ozone, lead, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide. Avoiding gasoline entirely reduces weekly fuel costs and perhaps lessen dependence on foreign oil, especially in the United States.

Electric cars have ranges of about 100 miles per charge, depending on the battery. Conventional gasoline engines use only 15% of the energy content and diesel engines can reach efficiencies of 20%, while electric vehicles have efficiencies around 80%. Electric motors are more efficient at converting stored energy into driving, and they do not consume energy while at rest or coasting. Regenerative braking captures as much as 1/5 of the energy that is usually lost when braking.

Electric cars are even popular at the federal level, where President Obama has pledged to bring one million electric vehicles to highways by 2015. He also developed a 2.4 billion dollar grant to develop batteries for electric cars and this combined with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 has led to loans enabling automakers to retrofit their plants to make fuel efficient and electric vehicles. U.S. citizens are eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7500 when purchasing an electric car.

Electric cars very well could be the way of the future. Rising fuel costs have helped prompt manufacturers to improve and develop new technology and the more cars purchased and used. So the next time you consider your transportation choices, think electric.

For more information, visit the Department of Energy.


By Alanna Scheinerman, Class of 2013.

3 Replies to “Electric Cars”

  1. Hi, JH. You are correct that 110V outlets work just fine for electric cars, as opposed to installing fancy charging stations. So far, we have taken requests on a case by case basis to find convenient solutions for our customers. We are happy to accomodate these requests. If you work for the University and would like to explore your options, please let us know so we can assist you further.

    Amy Kadrie

  2. If the University really is committed to “going green” why not install electrical outlets at strategic locations in the parking lots for electric vehicles? These could be located near dedicated parking spaces for such vehicles. Most e-vehicles (mine included) use regular 110V outlets so a ‘charging station’ can be nothing more than a weather-protected normal outlet.

  3. No tailpipe does not mean “no emissions of volatile organic compounds, particulates, hydrocarbons, ozone, lead, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide.” What’s not seen here are the emissions from generating the electricity used to charge the vehicle. And what’s not seen here are the rare earth metals like dysprosium and neodymium that must be mined and processed for batteries… What’s more is that most of these rare earth metals are being sourced from China. Do electric cars reduce our dependence on foreign rare earth metals? This of course, makes broken assumption that “dependence” on “foreign stuff” is a bad thing…

    “…electric vehicles have efficiencies around 80%.” According to the Wikipedia article cited, that’s an on-board efficiency of 80%. What’s not counted here is the power station’s efficiency, as well as the efficiency losses from transmission and distribution of that electricity, and the efficiency losses in AC to DC conversion and charge discharge.

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