Imagine a car, which moves silently… There is no gearbox, clutch, and exhaust system. It doesn’t consume gasoline and the only emissions come from the stereo system. It is a driver’s dream and a nightmare of oil sheikhs – it’s an electric car. Despite the fact that for decades it has been considered to be the future of motoring, it is still easier to meet some electric vehicles on the auto shows than on the streets. But now chances are that this situation will change in the near future.
The need to reduce the CO2 emissions is now understood not only by environmentalists but also by the governments of many countries and car manufacturers. That is why the time has come for the electric vehicles to enter the markets. Unfortunately, most of the electricity that they use still comes from coal-burning power stations which emit carbon dioxide, but those cars are still more environmentally friendly than petrol and diesel vehicles. Additionally, the plan is that more and more energy will come from natural renewable resources, such as sunlight, wind or tides.
The electric motor is ideal for powering cars. It is light, cheap and reliable, but it has one disadvantage – the electricity is difficult to store. The batteries are heavy and cannot accumulate as much energy as gasoline. Therefore, the limited battery capacity is currently the reason of the biggest drawback of electric cars: short range. They can go 100 to 150 km on a single charge which is much less than in case of petrol vehicles. But do we really need more? Studies show that 90% of drivers in the United States travel less than 50km a day as they use the cars mainly for commuting and shopping. The electric cars can cope with those tasks easily.
The good sign is that many well-known manufacturers, such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault, Honda, or BMW, have already launched some electric vehicles onto the market or are going to do so soon. There are also companies, like Tesla Motors, which focus only on producing electric vehicles. The Tesla vehicles are actually sports cars and their slogan is: “burn rubber, not gasoline”. The company proves that electric cars can be not only environmentally friendly but also fun to drive.
As far as governmental help is concerned, many countries started to invest in infrastructure. Most electric cars can be charged at home, using standard sockets, but there may also be a need to quickly charge the vehicles in the city. Some power plants have already been installed in the United Kingdom as a part of the world’s largest ‘real life’ electric cars trial. Electric vehicles are also welcome in Australia and the first fast-recharging plants are installed in the city of Perth. To encourage drivers to buy electric cars, some countries are offering rebates. For example the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board plans to provide refunds of up to $5,000 per new zero-emission or plug-in vehicle. The British citizens can expect subsidies of £5000 and exemption of electric vehicles from company car tax for several years. Governments of Japan, China, Canada, and France also have plans to help in the introduction of electric vehicles.