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Are you feeling sparky about electric cars?     

                                    February 2011  

Are you feeling sparky about electric cars?

Electric carsMost people have heard of electric cars these days, but it has been a slow grow and stories of electric cars being able to go only 10 miles before recharging, or only reaching 20mph top speed, still abound throughout the community.

As with many developments, new ideas and improvements for electric cars have been coming steadily over recent years and now seem to be reaching a state where perhaps we ought to know a bit more about them.

The Coalition Government has recently set up a “Plugged In Places” scheme to start a national network of electric vehicle recharging points, so obviously the idea of electric cars is now beginning to take a real hold.

Cars are polluters; we all know that burning fossil fuels results in sending out great wafts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Whether we believe this is seriously affecting our climate or not, it can’t be an ideal situation.

“Green” cars have been developed to cause less impact on the environment, mainly with reduced or nil emissions plus using less or nil petroleum to fuel movement. A range of environmentally friendly cars are under development including hybrid cars, hydrogen cars and solar cars as well as electric vehicles.

Electric cars certainly do seem be gaining a foothold and the two most surprising things about them are that from the outside, it is difficult to see any difference between an electric vehicle and a traditional petrol fuelled car, and also electric cars are virtually silent.

An electric car gets rid of a traditional engine with its complex arrangement of lines and pipes and instead is wired up. Electric cars can run on AC and DC motors that are similar to those used in a fan or a compressor. Power from the batteries is mediated by a controller device that determines how much power should be delivered to the main motor that drives the wheels, i.e. determining the speed of the car. An accelerator pedal, as in normal petrol cars, is used to determine the delivery level of current.

The big problem used to be ensuring the batteries could last long enough to deliver reasonable driving time. Today a new generation of batteries have been developed including nickel metal-hydride and lithium-ion cells which provide considerable improvement in both performance and range.

Today an electric car can reach 100 miles or more although current commercial models, especially those being built for inner city driving, are designed to reach a maximum of 50 mph. Driving an electric car is quite different though – there is no clutch pedal so it is more like driving an automatic car. The biggest difference is that there is minimal noise, although as you pick up speed some engine noise can sometimes be heard. Some drivers say it can take a bit of getting used to, to be driving along while listening to the sound of the wind and the tyres rather than an engine!

Charging an electric car is also improving all the time. There are generally two different ways to do this; overnight charging which can take up to 8 hours; or fast charging which can take as little as 20 minutes or less.

Charging is an area that is progressing fast and as we mentioned at the beginning, the government is now involved in lifting the level of recharging points. Once this is done, it may well give many people more confidence in choosing an electric vehicle.

One of the main setbacks at the moment is the cost – buying an electric car is still quite high but costs are coming down all the time. When you look at the history of computers, and see what the early models cost, it will give some idea of what may happen to electric cars in the future.



 

Nutricentre Discount for laterlife visitors If in any doubt about any of the information covered in health and nutrition related articles and it's relevance for you, consult your GP.

 

 



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