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What are Electric Cars?

What are Electric Cars?

The electric vehicle (EV), or, more colloquially, ZEV electric car, is gaining traction as a viable alternative form of personal transportation, and remains just out of arms’ reach as a mainstream way to get around. The cars run on energy stored in large packs of batteries instead of the more conventional internal combustion engine, making them very attractive to those concerned with using less oil and causing fewer greenhouse gas emissions. When driving, they don’t emit any carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas, nor any nitrogen oxide or other smog-forming compound. The first electric car to be commercially available in the US, General Motors’ EV1, is pictured above, and much was made about who killed the electric car; keep reading to get the scoop on whodunit.

Before we dive in to the EV1, a little context: historically, EVs have had issues with high battery costs, limited travel distance between battery recharging, charging time, and battery lifespan, which have limited widespread adoption. Ongoing battery technology advancements have addressed many of these problems; many models have recently been prototyped, and a growing handful of future production models have been announced. Toyota, Honda, Ford and General Motors all produced EVs in the 1990s in order to comply with the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, which was later defeated by the manufacturers and the federal government.

The EV1 was back in the news in 2006 with the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” , a look at the development, limited commercialization and subsequent death of the car amid rumors of conspiracy and control from oil companies and the government. Though the car never achieved widespread use, the car was an important step forward, representing proof that such cars were technologically possible and viable with few modifications to the current transportation infrastructure.

Thankfully, there’s a new generation of electric cars and vehicles here to pick up where the EV1 left off; keep reading to learn more about the Tesla, better battery technology, and more. New electric vehicles: powered by better batteries. Since the “death” of the EV1 and the development of battery chemistries better suited to power something as large as a car, there have been big claims from a growing number of manufacturers about bringing EVs to the market.

Tesla Roadster: leading the electric car “charge”
Not least of these is the Tesla Roadster, pictured above (read the latest on Tesla here). Offering gaudy numbers like 0-60 in 4 seconds, the equivalent of 135 miles per gallon, more than 200 miles per charge and a price tag hovering around 0,000, Tesla’s hot-rod looks and performance have become the poster child for the next generation of EVs, and several other manufacturers have thrown their hat into the battery-powered ring as well.

Between them all, they offer a wide variety of styles, levels of performance and price; after Tesla’s two-seater sexiness, Miles Automotive Group’s XS 500 (pictured above) represents the sensible family sedan under ,000 and Phoenix Motorcars offers an electric pick-up truck. All offer the zero-emission (while driving, at least) alternative and the ability to get up to a couple hundred miles per charge while achieving highway-like speeds. Though these examples were developed to be driven like conventional cars, they excel at the shorter, commuter-type trips that dominate much of our driving these days. And, of course, the prototype caveat remains: none of the above cars has come to market, leaving a question mark on their true performance and viability until they show up at a dealership near you.

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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