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July 11, 2012
Between the Lines
Electric cars . . . not so fast . . .
WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) -- If you pay any attention to the automobile world you canít help but be bombarded with all kinds of claims about the electric automobile.
On the surface electric cars are the wave of the future, and the one poll I participated in seemed to bear that out by a margin of about 62 percent in agreeing and 44 percent disagreeing. For the record I disagree, at least not in the present form.
Not to knock it completely, the electricís do cut emissions, less frequent maintenance, are cheap to run, and the federal government is giving out billions in tax subsidies.
On the other hand the manufactures seem to be playing fast and loose with their efficiency claims. The Nissan Leaf claims to have a 100 mile range. What they donít tell you is, that is driving at 38 miles per hour, driving highway speeds cuts that in half. In other words if you plan on going any further than 25 miles you better drive very carefully.
Then there is sticker shock of buying a sub compact that retails for 32 grand, or about 25,000 after federal tax credits, that the rest of us help to pay for.
At the present time finding an independent mechanic to work on it will be a real challenge, especially out here in the sticks. Since these vehicles are still quite rare, parts will probably mean higher maintenance costs.
When is the last time you saw a charging station for these things. I suspect there are a few in the Twin Cities, however I have not seen one yet. Of course you still can buy a home charger that runs on 110 volts but takes up to 12 hours to do a full charge. If you opt for a much larger, 240 volt, charger you can cut that to 6 hours charging time. Those chargers by the way are also very expensive.
Then the real kick comes when you want to replace the battery. You canít go into Wal-Mart and pick up one of these for 79 bucks. Although the manufactures remain tight lipped about the cost of batteries. Industry analysts say the low end might be around eight or nine grand, but could be much higher from a dealer.
Also, these vehicles are not quite as green as one might think. They claim zero emissions . . . from the vehicle, but neglect to say how much pollution will be put in the air by coal fired electric plants.
Then there is the problem of our electrical grid being inadequate at best to sustain even 10 percent more electric vehicles. A lot of push for these vehicles is coming from tree hugging groups that tend to be misinformed on many environmental issues. Sometimes you have to look at the big picture.
There are alternatives ó for over 60 years railroads have been using electric powered locomotives to build one of the most efficient modes of transportation in the world.
Basically a diesel locomotive is powered by electric traction motors that power the steel drive wheels. The power is generated by a diesel engine that produces electricity through a generator.
The formula is there, what more do you need. Scale it down to automobiles, generators could be powered by very small diesel or gas engines to generate the electricity to power the vehicle. Yes, you would still be using fossil fuels, but it could be drastically reduced until something better comes along, like hydrogen, natural gas, or chipmunks.
I am glad we are at least exploring alternative fuel sources, because without a doubt we do have a limited source of fossil fuels.
Have a great week and do good!
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