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Plug-in Electric Vehicle Types, Details and TechnologyAn electric vehicle is a car that does not use a form of internal combustion to run, and instead uses electricity to power the motor. Electric vehicles can be 100% battery operated, solar-powered, or plug-in, with rechargeable batteries that are - similar to a cell phone - plugged into an outlet at night to run for the next day.
Because battery life is still the limiting factor for many EVs, they tend to be very small, relatively light, and extremely efficient and aerodynamic. Other economical factors include regenerative braking - where the friction caused by the brakes is actually used by the vehicle and recharges the battery a little bit.
One of the things that sets Electric Vehicles (or EVs) apart from standard automobiles is that they produce very few emissions while running - so few, in fact, that they are considered to be "zero-emissions" by most regulators.
How To Tell EVs Apart?
There are a few things that differentiate one brand of Electric Vehicle from another. Those factors include:
- Number of seats and doors
By "range" we mean the distance that an electric vehicle can be driven before it must be recharged. The i-MiEV can go roughly 100 miles between plug-ins. One of the biggest concerns people have about these cars is that there are so few electric charging stations available out in the public. We understand this "range anxiety", and in the coming weeks, will be providing a list or map of Atlanta area charging stations.
The number of seats and doors is also a differentiator. The i-MiEV comfortably seats four adults, and is a 4-door sedan.
As far as "fun to drive" and acceleration are concerned, most EV's tend to be very efficient at accelerating from 0-30 mph, but less so at going from 30 - 60 mph. They are intended for in-town driving on secondary roads, and are ideal for stop and go traffic. For this reason, the general driving pattern of an EV is consistent with its purpose. However, take a look at the torque and horsepower of each electric vehicle as you compare models to get an idea of how much - or how little - oomph you will have available.
Electric Vehicle Batteries
The final differentiator among brands and types of electric vehicle will be the type of battery used. Without going into the details of how electric car batteries work, we're all basically aware that an electrical charge is created by a chemical reaction inside the battery itself.
Alkaline "disposable" batteries that we use in everyday devices like cameras, toys, and remote controls use the reaction of zinc and manganese oxide. These aren't rechargeable.
Standard Lead-Acid car batteries (the kind in most cars) use the obvious combination of lead and sulfuric acid. This kind of battery was originally invented in the 1800s and has been used in automobiles to power windshield wipers, lights and accessories since the turn of the century. This kind of battery can also be recharged by running an electrical current through it. This is the function of the alternator in cars, and what you're doing when you use jumper cables.
The tricky part is that the battery in an electric car runs everything - not just accessories - so it has to carry a lot more energy for a lot longer period of time. It also has to be rechargeable - like the lead-acid battery - even though there's no motor there to gather electricity from, and people want that recharging to take as little time as possible. But it has to be lighter, and more stable in order to be the sole source power for a car.
Currently, there are three kinds of batteries that can be used to power electric vehicles:
- Lead-acid batteries
- Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries
- Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries
In the middle of the range falls Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. This kind of battery is familiar to most consumers as rechargeable replacements for the alkaline batteries used around the house. A lot of energy can be packed into a relatively small battery with this chemical combination, and it doesn't contain any toxic metals, so NiMH batteries are easy to recycle.
However, because consumers want the greatest range between charging sessions for their electric cars, most manufacturers are using a version of Lithium-ion battery. The
Chevrolet Volt, and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV both use Li-ion technology. These are the same rechargeable, lightweight batteries that consumers use in laptops, smart phones and hand-held video games.
Though Electric Vehicles do not create substantial emissions while being driven, and do not contribute to air pollution or smog, they do still carry an environmental impact, and most of that impact is housed within their batteries. Luckily, these days, the battery of the car is the single most recycled and recycle-able part . Even the batteries in regular cars are recycled more than any other car part!
The other question of environmental impact where EVs are concerned is one of infrastructure. Building and creating electric charging stations at home and for public use will take a great deal of work, raw materials, and the creation of a lot of new "stuff" - which is contrary to the "reduce" portion of the consumer goods triangle. In addition to charging infrastructure, there are also additional tools and supplies required to service, maintain and provide emergency assistance to electric cars.
Electric Cars and Safety
The first question we hear about electric cars coming onto the market is "Are they safe?" So, we wanted to take a moment to assure you that the electric vehicles we sell are safe.
In order to be allowed on the road, all electric cars have to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, pass crash tests, and conform to International Standards for the safety of drivers, passengers and emergency personnel.
One of those ISO 6469 standards includes a protection against flooding. The battery packs are designed specifically to resist any intrusion of foreign substance, and if there is a break in that isolation, the batteries will automatically deactivate.
The other standard requires that the manufacturers of all EVs must follow to ensure that the engine compartments are clearly marked, and first responders can deal with high voltage areas of the car appropriately.
Unlike other small cars on the road, the dense batteries of the EVs give them more weight, which means occupants are 50% less likely to be injured in the event of a collision.
Battery Range, Charging and Infrastructure Considerations
One of the buzzwords we are hearing in the Electric car industry is "range anxiety". It makes some people nervous to think that they can go no further than 100 miles on a single charge when behind the wheel of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.Driving Habits Impact Battery Life
One thing to consider is that certain driving practices will shorten your battery range. Using the air conditioner will reduce the range. Aggressive driving behaviors (fast starts and stops) will also reduce the power available. A long, slow brake will add more energy back to the battery; and a long slow acceleration will draw less juice from the battery. This is because most electric cars are equipped with regenerative braking.
Because EVs are intended to be in-town commuter vehicles, they are meant to be driven in stop and go traffic more efficiently than a long highway drive. The energy created by the friction of the brakes actually sends electricity back into the EV's engine. Recharging an Electric Vehicle
For now, it will be most common for drivers of electric vehicles to recharge their cars overnight at home. While some of the EV models available can be recharged with the regular household 110-120-volt three-prong outlet, many models will require an in-home installation of a 220/240-volt outlet similar to the kind used for an electric clothes dryer. (It would take two of the circuits on your home's breaker box).
Most garages, car ports and driveways are not currently equipped with a 220-240 volt outlet, so you will have to have a licensed electrician install one for you. Federal tax credits should cover a large part of this expense. We will be able to provide more information soon!
There are some electric vehicle charging stations already available in the metro Atlanta area. These include locations at Lenox Mall, Northlake Mall, and the airport. We have a charging station available for Jim Ellis customers at Atlanta Saab on Peachtree Industrial Blvd.
Tax Incentives and Fuel Savings
The Federal government has just announced additional income tax credits to be effective in 2011, but for 2010, consumers who purchase zero-emissions vehicles are eligible for a $7,500 income tax credit in the year of purchase.
In the state of Georgia, the income tax credits can be up to 20% of the purchase price of the vehicle, or $5,000 (whichever is lower). Plus, drivers of full-speed Zero-Emission vehicles are able to use the HOV lanes in busy Atlanta traffic with the alternative fuel license plate. (Please note: for the Wheego low-speed vehicle this tax credit is only 10%, and the alternative fuel plates are not available.)