Nothing in the history of the automobile compares to today's frantic effort to breathe life into electric cars and hybrids.
In the following slideshow we've gathered together 15 images, which touch recent developments emerging from the auto industry's ongoing efforts in alternative power train technologies. Our vehicle choices range from Toyota's hybrid gas turbine concept car of 1969, to polished production hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius and Ford Explorer, to backyard electric conversions, such as the drag-racing Crazy Horse Pinto. Our emphasis is on the delivery of electric power, with or without a gasoline counterpart.
Click the image below to view a slideshow of alternative energy vehicles:
Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive is an evolution of the hybrid powertrain that powered the game-changing Toyota Prius. The Synergy Drive replaces a traditional geared transmission with a drive unit that includes an electronic continuously variable transmission. The system allows power to be split between the wheels and an electric generator. (Photo courtesy of Toyota)
To keep up with our Chevy Volt coverage, go to Drive for Innovation, and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller. On his trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is driving a Volt across America to interview engineers.
Ivan is proposing a "financial" solution to help promote the introduction of the electric car.
However, I believe that any technology that requires "financial help" is suspect.
And the electric car confirms this. The energy required to build an electric car, the power grid and power plants, has no energy pay back, and the emmissions of all these investments are many times over the CO2 emmissions savings in the future and happen during the initial investment period.
We (as a nation and as a planet) are facing many challenges and it certainly is making for some interesting times! Electric cars are certainly one of the areas of interest - principally because they are part of the bigger conundrums - our ever increasing need for energy, for transportation, etc versus limited sources for energy and a increasing awareness of many tradeoffs that need to be made (e.g. global environmental changes).
One of the pluses to electric cars (outside of the inherent 'coolness' factor) is that electricity is a good common denominator between energy sources (e.g. coal, nuclear, solar, wind, natural gas) and a inherently mobile energy consumer (i.e. the vehicle). So no matter how the electricity is generated, it can be used in the vehicle.
Yes, I would still love to have an electric car. Although I would certainly need an auxiliary engine on board for a long cruising range.
"I'm a bit disatisfied that we've not yet travelled to the stars?"
Well, sorry, we don't have time to do that, and we have real work to do down here. As for electric cars, they've been trying to get battery energy density and recharging speed closer to the performance of fueled vehicles, and still lag way behind. Sure would be nice if somebody came up with a fuel cell that would take liquid fuel, so we could use existing infrastructure and not need so many batteries.
I consider myself a proponent of electric vehicles however there seems to be a lot of new hydrocarbon sources. One book I studied indicated that no matter what happens politically with the AGW issues, the world is going to use all available hydrocarbons. Coal oil and gas will be burned to create the energy we need to fuel the electric power plants and provide the fuel for our cars.
Battery technology is almost ready to give us the same range and convenience we expect from our gas fueled vehicles but it will still be a few more years. Until then, we might have some hybrids, some vehicles powered by apparently abundant natural gas and some electric vehicles.
It seems the transition to electric might never be complete and the availability of cheap hydrocarbons will extend the life of vehicles with these fuels.
If we assume for the purposes of discussion that electric vehicles are much better for most drivers, the economy and the environment perhaps the best way to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles is to raise the hydrocarbon costs significantly. Anyone for extra taxes on gas to promote electrics?
I think Astrobuf summed it up aptly when he said engineering fads come and go, regulatory mandates change, interest rises and then wanes--it's the lack of consistency that makes perfecting EV technology so elusive.
Then again, if you look at how far the Internet and information technology sector has advanced in 25-plus years, it's crazy to think we can't enjoy similar progress on the EV front. Again, it boils down to lack of consistency and focus. Well said.
Beth: About 100 years ago, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford are said to have decided they would lick the electric car battery problem within five years. We're still waiting...There was a great article about this last year in Wired.
As an Electrical Engineer, I really like the idea of an electric car. But I agree that making a serious reduction on atmospheric carbon should start with replacing coal as an energy source. Two approaches come to mind which could offer costs competitive with coal, on the order of a penny per kiloWatt-hour. These are fusion and Space Based Solar Power. Both have serious challenges, which are well discussed elsewhere (for example, see Wikipedia). My point is that such a low cost energy source will make it economical to synthesize gasoline using Carbon extracted from atmospheric CO2, thus making gasoline (and other transportation fuels such as Diesel and jet fuel) carbon neutral. This allows continued use of the extensive existing liquid fuel infrastructure, as well as taking advantage of the greatly superior power and energy density of liquid fuel over electric batteries. So, there is currently a brief window of opportunity for electric car advocates to grab some market share before a true solution to the energy problem enables the synthesis of carbon-neutral transportation fuels and lets us keep using these marvelously effective combustion-powered vehicles. Ultimately, I think the proportion of transportation provided by electric propulsion in the 21st century will likely be about the same as in the 20th century (which is a lot more than most people realize, but still relatively small).
It's been 40 years since we went to the moon, I'm a bit disatisfied that we've not yet travelled to the stars?
Technology development takes time and a consistent market. We've had no consistent market in the automotive world. Fads and trends come and go. Government mandates this and that. It's gettign harder to keep one's eye on the ball as expectations become more outrageous as the populace of the US become less and less technically knowledgable and the consequences of failure become more and more punitive to companies.
Even now, it seems that early adopters are signalling their boredome with cars such aa the Cehevy Volt, I am concerned that our daliance with EV's will fade and we'll be buting Hummers once again soon.
Perhaps we could see an analytical version that would help people understand the fundamental misconceptions of the electric car (EV). There is no question that the EV will serve to shift from oil to coal, and that has merit related to geopolitical energy issues. It might offer economic advantages to motorists, depending on the whims of electric price regulators.
However, it will not accomplish the reduction of CO2 which is often advertised or implied in connection with electric vehicle promotions.
A constructive analysis would recognize the economic reality of marginal response to new loads, which will generally fall to coal fired generating facilities, given the available reserve capacity and nearly dirt cheap fuel. Thus, the CO2 released in burning coal is the relevant global warming consideration. Quantifying this CO2 using actual efficiency numbers for the various generation, transmission, controllers, battery effects and electric motor efficiencies could be an objective of great importance in an article that would supplement this present slideshow.
A general fact is that the heat engines used in coal fired power plants run around 31% efficient for the United States. When this is taken into account in calculating equivalent MPG (MPGE) the idealizations of electric vehicles show to be falsely promoted by the EPA and their formula for that MPGE parameter that is officially approved for the window sticker presented to potential buyers.
This official formula asserts that a gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 33.7 kWhr of electricity, which it most certainly is when making heat from the electricity, but most certainly is not when making electricity from heat. The lie is important because it misleads by a factor of roughly three. This destroys the meaning of the CAFE standards, since electric vehicles count in the averages as about three times higher MPG than a similarly efficient hybrid.
We looked at a number of sources to determine this year's greenest cars, from KBB to automotive trade magazines to environmental organizations. These 14 cars emerged as being great at either stretching fuel or reducing carbon footprint.
Healthcare might seem to be an unlikely target application for the Internet of Things technology, but recent developments show small ways that big-data is going to make an impact on patient care moving into the future.
A quick look into the merger of two powerhouse 3D printing OEMs and the new leader in rapid prototyping solutions, Stratasys. The industrial revolution is now led by 3D printing and engineers are given the opportunity to fully maximize their design capabilities, reduce their time-to-market and functionally test prototypes cheaper, faster and easier. Bruce Bradshaw, Director of Marketing in North America, will explore the large product offering and variety of materials that will help CAD designers articulate their product design with actual, physical prototypes. This broadcast will dive deep into technical information including application specific stories from real world customers and their experiences with 3D printing. 3D Printing is