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Electric Car Report
An ongoing update of the state of Electric Vehicles

Let's face it: Gasoline-powered cars are a gigantic problem. They pollute, they keep us dependent on foreign oil, and when gas prices go up, they cost a fortune to drive. The problem is, oil is found only where on earth God put it, and He happened to put a lot of it in the Middle East. But what's the alternative?

You could go with Hydrogen, either direct injection into your engine, but Internal combustion Engines of the Piston Variety don;t like this fuel so well, since the hot and cold areas get mixed and cause issues. Alternatively you could use Hydrogen by way of a fuel cell to make electricity for an electric drive train. Two Problems there: One - You can't just pull up at the Exxon station and say, 'Fill her up with hydrogen! Two - it takes about 4 times the amount of energy to first get the Hydrogen in a usable form, and then make the electricity to power an electric motor to move you compare to just charging Batteries to power the Electric Motor!

The public's perception of the electric car is going to get a big makeover, and it's going to start with the Tesla electric roadster. It goes from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds. You plug it at night, and the next day it can go 200 miles on a charge. There's no gas tank, no tailpipe, no oil changes and certainly no boredom.

Martin Eberhard co-founded Tesla Motors with a bunch of software and engineering experts who had no car-design experience. As a result, Eberhard says they weren't held back by conventional wisdom. "I thought we should build a car that's actually better than those gasoline cars, a car that people want to drive," he said. "So that it doesn't require some great leap of altruism on the part of everybody suddenly to break our addiction to oil."

Electric cars don't produce any pollution or greenhouse gases, but some worry that they will shift the pollution to the power plants that burn coal when making electricity. "If you do the math, you'll find that an electric car, even if you use coal to make the electricity, produces less pollution per mile than burning gasoline in the best gasoline-powered car," Eberhard said.

But if you do a little more math, you might get a little electric-car sticker shock. This radical innovation doesn't come cheap. The Tesla starts at $98,000. At this price it compares comparably favorably with sports cars that have this kind of performance. Actually, the Tesla handles like a sports car and can go quite fast.

So why does it take a Silicon Valley startup to reinvent the electric car? Why can't Detroit do it? Actually, it can. Bob Lutz is vice chairman for Product Development at General Motors. The Chevy Volt electric is his baby and it won't cost $100,000.

"My personal target still is to bring this car into the market at, you know, nicely below $30,000," Lutz said. (Ed. Note: that was 2007, $40,000 is closer to the 2010's Price) The Volt can run for 40 miles on a battery charge, which GM says is enough daily range for 82 percent of the population. But for longer trips, the Volt also has a tiny gas engine that recharges the battery as you drive.

"That engine never drives the car," Lutz said. "It's not hooked up to the wheels. Think of it as a portable generator that gets your battery back up."

GM has a few issues though - skeptics like Vijay Vaitheeswaran may have a hard time believing that these cars are the solutions. "I would watch very carefully what GM actually does," he said. "The country saw a small moment of hope, you know, for electric cars for zero emission vehicles in the '90s, when California saw GM produce the most aerodynamic production car ever made. It was called the EV1. And it was very popular amongst those who could get their hands on it."

You can see the end of that sad story in the documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" Filmmaker Chris Paine was the director. "In the 1990s, California told car companies that they had to put electric cars on the road," he said. "It took about eight years for a variety of industry interests to kill these mandates. And as soon as they killed them, the car companies took the cars back and destroyed them. And people were very upset about it. In General Motors' case, they took the cars out to Arizona and they secretly crushed them all."

Today, Bob Lutz admits that crushing the EV-1s may not have been the best way to conclude that experiment. "Now, it turns out that from a PR standpoint probably the dumbest move we ever made," Lutz said. "It was done for all the right legal reasons, but PR-wise it was dumb. So, now I'm getting e-mails saying, 'I hope you rot in hell.'" But Lutz says that this time, GM is dead serious about the electric car.

"Will it live up to its promise of 40-plus mile electric range?" Lutz said. "Will the battery last ten years? Can we bring it in at a price that most people could afford? If the answer is 'yes' to all that, then I think the future for electrics is absolutely unlimited."

Of Course - the Tesla - without all the constraints of a large, lumbering giant - has made it to the roads first, and has - as of February 2010, sold over 1,000 Roadsters. And - now that they have delivered such a quantity - they have alos ventured into a new era themselves: Leasing! You no longer have to put down your money and wait for your car for two years like the first 100 buyers did, you might not even have to wait 3 months, as the offered such a short waiting period just last fall! Now, for just $1,658 a month, you can be behind the seat of a Top of the Line, brand new, High performance, Non-Polluting, 2010 Tesla Roadster or Tesla Roadster Sport two-seat Convertible!

That payment gets you 30,000 miles over a three-year period. There's also the minor matter of $12,453 due at signing, which includes a $9,900 down payment, the first month's lease payment, and $895 for something called an "acquisition fee". As usual, the lessee is responsible for tax, title, license, registration, and any other local taxes or fees that may apply.

Just like buyers, lessees can have house calls by Tesla's mobile service squad, known as the Tesla Rangers. They do annual inspections, upgrade the car's firmware, and perform any needed maintenance--at a cost of $1 per mile from the nearest service location, roundtrip, with a minimum charge of $100.

If you have your heart set on a Tesla Roadster, leasing could give you a better way to get behind the wheel--which, we admit, is huge fun--if you don't happen to have $109,000 or more lying around. The number to call is 650-413-6300.

While the National Post Cars section these days is big on more powerful gas powered vehicles - Nissan is quietly preparing to flutter in with its own Leaf!

To Quote them:
"Nissan Leaf is Nissanís first zero-emission electric car, entering select markets in 2010 and launching globally, including Canada, in 2012. Don't confuse it with a hybrid or any other type of gas-powered, eco-friendly vehicle. This is electric Ė 100%. That means it burns zero gas and produces zero emissions. But this is no golf-cart. Off the line, Nissan Leaf performs like a V6. Plus, thereís room for five, and it comes with all the quality, reliability and versatility youíve come to expect from Nissan cars."

So - you may have to wait a bit, but - it's coming! And - if you don't want to rent a Gas powered Vehicle or Hybrid for your summer trips, you might be able to get the Chevy Volt sooner! (They are tageting 2011 for delivery!)

While you are looking for OEMs to start making and delivering your shiny new Electric Car, might I suggest you also take a look at Electric Car Conversion ideas as a way to get your hands dirty, exercise your brain some,and really learn what makes an Electric Vehicle work.

You can begin by looking at my overview of E.V. Conversion steps, and follow this up with a look at some of the available Conversion Manuals. When it comes to Electric Vehicle Conversion in Canada, and shops to do it - there is a fairly limited number at present. I have listed a few electric car conversion providers in my links. The Electric Vehicle Society also has a list if you want more - diy electric vehicle conversion

An Ongoing Development, written and updated by Robert (electricman) Weekley
CBS News - Sept. 16, 2007: Could The Electric Car Save Us?
Green Car Reports.Com
Green Car Reports.Com - Feb. 25, 2010: Don't Have A Spare $109K? Now You Can Lease a Tesla Roadster

For some interesting polls on Electric Vehicles, Performance, Range, Cost, etc., Please check out these four pages on my site to enter your votes:
Charger; Controller; Battery Boxes; and Conversion Steps.

For The Responses to these polls as at August 14th, 2009, please check out my article on the polls.

For more EV News and electricfly updates - check the Blog Frequently.

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