DRIVING AN ELECTRIC CAR
Electric cars are in many ways similar to gasoline powered cars. They are comfortable, reliable and handle well. Electric cars are very quite. So quite that you can barely hear the motor run, even at top speed. Electric cars are so quite that they can be a danger to pedestrians crossing the street since pedestrians can not hear the car coming. An electric car operator must be constantly aware of this problem while driving in populated areas. Until recently, most electric cars fell into two categories--cars converted from gasoline power, such as a VW or a Chevy Chevette or tiny cars such as my 1975 Citi-Car. In the case of my Citi-Car, I have a normal range in the summer of about 40 miles and in the winter time about 30 miles per charge. With intermittent charging throughout the day, I am able to travel up to 70 miles distance per day. The average driver drives an estimated 28 miles per day. Most electric cars today have built in battery chargers and all that is required to recharge is a long extension cord and plug into a regular 110 Volt home outlet! It takes about 7 hours to fully recharge the batteries. It is possible to greatly reduce the charging time by increasing the charging voltage, however by doing this, the life of the batteries is shortened. The Citi-Car uses eight special 6 volt "deep cycle" batteries. These batteries weigh more then normal car batteries and are designed to endure up to 2000 charges. Under normal conditions, this translates to about two years of use. A set of eight deep cycle batteries can cost as little as $450. When recharging, the Citi-Car uses about the same amount of electricity as a 150 watt light bulb.
ACCELERATION: An electric motor has what is known as continuous torque and therefor has almost the same horsepower at any speed, though an electric motor is more efficient at high rotational speeds. For this reason, an electric car normally has better acceleration from standstill of then the acceleration of a gasoline powered car! The Citi-Car can out accelerate most cars from 0 to 20 miles per hour. The top speed of the Citi-Car is however only 40 miles per hour.
BUT ARE THEY SAFE? There are many different types and sizes of electric cars. Most electric cars are much heavier then they look, due mostly to the weight of the batteries. The Citi-Car for example, weighs about 1600 lbs. Since most electric cars are limited production cars, they are built the same way as most racing cars--with tubular steel frames. As a result, most electric cars are structurally very strong--stronger then most conventionally produced gasoline cars!
NO POLLUTION? No, not exactly. Though the electric car itself does not burn fuel, most power plants use fossil fuels to generate electricity, so we must consider the pollution created at the power plant. It is estimated that an electric car, charging from a conventional fossil fueled power plant, produces less then 20% of the pollution created by a standard gasoline powered car.
WHAT ABOUT SOLAR POWER? With current technology, it is not possible to effectively run a car directly from the sun. So-called solar powered cars are in reality solar charging battery powered cars. The sun is used to charge the batteries. Nevertheless, there have been remarkable developments in the area of solar cells and in the development of ultra light weight solar charging battery powered cars. For example, the GM Sunraycer, weighs 390 lbs, is 3.3 feet high, 6.6 feet wide and 19.7 feet long and averaged 41.6 miles per hour over a total of 44.9 driving hours. The GM Sunraycer is considered one of the most advanced "solar" cars in the world and in 1987 won the Solar Challenge race in Australia--a 1,950 mile race. Other solar cars have attained speeds of over 110 mile per hour.
ARE THERE MORE ELECTRIC VEHICLES OVERSEAS? There are more electric vehicles in the United States then all other countries in the world combined. There are over 40,000 registeredelectric vehicles in the United States (over 15,000 in California alone). Japan, for example, has under 2000 registered electric vehicles.
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