Automotive Possibilities: Electric Is Still Alive (But Is It On Life Support?)
People may talk a lot about being Green, but when it comes to motor vehicles most people like their vehicles powered at least in some way, shape or form by fossil fuels. The once promising all electric car market is shrinking fast. In the UK hybrid and electric vehicle sales dropped by fifty per cent between 2011 and 2012. In the USA Chevrolet sold just 16,348 units of their hybrid Volt between January and October of 2012. 2011 sales for the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, Mitsubishi i and Toyota Prius Plug-In totaled less than 10,000 units.
When it comes to electric vehicles, the problem has always been and remains power. Batteries are expensive, wear out rapidly and do not provide the same vehicle performance as fossil fuel powered vehicles do. Hybrids are more popular, but also suffer from battery issues and hassles. Apart from the current crop of electric cars and their batteries, the real problem is an unwillingness on the part of auto makers to go back to the drawing board. The KAR GT electric is a case in point.
KleenSpeed Technologies has been trying to get their KAR electric on the road for what seems like forever. They finally have a prototype that is cruising around the streets of San Francisco, but their final product remains a long way from the showroom. By partnering with a Chinese company, KleenSpeed hopes to be able to bring their electric to market sometime in the near future. Although the KAR GT is not much of a looker, Iím sure that someone would be willing to buy it at a planned price tag of under $10,000. However, the battery would have to be rented for another $715 a month which would be a game changer for most people on a budget.
Right now electric cars are less of an innovation and more of an expensive way to allow auto manufacturers to appear to be riding on the environmentally concerned Green bandwagon. At least that is the way things appear. However, how much sense does creating batteries which could take tens of thousands of years to break down in the environment make in terms of thinking Green? I still cannot figure that one out. I also cannot figure out why at the price of keeping a relatively small number of consumers happy, auto makers are wasting development money on electric cars which are too expensive, generally impractical for normal road use and unpopular among most auto buyers?
Hybrid vehicles were suppose to be the stop gap, breakout sales stars between gas and electric. Sadly, they have not lived up to all the hype. Instead, many are mired in pricing issues and other problems which have lead to lackluster sales worldwide. The truth is that hybrids like the Toyota Prius have proven to be reliable and easy on overall maintenence costs. That all changes when the owners have to replace the battery or parts of it. Individual battery modules cost around $140 each for those who may only need to replace some of them, but new batteries cost around $5000.
Auto manufactures rightly point out that electric and hybrid car research and production is actually just the first steps to what we all hope will be some type of hydrogen or other fuel cell powered vehicles in the near future. The problem that I have with that is auto makers have been talking fuel cells for decades and not one that actually works has been successfully tested for a production car model. Why should environmentally conscious people or anyone else dump thousands of dollars into electric and hybrid cars when they can just buy a bicycle and peddle around town on that while the true believers in fuel cell technology get it right?
A Green lifestyle is great if it can be lived. Years a go I helped a struggling church in a large metropolitan area of the USA get back on their feet financially by implementing some ideas that today would be thought of as Green. I replaced oil heat with natural gas, showed them ways to stop over illuminating areas with bulbs that wasted electricity, replaced old insulation with modern materials, locked outside water access off to anyone but church workers and managed to cut their utility bills by nearly $500 a month. I was able to do that because I used some common sense solutions and available technology to solve those problems.
Most auto makers are not interested in being Green by using common sense gas-saving solutions and technology. Instead, they have become mired in the electric and hybrid craze; A fad which is costing more than it is making in terms of sales and ultimately helping to pollute ground water by stuffing chemicals and materials from huge used batteries into already over burdened land fills. There are many things that each one of us can do every day to save energy, money and live environmentally conscious lives. What we should not have to do is respond to what some tell us is Green by purchasing vehicles that have been proven to be environmentally damaging and overly expensive without providing any real benefits to us or the environment.