The electric car has been around for a long time. In the late 1930’s Robert Anderson (A Scottish inventor) built the first crude electric carriage. Over the years the car has been improved to a point where it could be a practical mode of transportation for many people. One of the main reasons we don’t see many on the roads is because charging a large number of electric cars will require huge upgrades to the nation’s infrastructure
SolarCity and Tesla Motors hope to change the amount of electric cars on the road by installing solar-powered car charging stations in Rabobank locations along California Route 101. These quick charging “gas stations” delivers up to 70 amps (240 volts) of electricity which would charge a Telsa Roadster in about 3.5 hours. SolarCity has also installed over 100 in home-charging stations throughout the state.
The Beautiful Earth Group, a solar and wind farms company started last year, has paired up with BMW and the mini, to build solar charging stations in the Red Hook, Brooklyn area. These stations are truly “green”. Built out of recycled shipping containers the station can provide enough energy to charge the Mini E in three hours. Lex Heslin, chief executive of Beautiful Earth, claims two firsts: He got the keys to the first electric version of the Mini Cooper in New York and his company is operating the city’s first solar E.V. charging station.
Silicon Valley based company, Coulomb Technologies, have been building charging stations around the world since 2007. Their recent partnership with Envision Solar has allowed them to integrate their ChargePoint technology into a “solar grove” at Dell headquarters in Round Rock, Tex. This system provided 131,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, and doubles as shade for 56 parking spaces.
With the environmental issues we face today, solar charging could become big business. Ideally, solar charging stations will be connected to the grid so they can feed electricity back when the power is not needed for car-charging. When the sun isn’t shining, cars can be charged on grid power.
Automakers will be receiving $220 million in tax credits to help develop battery packs for hybrid and plug in hybrids vehicles. The credits, which include $100 million for battery manufacturers and $120 million for battery pack assembly, are designed to benefit Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Dow Chemical Co.
Ford plans to move production of battery packs from Mexico to southeastern Michigan and to invest up to $500 million to assemble hybrids and lithium ion batteries there. “This is huge,” said James McBride, vice president of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. “This is the rebirth of the auto industry in this state.”
Despite the recent excitement over electric cars, the National Research Council thinks that it will be a few decades before we see hybrids in “meaningful numbers”.
President Obama’s goal of 1 million plug-in hybrids on U.S. roads by 2015 seems like a good idea for the environment, but is it really possible?
With new advances in battery technology, electric cars can go almost 100 miles on a charge. And for those who fear being stranded with a dead battery miles from a plug in, there is a gasoline engine as well. This range should be enough to suit up to 80% of U.S. drivers on the road. With federal government incentives for EV buyers, such as tax credits of up to $7,500 for buyers of the first 200,000 vehicles from each manufacturer, this could be true. According to Jason Wolf, an executive at Better Place, a Palo Alto firm aiming to provide charging services for plug-in drivers. “Over 70% of major manufacturers have some kind of mass plug-in coming in the next two years.”
This however, involves a huge change to the nation’s electric grid infrastructure. People charging cars in their garages may need to upgrade their home circuits, which often requires permits, building inspections and other headaches. Neighborhood upgrades like new transformers would also be needed. These upgrades would be expensive, and in the interest of encouraging electric cars, the utility companies would most likely pay for it through our electric bills. In the end we need to ask ourselves, “Would the emissions released by the utility companies making extra electricity really be less than the emissions from the car itself?”
Coda Automotive, a company based in Santa Monica, California plans to have a battery electric car on the market in the fall of 2010 in California only. It’s will be about the size of a Honda Civic and will cost about $45,000 minus a federal tax credit of $7,500. The lithium-ion battery will be manufactured in China, but Coda hopes to eventually build their batteries in Enfield, Connecticut. Coda plans to market their cars mostly on the internet.
General Motor’s has been building a new facility in Brownstone Township. This facility is where GM employees will weld together T-shaped packs for their batteries. The batteries are lithium ion batteries that will come from South Korea. Developing batteries is an important step for GM in its quest to become a leader in electric vehicles. This will be the first lithium ion battery manufacturing facility in the United States.
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General Motors said today that their Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle (extended range) will get approximately 230 miles per gallon in city driving. This number has not been confirmed by the Environmental Protection Agency, who is currently working on a new system for calculating fuel ratings for cars that can travel long distances powered only by electricity. It ultimately will have a lot to do with the battery charge.
The Volt will be able to get up to 40 miles on a battery charge, and then the gas engine will kick in and recharge the battery. The battery can also be charged by plugging it in for an eight hour period. They are scheduled to be released it in 2011.
Nissan finally unveiled its new electric car, the “Leaf”. Nissan and Renault plan to mass market the vehicle. Both companies believe that the pure electric car is the vehicle of the future. Nissan has said that the vehicle should be available, in the states, the latter half of next year.
Nissan is returning to Yokohama, the city where it started in 1933, after having spent the past 41 years in Tokyo. They believe this to be a new chapter for their company.
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A couple of months after Daimler bought a 4% share in Tesla Motors they have turned around and sold 40% of their share to Aabar Investments of Abu Dhabi. Tesla Motors located in San Carlos, California makes high performance electric cars and is the only electric car maker with vehicles that can go for long distances. Their Roadster is the first electric-battery vehicle to go more than 200 miles per charge. Tesla Motors was given $465 million in loans from the US Department of Energy to speed up in the production of fuel efficient, affordable electric vehicles.