Whatever Happened to the Electric Car? What if you could drive your car across the country on a single tank of gas? What if you could own a car that


Whatever Happened to the Electric Car?

What if you could drive your car across the country on a single tank of gas? What if you could own a car that virtually had no emissions. What if you could get a $7500 tax credit from the Federal Government just for purchasing one of these cars. Guess what, you can. The electric car has been resurrected! Its new name is "EV" (electric vehicle) and some of the models that will be brought to market in the next few years (as early as 2011), will have close to 300 horsepower, 0-60 acceleration in under 4.0 seconds, and price tags up to $109,000, ($101,500 after the tax credit). We are not talking about the hybrid car that currently exists, but a life-size battery operated - engineered - roadster.


The Tesla Model S high-performance electric vehicle.

What is an EV?

Unlike a gasoline car powered by an engine, an EV is powered by an electric motor and batteries stored inside the car. When the batteries need recharging you simply plug the car into a 120 volt or 240 volt outlet from the convenience of your home. Most EV owners charge their cars overnight, others may give their batteries a boost by charging after short trips.

There are approximately 4,000 EVs on the road today in the US. Many of those are conversions made from existing cars such as Geo Metros, Ford Escorts, Volkswagen Rabbits, Hondas and trucks like the Chevy S-10 and Ford Ranger. The others are purpose-built vehicles built in small quantities by several companies throughout the world.

* No exhaust or emissions test
* No tune ups
* No more messy oil and antifreeze changes
* Totally silent operation
* Costs 60%-75% less to operate.

Depending on driving habits and terrain, a typical EV averages 40 to 70 miles per charge. Approximately 85% of the cars in the US are driven less then 20 miles a day. Today, the needs of many two car families can be met with one of the cars being an EV.

Because EVs are so quiet and peppy they are fun to drive. Most EVs today can outperform their gasoline cousins. The GM EV1 will accelerate from 0 to 60 in under nine seconds. A modified version of the GM Impact broke the land-speed record for EVs in 1994 with a top speed of 183.8 mph. Handling characteristics in an EV can be comparable to that of a gas car.

History of Electric Vehicles

EVs appeared shortly after 1830 when Joseph Henry invented the first dc-powered motor. Thomas Davenport is credited with building the first practical EV In 1834. In 1847 Moses Farmer built a two-passenger electric car and in 1851 Charles Page invented a 20-mph electric car. Gaston Plante paved the way for early electrics when he built a "rechargable" battery in 1859. In 1899 EVs captured world attention when Camille Jenatzy's "Jamais Contente" set the first land speed record of 66 mph in a streamlined vehicle powered by two 12 volt motors. The first distance record was set in 1900 when the BGS Company's electric car was driven 180 miles on a single charge.

By 1912 there were 34,000 electric cars registered in the U.S. and almost 50 companies producing electric vehicles from 1895 to 1920. Popular models of the time were the Baker and Detroit Electric. Women liked the electric cars because they didn't need to be cranked and doctors prefered them for their reliability.

Although the early gasoline-powered cars were noisy and often broke down, their range was better than that of electric cars. The demise of the electric cars came in 1912 when Charles Kettering invented the electric starter. The Model T revolutionized mass production and gasoline was plentiful. The Golden Age of the gasoline-powered car had begun.

The Golden Age lasted for almost 50 years into the 1960s, however it produced a golden haze in the sky which raised concerns about air pollution. GM began work on thier Electrovair, a converted Corvair, and Ford began development of their sodium-sulfur battery. However, the manufacturers couldn't financially justify the costs to push the technology especially when Americans were interested in muscle cars. Visionaries and hobbyists continued where the manufacturers left off and converted their own individual cars. In 1967 the Electric Auto Association was formed.

The oil crisis of the 1970's caused another wave of interest in EVs. Ford continued development of their sodium-sulfur battery and Chrysler teamed with GE to work on the ETV-1 program. GM began work on their Electrovette, based on the Chevette. At the same time many independent EV companies began to appear such as Sebring/Vanguard. This small start-up company produced 2000 CitiCars and was at one time the 5th largest automaker in the U.S. Many CitiCars still exist today.

As we enter the next century the EV will become a predominant people mover in our society. The final outcome of this transition towards EVs as a viable means of transportation is an environment that will be healthier for future generations to enjoy.

The age of the EV has finally arrived, again.



photo: Wikipedia, CC

Car Sharing in the Big City

by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada

Car sharing is rapidly growing in popularity, but many people still aren't quite sure what it is, how it works, and how it compares to other methods of transportation. How expensive is it? Do you have to pay for gas? What if there's no car when I need one? What about insurance? Where do you park it when you're done? Is it really better for the environment? Does it save you money? Is it available in my area?

The first thing you need to know is that car sharing is a type of car rental. What makes it different from traditional car rental (Hertz, Enterprise, etc) is that it is designed to be convenient for people who want to rent cars for short periods of times (a few hours) and only pay for their usage (you are billed based on how long you have a car and the distance travelled).

Another difference with traditional car rental that makes car sharing more practical for people who don't own a car is that it allows you to access a car at any hour, not just business hours. And because the cars are spread around town in reserved parkings, chances are there's one such parking close to where you live, making it easy to walk to it.

Whether you will save money with car sharing is highly dependent on your usage. For some people car sharing will be the cheapest option, for others it will be car rental, and for others it will be owning a car. Zipcar, a big North-American car sharing company, has some online tools that can help you estimate how much money you could save by using car sharing.

So how does car sharing work in practice? It's pretty simple, really: First, you need to figure out which car sharing operator(s) operates where you live, if any. The easiest way is probably to just do a Google search for "car sharing" plus the name of where you live. If you are in a big city, your chances are pretty good. If you are in a rural area, you're probably out of luck. Once you have found a car sharing service to join, you need to determine what conditions they put on membership. If we look at the biggest operator in North-America, Zipcar, we see that they require member to be at least 21 years old and to have a valid driver's license (they run a driving record check, so if you have a history of reckless driving, you might not be able to get in). If you meet the requirements, it's as simple as filling out the online registration form and picking a rate plan.

The Future of Car Sharing
The world is rapidly urbanizing and in the future most of humanity will live in cities. At the same time, billions of people will want more personal mobility. If we do things right, our cities will be designed in ways that make them walkable and bikable, and fast and efficient public transportation will provide the majority of trips. Car sharing can complement these means of transportation. It works better in densely populated areas (ie. cities), it works better for people who have other ways to get around most of the time (ie. for the daily commute), and it is less expensive than owning a car, especially in a city. It looks like the future is bright for car sharing!

Article courtesy of: Treehugger.com


Photo: Flickr, CC


Photo: Flickr, CC



Zipcar iPhone App Makes Car-Sharing even better (as long as you don't abuse remote honking)


Images: Zipcar


proSeed's picks: environmental news


pod cars at heathrow airport in London (source BAA ltd).

Two Billion Cars and the Hope of Zero-Emission Vehicles
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General Motors to Increase Chevy Volt Production Output by 50 Percent - Owing to strong interest shown by the public in the General Motors Chevrolet Volt, which is an electric car, General Motors plans to increase U.S. manufacturing output of its vehicle by 50%, to 45,000 units from 30,000 units in 2012....read on

Jay Leno’s garage: a lot of EVs - The fact that comedian Jay Leno has a serious collection of cars in his 17,000 square-foot-garage in southern California may not surprise fans, but his soft spot for electric and hybrid vehicles most likely will turn a few heads...read on

Pod Cars Start to Gain Traction in Some Cities - Is the pod car finally ready for prime time? After almost 50 years of trial and error, these futuristic personal rapid transit systems, or P.R.T.’s, may be coming to airports and city centers because of technological advances and a growing interest in sustainable transportation...read on


proSeed is a journal of environmental finance, owned and operated by DFD Capital. proSeed is a weekly publication which reports on the environmental finance space. In future journals we will continue to provide compelling information, relevant news, interviews with industry professionals, and a whole lot of other interesting material. Please enjoy and feel free to contact me with any comments, questions, or ideas that you may have regarding environmental finance at dd@dfdcapital.com.

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