A few years back, during a big gas price spike, electric vehicles (EVs) were all the talk. Now, in the midst of a gasoline price rollback, much of that talk has subsided.
Nevertheless, automotive engineers are quietly working on advancing the technology. For most consumers, the “range anxiety” of EVs is still an issue. The thought of running out of power before one travels 100 miles is hard to get used to when most gasoline powered vehicles will go 400 miles on a full tank, and electric/gasoline hybrids have a backup power source.
Yes, expensive brands like Tesla have state-of-the-art batteries and power systems that offer increased range, but the Tesla’s price range does not fit average consumer budgets. More economically viable plug-in, rechargeable electric vehicles still have difficulty surpassing a 100-mile range. If you like to use things like wipers, headlights and heaters, you may be caught well short of the 100-mile goal.
But the work to overcome that shortcoming continues. Renault recently announced their ZOE model at the Detroit auto show, and touted a 400 KM (249 miles) range per charge. That’s some exaggerated French optimism, however, according to a Nissan executive who claimed the range is based on extremely generous European driving cycle testing, and that real-world driving would yield only three-fourths of that distance. That’s progress, though, since it’s nearly double the range of early version EVs.
The 2017 model Volt, which is actually a gas/electric hybrid, touts a 420-mile range with a full charge and a full tank of gas. Pure electric miles, sadly, are only claimed to be 53 miles. Its starting sticker price is $33,220.
Other manufacturers are working on a second wave of EVs, too. When the first wave of them hit a few years ago, manufacturers found that the number of consumers willing to tolerate low range and high prices was very limited. So now, range and price are driving research and development, with improved models aimed at a new group of potential buyers.
Volkswagen, for example, recently debuted its I.D. electric concept car that brand chairman, Herbert Deiss, said will sell for the “mid-twenties” and have “more than a 250-mile range.” He also claims that VW will have 30 EVs in their lineup by 2025. Newly proposed models, like those of VW, are chasing the market that Tesla will soon open with its Model 3, which is projected to sell for $35,000 and boast a 215-mile range.
Rumblings at Google and Apple also hint at development of EVs there, but they are not the only entities and factors spurring EV research. Tightening worldwide emissions regulations are threatening to “choke” internal combustion power in the future. Alternative, cleaner, electric and hydrogen engines will inevitably come forth to address compliance with those regulations.
For automakers to continue to offer gasoline-powered engines, they will need some zero-emission products in their lineups for corporate averages to meet new standards.
For certain, manufacturers from General Motors, to Ford, to Mercedes-Benz are all paying attention to EVs again. Daimler CEO, Dieter Zetsche said, “We’re ready for the launch of an electric product offensive that will cover all vehicle segments, from the compact to the luxury class.” GM’s Opel Ampera-e has supposedly tested to have a range of 300-plus miles.
It may not be long after all before we see several EVs offered as suitable alternatives to gasoline powered automobiles.
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