Are Electric Cars Catching Up?

Are Electric Cars Catching Up?

Electric cars are seen by some as saviours on our roads. Their “green” credentials make them an attractive proposition for the environmentally-conscious, as their carbon emissions are virtually zero. But they are still a long way from becoming mainstream for a number of reasons. The mechanics of electric cars differ only by the fact that they are powered by electricity rather than petrol. The problem, however, is range and cost, and until those two issues are resolved, petrol-powered cars will continue to rule the road.

Electric Car

Modern Electric Cars

Many a backyard mechanic has tinkered around with home-made electric cars over the generations. While getting them to work isn’t the issue, giving them a decent range is. Today’s electric cars – and they are available, but they will cost you – are hard to tell apart from their petrol-powered cousins. It’s only when they are running that you notice the difference. They boast all the safety features, standard items and options you expect from traditional vehicles. But rather than fill them with fuel, you plug them into a power point.

Home on the Range

Electric cars have a range of between 60km and 160km before the batteries need recharging. Now you may think that is not far at all, and it isn’t when compared to the range of regular combustion engines. But consider this – most of the time we take just short trips, whether it be to the shops, to work or to visit friends. The average trip distance has been calculated at less than 20km. And most of us will travel a total distance of less than 50km every day. So the range of an electric car actually falls well within our daily commute.

That means electric cars are great for inner city or suburban commuters. Country drivers, however, won’t fare so well. And those of us who like to take long drives will find electric cars an inconvenience, because at the moment there are very few places you can recharge the batteries other than your own home.

Recharging Points

Many owners of electric cars describe the freedom they feel by ignoring petrol stations and simply plugging their car into the power when they get home. That’s all well and good if you bring your vehicle home every night and don’t exceed the car’s range. However, as electric cars catch on, recharging points are starting to spring up. While electric cars are still far from being the norm in Australia, in Europe and the United States their popularity means recharging points are becoming more common. Google Maps has even added recharging stations to its list of searchable services. And you will be surprised to know that in the US alone there are more than 600 Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) locations.

The Future

Electric cars have been developed with supercar-like qualities, with some capable of speeds well in excess of 300km/h. So we don’t have to worry about performance, or functionality for that fact. In Australia, electric cars will only begin to become more widely accepted when batteries can hold more charge and public recharging points are more commonplace. Unfortunately, our wide open spaces mean this is going to take longer than other countries. The cost of these cars is also prohibitive. But as car makers embrace the technology (for example, Holden is looking at electric power for its Commodore range thanks to a Federal Government grant) you can be sure to see more people avoiding the petrol station in the not-too-distant future.

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