Some of you may have seen the film, Who killed the Electric Car (2006), a documentary about the rise and fall of electric cars in the United States. For those who haven’t, you should definitely see it – as much as it is biased, it makes some good points about where our electric cars went. However, a return to electricity-powered cars is coming; hybrids are just one step down that road. The main issues people had with the electric cars of old were the lack of range, problems of recharging and battery replacement, and overall market penetration. For manufacturers, that was the ever-present question – if they made these electric cars, would people buy them? First and foremost is always money. However, to achieve what Obama’s administration has been working toward, freedom from energy dependence and a course change away from eco-damaging energy sources, we are going to need changes on every step of the way: changes in attitude, changes in energy sources and efficiency of transfer, changes in social norms, changes in how we get around.
Perhaps most shocking is the way our society has shifted itself towards personal transportation – commuters going to work are driving cars by themselves, fuel efficiency is among the lowest standards in the world, and there is a general dislike of public transit compared to European nations. EEStor, a Texas based company, is working with Zenn motors, a company devoted to efficient and clean cars, to produce a battery and consequently an electric car able to meet society’s needs. The battery, called an EESU, is a ceramic ultracapacitor, a different technology than our current lithium-ions that address many of the weaknesses of the li-ion batteries. Lightweight, easily recycled, high energy capacity and low recharge time, these EESU batteries are ideal for making electric cars viable.According to company press releases, it would only require $9 worth of electricity for an EESU-powered vehicle to travel 500 miles with zero emissions, versus $60 worth of gasoline in an average combustion engine car (average 22mpg, fuel prices based on 2004 averages). EESUs carry 10 times the power of traditional lead acid batteries without the toxic chemicals and materials. EESUs could very well be the return of the electric car. More on this next week.