Are Electric Cars Finally Here?

In honor of the Chicago Auto Show, I thought I would write about the possibility of electric, and perhaps other energy-efficient cars, making an appearance in car showrooms sometime soon.

We’ve had the technology for electric vehicles for decades, but as it was explained in the excellent documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? lobbyists and big business usually win, not the environment.

So, why electric? You’re probably asking “Electricity uses coal, which is bad for the environment. Aren’t we putting more carbon into the air if we’re using electric cars?” In reality, no, electric cars are better for the environment. Because electric cars are more energy efficient, we are putting less carbon in the air, which in turn, saves the environment. Electric cars are Zero Emissions Vehicles, or ZEVs. Also, electric cars are just plain quieter and safer because there is no gas on board, which means no chances for an explosion if you’re even in an accident.

So, who were some of the key players and what did they showcase at this year’s auto show? Of course there was the Chevrolet Volt, General Motors’ (GM) first plug-in gas/electric car. According to GM, the Volt  is an “‘extended-range electric vehicle,’ because it has, in effect, two different drivetrains: an all-electric one (battery and motors) that drive the car for the first 40 or so miles after a full plug-in recharge, and a gas-powered hybrid system (with gas engine and fuel tank) that automatically takes over after that to give about another 300 miles of range. At that point, the fuel tank can be filled just as in a normal car to give another 300 miles of range. If the car can be plugged into a wall outlet, the battery can be fully recharged in about 10 hours on normal 120-volt household current, or four hours with a special 240-volt charging station. ”

The Volt is expected to see a limited production in 2011 with availability only in California, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Texas.

Other electric cars showcased at the show include the Nissan Leaf, which is first pure electric car offered to for sale to the United States mass market, Volvo C30 Electric, Ford Focus Electric, Ford Transit Connect Electric and the Mitsubishi iMiEV.

Maybe with the high interest in the Volt and other cars means that our society is on track for reaching zero carbon emissions by 2050 — one can only wait and see…and hope.