It seems like we might finally be getting to the point where electric cars are beginning to prove their worth as reliable vehicles. For urban living at any rate, there is really no question that an electric car can satisfy every motoring need that a fuel engine vehicle can. All they rely on is an infrastructure of charging stations and they make for the perfect urban car. What has made this possible is the vastly improved performance and life of the lithium rechargeable batteries that power them. With more than enough to time for charging when parked, these vehicles can then be sustained in use for as long as needed.
Yet with the eventual proliferation of electric cars such as the Tesla Model 3 and the Hyundai Ioniq only happening in recent years, questions are arising regarding why it has taken so long for these cars to become truly viable? Li-ion batteries with massively increased capacities and energy densities were first marketed in the early nineties, and just as they made possible the world of complex electronic devices designed to run for hours on a charge, they finally made possible a properly efficient electronic car. But why has it taken until now before consumers are beginning to purchase electric cars en masse?
Why Only Now?
The reason could be expense. The emergence of a new technology is typically well separated in time from the point where everyone can afford it. There is also the matter of how the technology has been refined since its inception and how that has brought the mass use of electric cars closer to a reality. Battery-powered electronics were, on a smaller scale, no different. And the emergence of the Li-ion batteries did not automatically entail the appearance of the technologies we take for granted today, such as USB batteries and wireless charging technologies. Smart battery companies such as Pale Blue Earth have refined and improved what was the at first limited potential of such technology.
The situation was no different with cars and, here too, we did not see the sudden emergence of the fully electric vehicles that are only now becoming widespread. Instead, we had a stop gap technology which “led the way,” as it were. This technology was the hybrid car, which combined a rechargeable electric motor with a fuel engine. But these cars also went through a period of incremental development.
Mild Hybrid Car
A mild hybrid is a car in which the electric motor provides only a supplementary role to the petrol engine. Charged by the engine itself, there is no need to plug in a mild hybrid and so they typically run like ordinary cars, the only difference being an electric motor kicks in during acceleration and saves fuel.
Full Hybrid Car
Full hybrid cars are those which can, under certain circumstances, run on electricity alone. Again, they are operated like ordinary petrol cars, and it is the engine that charges the motor. The difference with full hybrid cares is that when you are slowing down or stationary, the engine is entirely switched off.
To abandon the internal combustion engine entirely, it was always going to be necessary for electric cars to be plugged in. The “plug-in” hybrid car still has an engine, but it can travel significant distances with that engine entirely switched off. These cars require the same network of charging outlets that powers today’s electric cars, and so we can consider it the final stop on the way towards the fully electric car.