In the 1970s, futuristic shows tried to imagine what electric cars would look like.
Given the battery technology of the times, they were invariably enormous tank-like vehicles with most of the engine space taken up by battery, which increased the weight, demanding even more battery power… One of the alternatives was solar power, but again, the power demands would have meant cars driving around with immense flat plates sprouting from the roof of the vehicle like poorly designed wings – far too big and unwieldy: and highly unlikely to allow for much in the way of performance and speed. For many years, it was thought that while the idea of electric vehicles was a great one, there was no way for it to come to fruition.
Mobile Technology Goes Mobile
With the advent of smartphone technology, which insisted upon – and made available funding for research and development of – drastic improvements in battery technology, there was a sudden plethora of small but very powerful batteries on the market. This battery technology, once perfected, was easy enough to convert to use for a vehicle, and the first commercially viable electric autos were soon rolling off the production line.
Even with the advances in battery power, the first electric vehicles were quite limited. The cars had to be small and lightweight, they could not travel very far, and they were neither speedy nor sporty. Charging stations were few and far between, as no one wanted to commit thousands to stations that might be made obsolete in a few months, should electric vehicles not retain their already quite meagre popularity. Despite this, they were perfectly adequate for short commutes, of the sort undertaken by hundreds of thousands of people every day, the school run, trip to work, visits to supermarkets and retail outlets. However, there was a feeling that electric vehicles – in fact, the whole green movement – was a bit sissy, quite unmanly and generally undesirable. This attitude persisted for an astonishingly long time, even after more widespread understanding about climate change and the harm humans have wreaked on their own habitat. For example, look at all the Prius jokes that proliferated in the early 2000s.
Meeting Halfway: the Hybrid
Hybrid cars were introduced as a good alternative, having an electric offering, but with the option to burn fossil fuel if necessary. This gave the vehicle excellent fuel economy, allowed for an almost limitless range between charges – in fact many hybrids use kinetic energy from the braking system or the running of the combustion engine to recharge the electric battery on the go. There are some hybrids that can be charged from an electric power point – it depends on the manufacturer as to whether an electric charging point is included on the vehicle.
Perfecting the Electric Car
With over twenty years of research and development, electric cars today are a status symbol as well as offering green kudos to their drivers. An electric car’s range is still rather less than a fuel car, but it is much closer in performance, speed and range, being easily able to dominate against smaller, lower range, fuel-powered vehicles.
Independent Charging Points for Improved Travel Range
As electric cars have improved, service stations, car park operators, and some malls and airports have installed electric car charging stations, making it even easier for drivers of electric vehicles to get about. Another massive improvement is in charging times. Instead of having to find something to do for several hours, an electric car’s battery can be topped off with enough power to get the vehicle a hundred miles or so in just thirty minutes – time to use the facilities, enjoy a cup or tea or coffee, and back on the road without having lost a lot of time
Home Charging Points
Having the ability to do your own charging at home is an immense boon to the owners of electric vehicles. At present it is a great time to get a home car charger installed as there is a government grant available to offset EV charger costs. However, there is a caveat to claim the £350 grant: the home car charger must be installed by a certified OLEV installer. (OLEV stands for Office for Low Emission Vehicles and is the government agency responsible for dispensing the funding).
If you are looking for a way to green your home and your vehicle, smart technology has improved in leaps and bounds over the last few years, and any objections that you may have had with earlier versions may well have been resolved. Now is the perfect time to think about an electric car if you have not got one already – saving the planet and some pennies all at the same time, win-win!