Archive for the ‘Electric Cars’ Category

Greg ‘Gadget’ Abbott

If Tesla Motors co founder Elon Musk is the poster boy of the electric vehicle movement then Greg ‘Gadget’ Abbott aka Reverend Gadget is its Nutty Professor. To many he, were they to meet him, they might think that he is yet another slightly eccentric LA mechanic who likes to soup up and tinker with cars, a sort of car version of the Orange Country Chopper guys. The truth is a little more complicated though as he is actually at the forefront of a less talked about electric vehicle phenomena, the conversion car.

As showcased in the documentary “Revenge of the Electric Car,” Abbott is the leading light in the movement, the person who all of the other amateur car converters look up to and also look to for advice and wisdom for their own projects.

Abbot has been converting gas powered cars into electric ones for a long time, long before Musk came along, or GM’s Bob Lutz managed to convince his bosses to produce his vision in the form of the Chevrolet Volt. He has endured through shop fires, living in a trailer and nearly facing bankruptcy, but he has persevered and is truly now a real part of the EV revolution.

He plans eventually to create a specialist kit that can be sold to consumers to make the job of converting a gas powered car to an electric one more efficiently and without the need for as much technical knowledge as he and his friends have. He also has dreams of potentially creating a production model one day, but until that happens he will, he says continue to work his magic by turning regular cars into electric vehicles!

Electric Cars on the Big Screen

Chris Paine has two major passions in life, movie making and environmental action. He has combined the two working with Jack Hanna, the people of New Orleans and storm survivors in the Philippines, but he is currently best known for his two documentary movies about electric vehicles 2006’s ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?‘ and the 2011 follow-up, ‘Revenge of the Electric Car’.

‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’

Paine’s first documentary examined the rise and fall of the General Motors EV1, an all-electric vehicle that debuted in the early 1990s. The car was only ever made available for lease and as a response to a legal mandate from the state of California that mandated that seven major car companies produce EVs in order to comply with the regulations set by the California Air Resources Board in order to be allowed to continue to sell gasoline powered internal combustion engine cars in the state of California at all.

The GM EV1 was the first of those cars. The documentary then details the California Air Resources Board’s reversal of the mandate following almost endless pressure and suits from automobile manufacturers, from the oil industry, at the time falsified hype over a future hydrogen car, and finally the George W. Bush administration. Eventually it also attempts to apportion the blame for just who was more responsible for the ‘death’ of the 1990s electric vehicles, most of which were eventually crushed for scrap, barring a handful that were donated to museums.

In the interests of suspense we will not reveal all the details here, but this is a movie well worth renting and even several years after its release it is still, in many places quite an eye opener about the way governments and oil companies work together against the environmental good. And it’s a good view in general too, as it won Best Documentary at the won 2006 Mountain Film in Telluride, The Canberra International Film Festival Audience Award, and was also nominated for Best Documentary at the 2006 Environmental Media Awards and Best Documentary by the Writers Guild of America

click here to visit the official website of the movie

‘The Revenge of the Electric Car’

The second of Paine’s movies is a far more upbeat affair that chronicles the rise of the electric car in the 21st century, mainly by following four entrepreneurs from 2007 through the end of 2010, as they fight to bring the electric car back to the world market in the midst of a global recession; Bob Lutz from General Motors, Elon Musk from Tesla Motors, Carlos Ghosn from Renault-Nissan, and Greg Abbott, an independent electric car converter from California and then the creation of the Tesla Roadster and the Tesla S, the Nissan Leaf and the all EV version of the Chevrolet Volt.

Because the film was more of a cheerleading portrayal of some very passionate entrepreneurs and car makers rather than a muck raking expose in the way that ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’ It received less critical praise, but as a historical piece that chronicles the beginning of what is hopefully a new era in worldwide car making it is hugely valuable and very watchable.

click here to visit the official website of the movie

How Do Electric Vehicles (EVs) Really Work?

Although to many of us the idea of an electric car as very futuristic and certainly extremely ‘of the 21st century’ ,but in actual fact at the turn of the twentieth century electric cars were the norm. However, once the likes of Henry Ford and his peers had perfected the use of the internal combustion engine in a car gas guzzlers completely eclipsed electric vehicles and they quickly became a thing of the past.

However back then gasoline was cheap and no one had really given too much thought to what having millions of cars spewing out gas fumes and more on a regular basis would do to the environment and neither had anyone entertained the idea that perhaps one day all of the ‘black gold’ would start running out. Now we all are aware of all of these things, which is why all electric vehicles are making a comeback after decades in the car manufacturing wilderness.

Electric Cars versus Hybrid Cars

An electric car and a hybrid car are not the same things. A car like the Toyota Prius, which many people cite as a very ‘green’ car, still has a gasoline powered engine that is only supplemented by electric power, allowing for less gas usage. It’s a step in the right direction, but not an ultimate solution. A car like the Tesla Roadster is different though, it is an all-electric powered vehicle, it never needs to go near a traditional gas station, and yet it, and an increasing number of peers, is also an attractive, fun to drive vehicle that even the most die-hard of ‘petrolheads’ can appreciate to a certain extent.

So How Do Electric Vehicles Work Anyway?

As we previously mentioned, the basic technology behind electric cars is really nothing new, although obviously that being employed in today’s new crop of EVs has advanced a great deal.

When seen driving on the road, an EV looks the same as any other car on the road and from looks alone most people would not have a clue that they were looking at a car powered by electricity rather than one propelled along by a gasoline engine. What may give it away, even before you get a peek under the hood, is the lack of engine noise, although in some of the higher end new EVS, the ones designed to lure internal combustion engine fans to electric, additional features have been added that simulate engine noise so that that aspect of the driving experience, which many people love, is not lost.

At the very heart of any electric car there are three main components:

  1. The electric motor itself
  2. The motor’s controller
  3. The batteries

The main controller draws its power from the batteries and then delivers it directly to the motor. The accelerator pedal is linked to a set of potentiometers (variable resistors) that then provide an informational signal that relays to the controller how much power it is to deliver.

The biggest difficulty facing electric car makers for years has been the battery system and how and when it charges. Slowly though, improvements have been made. The best-selling pure EV in the US in 2013 was the Nissan Leaf. It has a range of an EPA estimated 73 miles (117 km) although Nissan themselves claim that is an underestimation, and indeed in Europe the car is rated at 175km ( 109 miles) by the New European Driving Cycle and consumer driving experience has found that the ‘truth’ lies somewhere between the two numbers at around 99-100 miles (159-160km)

The second bestseller, the Tesla S, which is very much like a luxury car such as the BMW 5 series in both looks and performance, is even more impressive, as it boasts a single charge range of between an EPA estimated 208 miles (335 km) and 265 mi (426 km) depending upon the battery size chosen (and again, the European Driving Cycle estimates are higher than the EPAs)

In terms of charging using a fast charge option and a hardwired 249 volt outlet (the kind you have installed in the home to safely power a tumble dryer) full charge times for both vehicles is less than an hour. When recharging from a standard 120 volt outlet the time obviously increases to around eight hours for the Tesla S and six for the Nissan Leaf although both companies are debuting faster charge options even from low power outlets for their 2014 lines. Tesla are also in the process of building a series of highway based charging stations in the US that allow for a 90 second battery swap!

Then of course there is speed. The popular misconception about all electric cars is that they are exceptionally slow compared to their gas powered counterparts and that even keeping up with the general flow of traffic is somehow going to be hard. However, the Leaf currently boasts a top speed of 93 mph and the Tesla S can be cranked up to 125 mph.

The Leaf and the S are far from the only electric vehicles available right now though, they are simply those that are selling best. In fact in the highly competitive luxury car market Tesla outsold BMW, Mercedes and Audi in the first half of 2013 and the Leaf racked up 40,600 US sales in the first half of 2013, beating out a great many gas powered alternatives.

Electric cars are far from perfect yet, but they are getting there. More manufacturers are getting into the idea as well, with the likes of BMW, Ford, Toyota, General Motors and Mitsubishi all getting in on the act as well.

Real Reasons to Buy an Electric Vehicle

So, you have probably been hearing, reading, and seeing a lot of things about how great electric cars are and that we should all consider trading in the gas guzzler sitting our driveway or garage for a nice, new, shiny all electric vehicle instead. The problem is that a lot of the information in the popular media is pretty vague – EV’s are ‘good for the environment’ and ‘will save you lots of money’.

But these are little more than buzz phrases, which, coupled with the fact there are still a lot of misconceptions out there about just what EVs can and cannot do in the 21st Century, it should not come as too much of a surprise to learn that many people are still very skeptical about even entertaining the idea of buying an electric car, even if their government is offering to pay them an incentive to do so (which is the case in the US and Europe)

So why should you consider an EV? Especially since, in all honesty, none of the current options could really be called ‘budget’ choices? There are certainly things to consider before you make the switch, but there are definite advantages, both for you and your family and the planet in general:

Fuel Costs – Using an electric vehicle is certainly not free, you have to pay for the electricity to charge it’s battery, and, in fairness, electricity is not the cheapest thing in the world. However, most people are still likely to save money over the cost of gas.

For example, if you take the largest, most powerful, and certainly most luxurious of the electric cars available to average consumers in the US and Europe right now, the Tesla Model S, the US Department of Energy’s tests found that for a driver who puts 15,000 miles on the clock in a year – an average of 41 miles a day – the annual running cost using a US average of 12 cents per kw hour of electricity as a guide would be $700 a year. If you translate that into gas costs, an average of 3.70 a gallon (which would be low for the 2013 market) you would get 189 gallons of gas, certainly not enough to take you anywhere near as far as 15,000 miles.

And not everyone wants or needs a luxury high performance sedan anyway. The compact 2013 Scion iQ EV would, by the same calculation method, cost $500 per annum to run and the bestselling mid-size 2013 Nissan Leaf the same amount!

Maintenance Costs – This is the one money saving aspect of an EV that many people forget about at first. But think about it – how much do you spend every year on car fluids, oil changes, service appointments and so on? Quite a lot when you add it up right? There are far fewer such costs associated with owning an electric vehicle.

For example, EVs use regenerative braking to slow the car rather than the use of mechanical friction, so the brake pads last a lot longer than those on a gas vehicle and the average battery life of today’s electric vehicles is a guaranteed eight to ten years, probably as long as most people will own the car before trading up for something different.

Environmental Impact – As long as electricity companies still use coal fired plants to generate electricity even an EV is not completely eco-friendly. However, the use of wind and water power to generate electricity is increasing all over the world so that situation is improving. It is the fact that electric cars do not emit gasses into the air is the big reason why they are considered so ecofriendly though, as well as the reduced dependence on foreign oil. And contrary to what you might think, every EV on the road does make a positive impact in these crucial areas, just in the same way as every individual vote does in an election.