Monday, January 08, 2007

The Future Car?

According to a Wired News article, GM is going to try again with an electric car. The new version has an on-board electric motor that can recharge the batteries. This solves one of the biggest problems with the electric car - limited range. It also has decent acceleration with zero to sixty in 8.5 seconds.

Hybrids have their own problems. The Prius uses a dual electric/gasoline system to run the car and to charge the batteries. At slow speeds the batteries drive the car. at faster speeds the gasoline motor starts up and adds power while recharging the batteries. This requires a very complicated drive system. Other hybrids run on gasoline most of the time but use an electric motor to help acceleration. This simplifies the design but doesn't help fuel economy much.

The GM idea would simplify the drive train - it would always run on electric. The gasoline engine simply recharges the batteries (you can also plug it into the electric grid). This allows the gasoline engine to be tuned for best performance. It ca also be made to run on alternative fuels or even power cells.

This does not eliminate the financial problem with electric cars. Batteries are expensive. This car is projected to use lithium-ion batteries which are more efficient and lighter than lead acid but wll cost $10,000.

Assuming advances in batteries, I expect this to be a more viable form of car than the hybrid. If batteries get cheap enough then it could easily replace the traditional gasoline-driven car as the predominant vehicle.

No comments: