An electric car is a vehicle that is propelled by an electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery. They are one of the many alternatives to gasoline-powered cars that, owing to its zero tail pipe emissions, could help reduce city pollution considerably and, depending on how the electricity is generated, also lessen greenhouse gas emissions. For these reasons billions of dollars has been invested into the development of electric cars worldwide because of the growing concern with oil dependence, gasoline prices and global warming.
Yet although it is often depicted as an invention that surfaced as a solution to the above problems, it is in fact not at all a new concept. Quite the contrary electricity was the most popular automobile power source from the mid 19th to the early 20th century. This was mainly based on the gearless ease of use of electric vehicles and the lack of the fumes and vibrations that came with contemporary gasoline cars, never mind that these advantages came at the cost of range. However the development of the petroleum car production process and the petroleum infrastructure led to cheaper prices and quicker and easier refueling times of gasoline vehicles, for which the electric car gradually became obsolete.
Interest in it has resurfaced due to concern for the environment and the damage inflicted on it by gasoline cars, but although electric cars are once again on the market, a mass transition to such vehicles from their gas-powered equivalents seems unlikely to happen just yet. One of the main issues is that the purchase price of an electric car is still by far more expensive than that of a gasoline car. Electric car engines are pricier to develop, produce and operate in comparison to internal combustion engines, and many customers simply are not prepared to spend more money for a vehicle just to reduce their carbon footprints. The range of electric cars is also a problem. Battery charges are limited, and so is the infrastructure available for recharging them. Battery life is also an issue, the fact of the matter being that electric batteries deteriorate over time and eventually have to be replaced.
However the high purchase price of an electric vehicle and the gradual deterioration of its battery are balanced out by the low cost of running and maintaining it. Suffice it to say that an electric car engine has a lot fewer moving parts than an internal combustion engine and that it therefore does not need to be serviced as frequently, nor is it as likely to break down. On top of that the American Tesla motor's experimental use of laptop battery technology promises to cut the cost of batteries down by over fifty percent, thus reducing both the purchasing price of the cars and the cost of replacing a battery.
Moreover the companies that are active in this budding industry are working on solutions to the problem of range. Some have implemented battery-switching technology in their vehicle models, allowing the driver to switch to a new battery at a roadside battery switch station. An alternative to this is the so-called fast charger stops, which allow drivers to recharge their car battery to up to 80% in half an hour. The lack of infrastructure for this is still an issue, but it slowly being addressed in many countries. A nationwide fast charger network is planned to be finished in the US by 2013, and battery switch stations have already been tested in Japan and are planned for certain parts of the US.
It is doubtful that there will be a sudden transition from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles even once these improvements are finished, but it would be reasonable to think that there will be a gradual shift to battery power as the infancy ailments of the electric car industry are remedied.