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Advantages & Limitations of Electric Cars (Electric Vehicles)

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  • Wednesday, 9 January 2013
  • by
  • Rajesh K
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  • Do you know that most other countries in the world have a sizeable number of electric cars running on their roads, except India? Well all that might change with the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 that will shortly be unveiled here. The Govt. is aiming to bring down the cost of electric vehicles/hybrid vehicles to match that of the petrol/diesel versions, reduce carbon emissions and reduce the demand for petrol/diesel. 

    But why is a renewable energy blog discussing about electric vehicles? You guessed it right - Electric vehicles can be powered using electricity generated by renewable technologies like solar panels (either on the car or at home). Even though there is a considerable amount of power shortage in India, electric vehicles give one more reason for consumers to buy solar panels/micro-wind turbines. 

    Of course, like there are advantages to electric cars, there are disadvantages to them, as well. Let us have a detailed look at some advantages/limitations of electric vehicles (cars), below -

    Advantages of Electric Cars - 
    • Full electric car & hybrid electric car (electric + petrol/diesel) variants are available, as of today, at least in the global market. People who are concerned about going fully electric can consider buying hybrid vehicles, to get the best of both worlds.
    • Electric cars can either be powered using the electric supply mains at home or by using special charging stations at office. 
    • Electric cars can be powered using electricity generated by renewable energy technologies like solar energy, wind energy, etc. 
    • If you plan well (or if your usage is relatively less), you can generate your own power using solar panels at home and use it to run your electric car, as well. It is possible for you to realize zero-running cost with the RE technology available today.  
    • Electric cars run smoother/quieter than their petrol/diesel counterparts. No more noise pollution.
    • Electric cars are green cars. They do not emit any harmful pollutants, carbon or greenhouse gasses. They are environmentally very friendly. If the electricity they run on is generated using hydro power plants/wind farms, they are 'green' end-to-end.
    • Electricity, unlike oil/gas, is not susceptible to frequent price rises and supply issues, at least as much as petrol/diesel. 
    • Electric cars can save a lot of foreign exchange currently spent on oil (provided electricity is not imported).
    • Many countries around the world are introducing subsidies to make the prices of electric cars cheaper. With some encouragement and mass production, their prices can easily match gas-fired cars.
    • Electric cars/Hybrid cars are manufactured/available from major international automobile manufacturers like Nissan, Honda, Toyota, BMW, Tesla, etc. In India, Mahindra Reva will be launching the first 4-seater electric car in Feb, 2013 (tentative date).
    • While the batteries (that store electric power in EV's) maybe expensive, they can also be used to store power generated by renewable technologies (solar panels, for example) and be used to run electric appliances during the nights. Some small changes need to be done in the EV's to enable storing and discharging of power like this, but it is very much feasible and this technology is currently being used in other countries.
    • Other than batteries, the maintenance costs for electric vehicles are very less. One of the main reasons for that is the fact that electric car motors have a very few (like 5) moving parts.
    • Using a technology called regenerative breaking, 20% of the energy currently lost due to breaking can be converted into electricity and used to charge the batteries. 
    • There are certain cars like Tesla Roadster that can travel 394 KM with a single charge.
    • With electric cars, it's easy to develop gearless models and hence driving is simplified. 
    • Electric cars are more efficient than Internal Combustion Engine models in converting energy, as a lot of stored energy gets wasted by becoming heat. 
    • There are a number of solar car racing events/circuits where solar car models designed by various universities compete. Events like these drive innovations faster, in the electric car industry and solar energy industry. 
    • Charging an electric car, though it can take quite sometime, can be done overnight at home. That way, one doesn't have to visit/wait at the gas station for filling up petrol/diesel.
    Limitations of Electric Cars -
    • The price of hybrid cars and some electric cars can be higher than equivalent petrol/diesel models. Subsidies and mass production are the only way to get the prices down. 
    • Though maintenance is very less for electric cars, their batteries need to be changed once in every few years. The cost of batteries could be quite high. 
    • On an average, electric cars give 90 - 160 KM per charge. This makes them suitable for driving in the city/around the city, than inter-city driving. With better battery technologies (being developed), their range will come up in future. It's a dream for many people to fit solar panels on the top of their electric vehicle and go around the country, totally free of cost. Let's hope that will happen someday!
    • We can have electric vehicle charging stations at various points along the highway, but the time taken for fully charging a battery is quite high (a few hours). The best option is to have battery switches at existing petrol/diesel stations where we can exchange an exhausted battery with a new battery. But such facilities and network needs to be created in India from scratch, in the future.
    • Electric cars have modest acceleration and motor power capacities. For Indian roads/traffic, the existing capacity should be more than sufficient. 
    • Service/maintenance network is yet to be established for electric cars. But once electric cars are introduced, we can expect service stations and spare-parts network to be established quickly. 
    • The resale value for electric cars is not very clear at this time.  
    Reference: Wikipedia article on Electric Cars.           
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