News / Science & Technology

Infrastructure is Challenge for Electric Vehicle Owners

Charging a Chevy Volt
Charging a Chevy Volt

Multimedia

Audio
Mike O'Sullivan

Auto experts say electric vehicles are a practical alternative to gasoline-powered cars, at least for some drivers.  The biggest challenge for the auto industry is expanding the infrastructure for recharging the vehicles.

With last year's release of the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, some say the day of the electric vehicle has arrived.   The Volt uses a rechargeable battery, and for additional range, can switch to a small gasoline engine to recharge the battery.  The Leaf is an all-electric vehicle that is designed for short commutes.

But electric cars have been around a long time.  They have been available to compete with gasoline-powered vehicles for decades, and were once a significant part of the market.

One that looks like a horse-drawn buggy is on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.  It was built in Los Angeles by a high school student, Earle Anthony, in 1897.  Many other electric cars were on American roads in the early 20th century.   But gasoline-powered autos had a greater range and came to dominate.

In 1996, General Motors released the limited-production electric EV-1 to wide acclaim, and curator Leslie Kendall of the Petersen Museum says drivers liked it.

"And it looked cool, no doubt about it," said Kendall.  "And in the major American markets that it was tested, people got to see it and really responded favorably.  And it performed beautifully."

But the EV-1 was expensive to produce and had a limited range. The last model was produced in 1999.

Today's electric vehicles have solved some of the earlier problems, but Edward Kjaer of Southern California Edison, an electric utility company, says charging stations are hard to find outside of major cities like Los Angeles.

"There is no question that we need to focus on the distribution level, so that's really the last 50 feet of the energy delivery system, because we're going to see geographic concentrations of these vehicles," said Kjaer.

New charging stations are being installed in some businesses and at the homes of many electric vehicle owners.   The company AeroVironment has partnered with Nissan to install chargers for its all-electric Leaf, using a system compatible with other electric vehicles under a new North America standard.  AeroVironment's Kristen Helsel says the technology is spreading.

"Everywhere from Australia to Europe, Canada, Brazil, across the Pacific Rim, there's almost nowhere we're not going - India, places like that," said Helsel.  "You know, those are all places that have a really strong interest in vehicle electrification."

Electric-gasoline hybrid cars, including Toyota's Prius, are popular with drivers who are concerned with environmental pollution and rising gasoline costs.  But hybrids are a small part of the market, says analyst Karl Bauer of the automotive research firm Edmunds.com.

"The traditional gasoline engines, of course, are still what power most vehicles, so of course they make up most of the research that people do," said Bauer.  "The hybrid market has remained somewhere between two and three percent, really, for the last five-plus years, so it's still a very small amount.  And of course the pure electric market is much smaller than that."

The biggest problem is limited range.  Nissan says its all-electric Leaf can travel 160 kilometers on a single charge in city driving.  The Chevy Volt, which can switch to gasoline, can go much farther.  Bauer says batteries are improving and other ideas have been suggested to extend the range of the vehicles.

"There are a couple of different approaches, whether it's utilizing batteries that swap out quickly and you go to a corner charging station and instead of waiting an hour or five hours to charge the car, you spend five minutes, 10 minutes, having the batteries swapped out," Bauer explained.  "That's one thing they've talked about as a future solution."

Other technologies, including non-polluting hydrogen fuel cells, are also being tested by the major automakers to power the electric drive trains of new vehicles.

Electric cars may one day meet the needs of consumers faced with rising fuel costs, says the Petersen Museum's Leslie Kendall.

"They seem to want a vehicle that's powered by a renewable resource, a vehicle that does not pollute the air, a vehicle with fewer moving parts that's simpler to operate and run, a vehicle that's quieter and smoother and all those good things," noted Kendall.

With expanding infrastructure, he says electric vehicles may look more and more attractive.

You May Like

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify Power Base

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs