News / Science & Technology

    Infrastructure is Challenge for Electric Vehicle Owners

    Charging a  Chevy Volt
    Charging a Chevy Volt

    Multimedia

    Audio

    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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.