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

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid