As the world’s reserves of oil decline and the price of fuel rises, the need for an alternative power source for our cars increases. Environmental factors are also an issue. CO2 emissions from cars are recognised as a factor in the increase of greenhouses gases and subsequent global warming. There are, of course, other forms of transport such as the bus or train, but the car has proved to be an incredibly popular mode of transport and with the rise of economies such as India and China, car usage is increasing. The hunt then is on for an alternative fuel for our cars, and electric cars, or electric petrol hybrids, are already widely available. But will they come to dominate the market as petrol driven cars have done?
The rise of the electric car
Electric cars have been around since the 1890’s when William Morrison of Des Moines, Iowa built the first workable electric car in America. They accounted for nearly 30% of production in the early 1900’s and were reckoned to provide greater comfort and ease of use. After advances in the internal combustion engine, significantly the introduction of the electric starter motor, petrol driven cars began to dominate. Ironically, the reasons for the preference for petrol driven cars, such as greater range, more horsepower and the lack of a electrical refueling infrastructure, continue to be issues today.
So what of the future?
In more modern times, fuel shortages, price rises and green issues have brought electric cars back into the mainstream, but despite considerable government backing they face several obstacles if they are to dominate the market. Firstly, it should be remembered that the electricity driving electric cars is not necessarily green. The local power station may well be burning gas, oil or coal. The range of these cars is also still problematic, with distances between recharges of 100 miles and recharge times of several hours comparing unfavourably with petrol cars. Add to that high purchase prices and environmental issues when disposing of battery packs and the future does not look certain.
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