Electric cars are a very promising technology in reducing the carbon footprint of transport. Although we are likely to see much innovation in this field in the future, many people do not realize that the technology to produce cars that run on electricity is already here. Electric cars in general produce far less emissions than the best fossil fuel cars on the market. Furthermore, if your electricity supplier uses renewable energy sources, the emissions of your electric car will effectively be zero. So with out further ado, lets take a look at the top electric vehicles which are available now, or will very shortly be in production.
REVA G-Whiz i
The REVA G-Whiz is currently the most popular batter powered electric car in the world. Manufactured in India, the REVA is a smart 3-door city car that will fit two adults in the front and two children in the back. A full charge will take around 6 hours and will cost less than $1.50 meaning running costs are an astounding 2c per mile. The newest version includes higher performing Lithium Ion batteries that extend the range to 75 miles.
- Range: Up to 75 miles
- Max Speed: 50 mph
- Approx: $13,000
The Th!nk City is another 3-Door Electric vehicle running on sodium or lithium batteries. A product of Norwegian firm Th!nk, the City car is available in Norway and European markets with plans to come to the US soon. It is one of only two crash tested and highway certified fully electric vehicles. (The Tesla Roadster is the other). The car is designed so that it can be recycled after it has been decommissioned helping to further reduce its environmental impact.
- Range: Up to 110 miles
- Max Speed: 62 mph
- Price: NOR 212,500 (US $34,000), but US target price is $10-15,000
Available next year, the Smart ED is the first all electric vehicle from SMART, manufacturers of the pocket sized city cars that are ever more popular in Europe, and – believe me – they look even smaller in real life. The ED follows much the same design as other Smart vehicles, but behind the fuel cap is actually a standard mains plug. The Smart ED can fit only 2 passengers and will take around 8 hours to charge the batteries to capacity.
- Range: Up to 68 miles
- Max Speed: 74 mph
- Price: Approx < $20,000
The Tesla Roadster is without doubt the cream of the crop of electric vehicles. With a stunning design and performance to rival some of the best fossil fuel powered sports cars, the Roadster is truly a break through vehicle that demonstrates that you don’t have to make cutbacks on quality if you want to go electric. It combines a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds, with an efficiency that is up their with the best electric vehicles – achieving a breathtaking 120 miles per gallon equivalent (mpgge). The only drawback would be the over $100k price tag, however the Silicon Valley company behind the Roadster is planning a more accessible sedan version known as the ‘Model S’, which will cut the price in half.
- Range: 244 miles
- Max Speed: 125 mph (electronically limited)
- Price: $109,000
Toyota Prius (Hybrid)
Whilst not technically a fully electric vehicle, the Toyota Prius with its hybrid engine deserves a mention here. The greenest vehicle by the world’s largest automaker is an important milestone and a very advanced specimen of technology. The hybrid engine means the car will run on fuel but will also use advanced techniques such as regenerative breaking (which captures a vehicles kinetic energy whilst breaking) to charge an onboard battery. When the battery has sufficient power stored up, the engine can switch to EV mode, whereby it is propelled purely by electrical energy. This hybrid engine results in 54.7 mpg rating, although the 3rd generation models will bring this up to 60.3 mpg. Its no surprise to learn that worldwide sales of the Prius reached 1.2 million in early 2009.
- Range: ~ 600 miles (Petrol)
- Max Speed: 112 mph
- Price: $21,000
The Lightening GT is in a similar mould to the Tesla Roadster. The British made Lightening features a sleek design and a 0-60 mph time of under 4 seconds. A killer feature is its fast charging lithium-titanate battery which, given the right high capacity power source, can charge in 10 minutes. On standard mains power this would be more like overnight. The lightning GT is a 2 seat convertible and is available to order now for 2009/2010 delivery in the UK and is set to reach the US market ‘soon’.
- Range: 188 miles
- Max Speed: 130 mph (electronically limited)
- Price: £120,000 / ~$200,000
The iMIEV from Mitsubishi Motors Company is due to start production in 2010. It can fit four full sized adults but has a greater efficiency than the G-Whiz, getting around 100 miles from 16 KWh and has an impressive top speed of around 80 mph.
NICE Mega City
The Mega City available from NICE (No Internal Combustion Engine) is a french made 2-seater city car. NICE also have a large truck version, the “Mega Mutitruck” and a pickup style version, the “Mega Worker”.
- Range: 60 miles
- Max Speed: 40mph
- Price: ~$20,000
The Vectrix was the first high powered electric scooter available on the market. Its great design and 0-50 mph in 7 seconds made it very desirable. The company unfortunately went in to liquidation earlier this month and won’t be able to continue existing in its current form. However, Vextrix scooters are still readily available second hand and the technology could be given further life if a suitable company swoops in to buy the remaining assets.
- Range: 65 miles
- Max Speed: 60 mph
- Price: ~$9,000
Oxygen Cargo Scooter
The Cargo Scooter is a Dutch Made Electric Scooter that has been picked up by Domino’s Pizza to equip their fleet of delivery vehicles. Taking only 2-3 hours to charge, it is adept for traversing short distances quickly, cheaply and environmentally. It is available now in both European and North American markets.
- Range: 50 miles
- Max Speed: 28 mph
Clearly there are very good options for fully electric vehicles on the market right now and even more in the near future. It is exciting to think that the technology is still in its infancy and there are further gains and innovations to be had. There are many advantages to driving electric cars over their combustion engine equivalents. No more trips down to the pumps, electric cars all work off standard mains electricity that we have at home. No more remembering to check the oil level in the engine, electric cars don’t require the stuff. No more shouting over the sound of the engine, electrical engines are near silent. Some even worry that this may be a safety hazard as people can’t hear the cars coming down the road. It would be trivial however to add an artificial sound and it would surely be engineered to remain as quiet as possible to those within the vehicle. Also bear in mind the running cost of an electric vehicle is far less than a petrol/diesel powered vehicle. Take a look at the following calculation for a demonstration. Note that it does not include various subsidies and reliefs that you can get for driving an environmentally friendly vehicle, which are only likely to increase further in the future.
The average American vehicle does 20 miles per gallon. At $2.80 a gallon, this is around $0.14 per mile. As noted above, the G-Whiz costs around $0.02 per mile. The average American drives around 12,000 miles per year, which will cost $1,680 in your gas guzzler, or around $240 in your G-Whiz, giving a massive saving of $1,440 a year. The car will pay for itself in no time.
Now imagine a more extreme case: You drive a gas guzzler that manages 13 mpg, fuel hits $4 a gallon again and you drive an amount towards the upper limit of the US Average (say 15,000 miles per year). In this scenario your car costs around $4,615 a year to run, compared with the same $240 for your G-Whiz! A truly amazing difference.
Update: Just stumbled across ZapWorld as well, who seem to do a range of electric vehicles. If anyone has any knowledge of them let us know in the comments.