Design Engineering

Electric car a pipe dream?

By DE staff   

General electric cars

New report argues electric cars unlikely to overtake conventional gas-powered vehicles.

The hope that all-electric passenger cars might someday displace gasoline-powered vehicles is dim given the present rate of battery development, according to an investigation by the magazine for the UK-based Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

While many commercially available electric cars are capable of relatively short trips on a single charge, the E&T article estimates that a battery capable of matching the range and performance of a conventional auto would weigh 1.5 tons and cost $150,000 CAD.


Using the most common chemistry (Lithium ion), EV batteries cost approximately $1000 per kilowatt hour. A 15kWh battery, therefore, provides a range of 100km but is more expensive than some gas-powered cars. Even though more efficient battery chemistries are being developed, they may take a decade or more to become price competitive with present-day technology.

Also at issue is the environmental impact of electric vehicles. The article states that, according to a Royal Academy of Engineering report released in May, a plant supplying the power to fully charge an electric vehicle would create slightly more CO2 emissions than a tank of diesel in a turbo injection engine.

In addition, battery replacement and recycling costs may push electric cars beyond the pocket book of most consumers. The article says fast charging batteries cut their life expectancy to two years. While regularly replacing batteries in a laptop or cell phone might be acceptable to consumers, ponying up $10,000 or more for a new car battery would significantly limit the appeal of electric cars.


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