Man--you want me to write a thesis? :)
Seriously--that's a big topic--so forgive me for jsut hitting acouple of points.
First, there's two types of electric vehicles--the small "golf-cart" type that are already in use in many areas, and full-fledged cars. The first are really too limited. You can't put a family in them and they don't have the speed and power you need for safety in normal traffic--even if we can overcome people's penchant for driving like they are in the Indy 500.
A full fledged electric for urban travel is a thecnolological no-brainer--we can build them anytime we like. That's a done deal. And with a range of around 200 miles, current technology makes them more than adequate for urban use.
BUT--electrics are only one component of what must be viewed as a larger system. To see what I mean, think of our current gas-powered cars. They do not function in isolation--they need to be supported by a network of filling stations, storage facilities, pipelines, refineries, and oil wells. Without that infrastructure, a gas-powered car is 3000 pounds of dead metal going nowhere.
For electrics to start coming into use--we have enough infrastructure--you can just plug it in when you get home. But to reap the full advantages, we need an infrastructure geared to electric cars--andthat means alternative enrgy production. There are a number of possible ways to do this--and the system that evolves will almost certainly be a mix of all of them. Here's a few examples of the kind of subsystems of that infrastructure:
>solar power (especially with storage batteries). One possible configuration: an electric car with "swap-out batteries. leave one battery pack at home charging off the solar panels and swap it for the drained one when you get home from work
>nuclear power. A lot of environmentalists are still nervous about this. but a lot of people (including me) think we can deal with the potential hazards given the technology that's now available. I hope so--because one way or the other, I think we're going to see a lot of new nuclear powerplants.
There are two technologies that --if tey prove out--are going to give us a whole new crop of billionaires. One s super-cheap solar panels--and the odds are VERY goood we'll see them on the market within 5 years.
The other is a really good battery storage system that's cost effective. That would remedy the chief weakness of solar enrgy--it doesn't work at night.
As to urban planning/policy--that is going to change drasticaly in the next few years--in ways that will favor electric cars. The reason is one word: water. We simply do not have the water resources (even discounting the effects of upcoming climate change) to sustain current urban policies. In my area (North Georgia) we are getting a very nasty lesson in that right now---as are the people in California. And those are NOT areas with poor natural water supply; quite the opposite, in fact.
Half--or more--of the water used in these areas is waste--huge lawns, etc. But you can have urban areas that are far more compact (which has a lot of other benefits--like getting to know your neighbors) without being at all crowded. Such urban spaces have far fewer traffic problems and are ideal for small cars of the ttypes we're talking about.
I'll stop now--time to hit the sack! :)
· 1 decade ago