Plug-in-Electric-Vehicles are in the news again, and I’m a little puzzled by Toyota’s recent test of a plug-in-Prius. The low electric-only operating range, 8 miles, is far below that of the Tesla Roadster’s 200 mile range. The Tesla car shows what can be done when a vehicle is designed from the ground up, and with the best available technology. The main reason for the performance difference is that the Tesla car doesn’t have an internal combustion engine, and that it uses the best currently available batteries. Toyota uses a much smaller battery pack in a vehicle that also has the extra weight and space limitations of an internal combustion engine.
Toyota, GM, or any other car company could easily build a decent plug-in-electric vehicle if they wanted to, so why don’t they? Conspiracy theorists claim that Cobasys, a battery manufacturer that holds patents on batteries that could be used in plug-in vehicles, is partly owned by an oil company and will not allow their battery technology to be used in automobiles. Others believe that the big automakers are purposely creating cars that no one will want so that legislators will not tighten CAFÉ’ standards. After all, car manufacturers make their money on gas guzzlers. Have you seen “Who Killed the Electric Car?”?
Car makers claim that not enough people want them, they’ll be too expensive, and that the best battery technology is not good enough. These claims are false. People do want them, and problems with early versions of Lithium Ion batteries have been resolved. Additionally, an electric motor is less costly than an internal combustion engine and all that comes with it (pollution control components, transmission, muffler, etc.).
I guess we’ll just have to wait and watch as small companies, like Tesla and Phoenix Motor Cars, show the big automakers how it’s done.
Can’t wait for a PHEV? Here’s some info on conversions: http://www.calcars.org/
Recommended Reading: “Plug-in Hybrids – the Cars that Will Recharge America” by Sherry Boschert.