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THE ADVANTAGES OF
ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Electric propulsion would easily win out over engines for automobiles on any level playing field.

What advantages do EVs offer? EVs produce zero emissions at the point of use. An electric motor is 400% to 600% more efficient than an internal combus tion engine. An EV, per mile, uses one-half the fossil-fuel resources an ICE consumes. An EV produces only 5% to 10% of the emissions of an ICE per mile traveled. All of the EV's emissions occur at a (oil- or coal-fueled) power plant, which runs 400% to 500% more efficiently than an ICE and scrubs its own exhaust. EVs can use electricity from anywhere including sustainable energy resources (wind and sun). EVs are simple, silent, and affordable to operate.

Zero-Emission or Emission-Elsewhere? It is a major step for an automobile to no longer emit exhaust gases. In fact, it is nearly inconceivable. That's why consumers will love zero-emission vehicles. They may not be driving a solar-powered car, but they will be helping the sun to once more shine through clear skies.

In the literal sense, of course, the EV is the "emission-elsewhere" car. The electricity to power the car has to be generated somewhere. And, though some energy is available from sustainable energy sources like wind, solar, and water power, the bulk comes from coal- and oil-fueled power plants. Isn't this just transplanting the problem somewhere else?

The answer is both yes and no. Yes, the pollution is transferred to another region. However, this matter has been scrutinized extensively by the U.S. Depart ment of Energy and several California agencies charged with air-quality manage ment. The bulleted list above reflects their findings.

EVs are very efficient. They have to be. A pound of battery has 1/100 of the energy of a pound of gasoline. On average, a 30 mpg ICE car uses only 5% to 10% of the energy of its fuel, whereas the EV converts 70% to 80% of the battery's pack into propulsion, for the same mile.

I join others in their concern about EVs bringing back nuclear power. Two factors mitigate this fear. One, the electric utilities bore the brunt of the financial disasters (problems, waste disposal, Three Mile Island, etc.) of nuclear power plants and are unlikely to repeat the mistake. Two, it has been estimated that 30 million EVs could be added (at night) to the grid nationwide without causing the need for a single new power plant to be built. That represents a lot of surplus energy that is currently available off-peak.

In addition, energy from sustainable resources, such as wind and solar energy, is gaining ground. California alone has 1.5 gigawatts (one gigawatt equals 1000 megawatts) of generating capacity from wind machines scattered throughout the state. These produce enough power annually to power all of San Francisco all year long. Southern California Edison's (LUZ-built) solar-powered plants supply electricity to 500,000 people. These are 24-hour power plants, using CNG (com pressed natural gas) to complement solar energy during stormy weather and at night.

The Basics of Electric Propulsion Virtually unknown 17 years ago, today "electric vehicle" is a household phrase in the U.S.

Have you ever seen one up close? Let me describe it to you. An electric vehicle is one that uses an electric motor instead of an engine, and batteries instead of a fuel tank and gasoline. The electric motor is the size of a five-gallon water bottle and bolts right to the stock transmission. The batteries are similar in size and shape to the one used to start your car's engine. There are just many more of them. The accelerator pedal is connected to a "potbox," which operates the electronic control ler. Pressing the accelerator smoothly delivers power to the motor in proportion to the amount of pedal you give it.

The electric car is only one example of an electric vehicle. An electric-assist bicycle is also an EV. An electric motorcycle is an EV. A trolley and a San Fran cisco BART subway train are EVs. A solar-powered car is an EV. A Formula electric racer is an EV. Scratchbuilts and conversions are EVs. The only thing they have in common is electric propulsion.

The world is more than ready for EVs. In fact, it uses electric motors every where. Electric propulsion is not a new technology. The modern locomotive is diesel-electric; its diesel engine-generator supplies the electricity to power the electric motor drivetrain. Electric motors also power elevators, industrial assembly lines, ventilation and air-conditioning units, refrigerators, blow dryers, washers and dryers, computers and printers, CD players and autotape decks, and pumps. Ironically, an electric motor is also needed to start an automobile's engine. Wherever silent, efficient, reliable service is needed, you will find an electric motor at work.


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