Tesla Motors is making great strides in eliminating the ‘range anxiety’ argument against electric cars. Their cars already offer amazing range (hundreds of miles, depending on the battery option chosen), but now they’re building a nationwide network of solar-powered charging stations where Tesla car owners can top off their cars for FREE! This means that you can drive from coast to coast for just the cost of food and lodging. No gas stations to worry about, just plan your trip accordingly and stop for ~30 minutes every few hundred miles at one of the ‘Supercharger’ stations. There are currently six of these stations in California, with a fast nationwide roll out planned.
Sure, electric cars don’t burn gas, but their electricity has to come from somewhere and in many parts of the country, that means coal. Surprisingly though, even accounting for that, an electric car still produces less global warming emissions than a gasoline powered car getting 27mpg, according to a new study. Of course, 100% coal-sourced electricity is a truly worst case scenario, as natural gas, nuclear, and renewable sources also come into play. Taking that into account, it turns out that about 45% of Americans live in places where the electric car emissions are equivalent to a 50mpg automobile! 37% have the equivalent of a 41-50mpg car, and 18% have a 31-40mpg equivalent.
The bottom line is, yes, electric cars still result in air pollution and global warming gas emissions, but they’re still far better than almost any car on the road today (the one exception I can think of being VW’s fantastic TDI diesel engine). More importantly, as more renewable energy is plugged in to the grid, electric cars will continue to improve, and quickly outpace even VW’s best diesel efforts.
I use the word ‘car’ loosely here. This four wheeled contraption, the Volpe, is like no other car you’ve seen (well, apart from the Peel P50 with which is shares more than a passing resemblance!). It’s a two seat four wheeled car, powered by an electric motor with a natural gas or gasoline generator providing extended range capability.
The seating is tandem style, and if you look at the image you can see how this would be a great setup for a rear passenger that has no legs. So, let’s be realistic here and call it a single seat car.
Why would you want one? Well, efficiency for starters…being so small, electricity usage is small as well. Parking is a cinch. It’s even small enough to find some creative parking places, like inside (it’ll fit inside an elevator). It could actually make for a decent commute vehicle in large cities, as long as you can avoid freeways and other faster roads.
As mentioned previously, the Peel P50 was actually first with this ‘mini car’ idea, and my favorite TV show, Top Gear, had a great review that shows this car in real life, check it out below. I expect driving a Volpe around town would have similar advantages…and drawbacks (the Peel P50 is smaller, though).