With the price of gas at all time highs and my car getting older and older, I find myself doing research on energy efficient vehicles. When I first started my search, I came by the interesting concept of the air car. Seems like a really cheap way to run a car, but I think that the technology has a long way to go before it reaches North America.
The next logical step was to look at the feasibility of hybrid vehicles. As it turns out, they aren’t economically feasible at the moment due to their high prices relative to their gasoline counterparts.
Most recently, I stumbled upon the concept of a purely electric car. This car is being made by General Motors and due to be in production by 2010. They call it the GM-Volt (or Chevy Volt).
What is the GM-Volt?
The GM-Volt is a vehicle that propels itself using an electric motor that runs on battery power only. There are a few charging options which include using household power, an onboard small gasoline generator, and kinetic energy from using the brakes. If charging via household power, the batteries will charge in 6.5 hrs and can run for 40 miles/64 km straight before the gasoline charging generator will kick in to maintain 30% battery power. When the gasoline generator is used, the Chevy volt can achieve 50mpg or 4.7L/100km.
How is the GM-Volt concept different than a hybrid car?
As mentioned above, the GM-Volt runs an electric motor with battery power in addition to a small gasoline generator used to charge the battery when needed. Hybrids are a little more complex where they use a combustion engine in conjunction with a smaller electric motor. The smaller electric motor is used at lower speeds, with the combustion engine kicking in when more power is needed.
Theoretically, if the driver uses the GM-Volt for less than 40 miles / day, the GM-Volt would achieve infinite MPG or 0L/100km! The savings in gasoline would begin to pay for the car quickly, especially with gasoline prices as high as they are (and rising).
Mind you, there is a cost of charging the vehicle overnight. According to the GM-Volt fan site, assuming that it costs $0.10/kwh in your area, charging the Chevy Volt would cost around $0.85/night (6.5hrs). For 64 kms worth of driving, it would be well worth it!
Lets look at an example. Assume 20,000 km driven / year, $1.50/L gasoline, average 10L/100km fuel economy. In this scenario, it would cost $3,000 / year in gasoline cost. With the GM Volt, assuming that you drive the same amount, but less than 64km/day, it would cost approximately $0.85 x 365 = $310 in electricity.
For certain driving habits/scenarios, like in city driving, I can see this vehicle being a very popular alternative to it’s gasoline cousin. There is huge green factor to this car also, however, one has to think about how electricity is produced in your region. If your region uses mainly fossil fuels to generate electricity, then it’s debatable how “green” the electric car is for your area.
Personally, I’m already excited about test driving the Chevy Volt in 2010.
Photo credit: jurvetson