Electric Cars Motor Ahead, But Will Consumers Leave Gasoline-Powered Cars Behind?
That economic savings is a major advantage of electrics, according to Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, manufacturers of the Tesla Roadster (see below). According to Musk, in California (where there is a special energy rate for electric cars), it costs around $5 to go 250 miles. The other distinct advantage is that electric cars are themselves zero emissions—though since most electricity is produced by burning fossil fuel, especially coal, electric cars do contribute to climate change, just not as directly as internal combustion engines. Or as much: electric motors are 90 percent more efficient at converting energy into motion than gasoline engines, says Musk, so less carbon is produced per mile driven.
Apart from the economic and emissions differences, how does driving an electric compare to driving a conventional gasoline-powered car? The two biggest differences are the electric’s “eerie silence”—there’s no motor sound whatsoever—and the “regenerative braking.” Regenerative braking, as any Prius or other hybrid owner knows, is the process by which the car converts mechanical energy back into electrical energy to top off the batteries, in the process slowing the car. As soon as you stop accelerating, the car starts decelerating. In some cars—like the Mini E—it can be so strong that it “makes the uninitiated driver want to vomit,” as Mini’s publicist told a Popular Science journalist., but the journalist said that with a slightly different driving strategy you get used to it quickly.
Of course, the electric Mini is not the only high-profile electric out there, even if it is the one present in the greatest numbers. One of the most ballyhooed cars is the Tesla Roadster.
The Roadster captures the imagination because of its stunning good looks (at over $100k each, it should look good!) and because it performs at the levels of exotic cars, going 0-to-60 mph in under 4 seconds. Like other electrics, the torque curve is absolutely flat—the 248 horsepower motor provides 100 percent of its torque (276 lb-ft) from 1 rpm up to 9,000 rpm, which contributes to the vehicle’s fast time off the starting block. The Tesla’s battery is claimed to get 244 miles per charge and to take 3 – 4 hours to charge.