Electric Vehicles – Growing Presence on European Roads

With the cost of fuel skyrocketing around the world, and more consumers becoming conscious of the negative impact cars have on the environment, car manufacturers focus their production efforts on new full-electric vehicles as well as new hybrid models. Ford Motor Company has had development plans in the works for environmentally friendly vehicles to be increasingly prevalent on the roads for years-particularly in North America. As one of the many initiatives Ford is currently taking in the quest to provide the public with more fuel-efficient alternatives for vehicles, the company is promising to introduce five full-electric and hybrid vehicle models in Europe by the year 2013. This plan is part of Ford’s global electric vehicles plan. Electric and hybrid vehicles will greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions as well as reduce fossil fuel consumption.

While protecting the environment should be at the forefront of what people look for in purchasing a new vehicle, the hybrid car movement is still rather new, and the full-electric vehicle is still somewhat of an abstract concept to many consumers. According to a survey done by consumer reports, price, range and overall performance are generally top considerations for most consumers in the market when buying a new vehicle. Another consideration for people who would possibly consider buying an electric vehicle, is the accessibility of electric charging stations-people are more likely to buy, if they know it would be easy to “charge up” the vehicle conveniently. Ford, however, has a vision to bring a wide range of top performing fuel-efficient, “green” vehicles to millions.

John Fleming, Chairman and CEO, Ford of Europe and Executive Vice President of Global Manufacturing and Labour Affairs, stated in a press release, “These new advanced technology models are key to Ford’s commitment to delivering a portfolio of alternative power train vehicles globally and to European customers in the next few years,”

The first full-electric car to be launched as part of Ford’s agenda is the Transit Connect Electric. This vehicle is a compact van, commonly used for workers that need to carry excessive cargo. The idea is that electric charging stations will be housed at the workplace for employees to charge-up before going on their route of daily work tasks. This full-electric vehicle was featured at the New York Auto Show in 2010. It is said to have a 40 KW, 300-volt Siemens electric motor, and a lithium-ion battery to power the vehicle for an estimated 120,000 miles total. With an 80-mile range, the Transit Connect Electric vehicle is said to be a “smooth, quiet ride” by a test driver. When connected to a 240-volt outlet, the vehicle would take six to eight hours to be fully charged.

The next car in Ford’s electric vehicle line up for its global electric vehicles plan will be the Ford Focus Electric, coming out in 2012. This vehicle will be powered 100 percent by lithium-ion batteries. The result of an all-battery powered vehicle is zero emissions. The range reaches 100 miles, and with a 220-volt outlet, takes six to eight hours to reach a full charge. The car will also have a handy interface which tells the driver specific details about the battery charge and range. The Focus is a compact electric vehicle with a modern exterior.

“Ford is committed to help lead the way to find creative solutions and ensure that electrified vehicles can deliver benefits to our customers, the environment and our business around the globe in a sustainable way,” stated Nancy Gioia, Ford Director of Global Electrification.

Ford will then launch two versions of the C-MAX-a hybrid-electric version and a plug-in hybrid-electric version-in 2013. The C-MAX will be the first hybrid-electric vehicle model launched in Europe, and the first model to utilize Ford’s new 1.6-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine. The traditional gas-fuelled C-MAX is a seven-seat vehicle that was launched in North America for the 2011 model year. A smaller version will be developed for the hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric versions releasing in Europe. The Ford plant in Valencia, Spain will be building the vehicles, which will be for the European market only. Fleming said, “The Hybrid-Electric and Plug-In Hybrid-Electric derivatives of the all-new Ford C-MAX are great news for the Valencia plant and region, for Spain, and for Ford customers across Europe.”

The last remaining hybrid-electric vehicle due to launch by 2013 is still yet to be determined. However, the launch of all five hybrid and electric vehicles have caused much hype since Ford originally announced its plan.

Electric Vehicle History

Electric vehicles have been around for many years, even though the general public think that electrically powered vehicles are a recent invention. This is because only in recent years these type of vehicles have become more widely known due to being considered as possible alternatives to vehicles powered by combustion engines in an effort to reduce emissions that contribute to Global warming.

An electrically powered small scale model car invented in 1828 in Hungary is considered by many as being the first invented electric vehicle. Others consider an electric powered carriage invented in the 1830’s in Scotland by Robert Anderson as the first electrical powered vehicle. Another small scale electric car was designed by Professor Stratingh and built by Christopher Becker, his assistant, in Holland in 1835. Thomas Davenport also built a small electric car in 1835. He also invented the first DC motor built in the US.

Unfortunately battery technology was not advanced enough to justify further development of these type of vehicles back then. It was not until the late 1890’s that the first true passenger electric vehicle was built by William Morrison in the US. In fact in the years 1899 and 1900 more electric vehicles were sold than other types of vehicles like gasoline and steam powered vehicles in the US.

In the 1900’s electric powered vehicles had many advantages as compared to their competitors. They didn’t have the smell, vibration as well as noise as did the gasoline vehicles. Also, changing gears on gasoline vehicles was the most complicated part of driving, while electrical automobiles did not require gear changes. Steam-powered cars additionally had no gear shifting, but they suffered from long start-up times of up to 45 minutes on cold early mornings.

Steam vehicles had less range before requiring water than an electric vehicle’s range on a single charge. The best roads of the period were in town, restricting most travel to local commuting, which was well suitable for electric vehicles, since their range was limited. The electric car was the preferred alternative of many because it did not require to manually turn the hand crank to start the engine as the gasoline vehicles needed and there was no wrestling with a gear shifter to change gears.

During World War I, the cost of petrol went through the roof contributing to the popularity of electric cars. This lead to the development of the Detroit Electric which started production in 1907. The car’s range between battery recharging was about 130km (80 miles). The range depended on exactly what type of battery came with the vehicle. The typical Detroit Electric was actually powered by a rechargeable lead acid battery, which did exceptionally well in cold weather.

But the popularity of the electric car quickly came to an end. With better roads being built not only within cities, but also connecting them, the need for longer range vehicles grew. This made the electric car an impractical means of transportation. Also the newly discovered oil in the state of Texas in the US which brought the price of gas down considerably, along with the electric starter invention in 1912 which eliminated the need for a hand crank, made the gasoline vehicle the vehicle of choice. And with Henry Ford making them extremely affordable to the general public by mass producing them, the fate of the electric vehicle was sealed for many years.

It wasn’t until the 1990’s that electric vehicles started resurfacing. With the Global warming issue, the exorbitant prices of imported crude oil and legislation for smog reduction in cities, electric vehicles not only resurfaced but this time are here to stay. One of the main reasons contributing to the re-birth of the electric car is the advance in battery technology. The lithium-ion battery packs and the nickel metal hybrid battery packs are much lighter than previous batteries and can hold enough charge to power a vehicle for 100’s of Miles at high speeds between charges making electrical vehicles efficient and practical.

Are Hybrid Vehicles a Safe and Practical Choice?

Hybrid cars are quickly becoming a popular choice in transportation based in part on their better gas mileage and lower impact on the environment. In fact, their popularity can be seen as I drove around looking at Capitola condos; chances are you’ll see a few driving around. Just as with any other new vehicle, though, there are potential safety concerns. The next few paragraphs will detail some of the safety concerns associated with this relatively new technology, and will hopefully help you decide if the practicality of hybrid cars is worth the investment.

Truth be told, the fact that hybrids run on both gasoline and electricity has no real bearing on their safety. Each individual hybrid car has been tested time and time again by various accident rating institutions such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, and Safe Car. Many of the hybrid cars are smaller in size, more maneuverable, and more able to avoid collisions. They also rank relatively high in safety ratings for vehicles in their weight class. Their safety, overall size, and fuel economy make them a great choice for visiting a few of the homes featured at a Capitola real estate broker.

It should be noted, however, that hybrid vehicles do present some unique potential hazards when they are involved in an accident or when they need to be repaired. However, by understanding them, and taking some commonsense precautions, the risks can be minimized. The first potential hazard to consider is that the high voltage hybrid battery and the vehicle’s power train components create a shock hazard. While there is no confirmed record of a person being electrocuted while servicing a hybrid, certain precautions must be taken.

Hybrid vehicles by their very nature contain high voltage electronics. Because of this potential safety concern, high voltage cables and parts are usually color coded to warn of the potential danger. Unless the battery is disconnected, these cables should be avoided. As for the batteries themselves, all hybrid vehicle batteries have a safety switch or a quick disconnect mechanism. It is these and other safety protocols that have been instigated by hybrid car companies to ensure the safety of their clients, rescue workers, and mechanics. This is not a job for the back yard mechanic who lives in a Capitola condominium.

Of course, those who drive, repair or rescue accident victims are not the only people that should be considered when it comes to hybrid safety. Bystanders and pedestrians are also an important consideration. For many of them, one of the perceived advantages of hybrid cars could cause a potential danger. Hybrids cars are extremely quiet on the road. This lack of sound makes their approach fairly unnoticeable, especially by those with vision impairment. Thankfully, there are some industry insiders are trying to create technology to slightly increase the sound of the hybrid engine, and is being developed by Lotus.

Hybrid cars are not only becoming more practical and affordable, but their safety is comparable to conventional vehicles of the same size class. Depending on your transportation needs, and financial status, a hybrid vehicle might be a great investment for you. Whether you buy a hybrid or a Capitola condo for frugal reasons, but have their places as investment in living a good life and being responsible.