The success or failure of the growing electric vehicle movement will come down to the successful development of inexpensive, advanced batteries.
Ahead of Nissan’s plan to introduce what it calls Zero Emission Vehicles in the United States next year, the company is promoting the project with a coast-to-coast tour of Nissan’s EV Prototype. The running concept car uses a lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor making it a pure electric car. Nissan is quick to say “this vehicle does not represent the design of Nissan’s electric vehicle that will be sold in 2010.” Still, it looks good as it is.
The first stop on the publicity tour was San Diego where Nissan and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), the local utility company, formed a partnership to advance electric cars by promoting the development of an electric vehicle charging network. Nissan will also assist the utility in the acquisition of its electric vehicles.
Nissan’s efforts join those of most automakers who are searching for ways to meet increasingly stringent emissions and fuel economy standards with updated versions of alternative vehicles that were not successful in the past. In the case of electric cars, expense, limited range and difficulty finding places to recharge them hurt sales. General Motors has similar labors underway in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The Rocky Mountain Institute has launched Project Get Ready that details what communities need to do to become ready for plug-in vehicles. And the Obama administration is also promoting the electrification of the car.
Critics of electric vehicles say it is misleading call them “zero emission vehicles” since it does not take into account how the electricity needed to charge them is generated. Most of the electric power in the U.S. is made by burning CO2 producing fuels, predominately coal, oil, and natural gas. Some therefore suggest that EVs should be dubbed “elsewhere emission vehicles” since the greenhouse gases are moved from tailpipes to utility smokestacks. Nonetheless, there are potential benefits in congested urban areas to using electric cars, if ways can be found for apartment dwellers and other users without garages to recharge them. (more…)