ehicle) An automobile that is powered entirely or partially by electricity. Although prototype electric vehicles (EVs) were invented in the 1800s and various models were built in the 1900s, the EV industry only began in earnest after the turn of the century.
The advantage of an EV is fuel economy. All-electric models can reach the equivalent of around 100 MPG. However, they have a distance limit, typically from 40 to 80 miles. When the battery runs out, they have to be charged, which is a problem away from home. There are electric charging stations, but often few and far between.
Hybrid vehicles have no distance limit but are less economical with fuel; generally no more than 50 MPG. In 2010, GM introduced the plug-in, hybrid-electric Chevrolet Volt. The Volt is a gas-powered car that runs on battery for short distances, allowing those commuters to enjoy great economy when plugged into their home's electrical panel overnight. The Volt can last up to 50 miles on its electric charge, at which time the internal combustion engine takes over.
A regular hybrid-electric vehicle such as the Toyota Prius is refilled only with gas, and the vehicle charges the battery. Introduced in 1997, the Prius technology switches automatically between the electric motors and gas engine. Toyota came out with a plug-in hybrid in 2012.
In 2009, the Tesla Roadster was the first all-electric with a respectable 200 mile range. Rather than retrofitting an electric drive train into an existing chassis, the Tesla was engineered from the ground up as an EV. In 2014, Tesla had sufficient charging stations in the U.S. to enable owners to drive from Los Angeles to New York entirely free, because Tesla has thus far not collected a fee for the service.
First EV Car for the Masses
General Motors built and leased more than a thousand EV1 electric cars from 1996 to 1999 to meet California's environmental deadline. However, the EV program gave way to low-emission gas and hybrid gas-electric cars. This car is in the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.
The Tesla Roadster
Featuring zero emissions and great handling, the Tesla can go more than 200 miles on a single charge. With a top speed of 125 MPH, it can reach 60 in less than four seconds. (Image courtesy of Tesla Motors, www.teslamotors.com)
Hybrid Diesel Electric
Hybrid electric buses have been operating in New York since 1998. Using low-sulfur diesel fuel and smaller diesel engines, these vehicles produce a fraction of the emissions of a standard diesel bus.