The auto industry is hoping green eco cars will help pull them out of the recession blues. Among them is Chevy with its Volt, looking to do for electric vehicles what the Toyota Prius did for hybrids. However, unlike hybrids, electric vehicles face a fundamental fact that will make it harder to become popular. They need to be plugged in.
The basic idea behind an electric vehicle is that you plug it in at night and then it is charged and ready for use the next day. But what happens when you run out of charge? Car manufacturers built in back up gasoline engines to get us home when we run out of charge, but the ultimate solution is going to be the ability to “recharge” on the go. Fortunately, companies like GE and others are already hard at work solving this.
The GE WattStation will start appearing in cities in 2011, and can recharge an electric vehicle completely in 4 to 8 hours. You can effectively recharge your car while you are at work, running errands, out on lunch, or doing anything else you do while your car is parked.
While devices like the WattStation are still in early production stages, the possibilities for these devices are endless. To begin with, small efficient solar panels could eventually be utilized to provide power to the charging station, making for a truly off the grid automobile. What a difference this future image of “refueling” is compared to our current day greasy and noisy gas stations.
Technologies like the WattStation and the Volt help us reduce pollution and our dependence on oil. GE, founded by inventor and early clean energy activist Thomas Edison, estimates that for every 10,000 drivers that switch to an electric vehicle, CO2 emissions would be cut by 33,000 metric tons per year.What a difference that could make!
As a Thomas Edison quote goes, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
A hundred years after Edison said that we still aren’t free of our oil and coal addiction, but with products like the Volt and WattStation we are certainly getting there. One day we may find solar powering everything, from our cars and appliances to the Internet and websites for photographers.
Photo credit: GE