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Building a Better Electric Vehicle

Why 'purpose-driven' electric cars have certain advantages over the rest of the lot.

By Claire_Martin May 10, 2012 12:12PM
Coda photo by Coda.Not all electric vehicles are created equal. Some, such as the Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf, were built to be electric. Others are retrofits: The Chevy Volt is based on the Cruze and the Ford Focus Electric is derived from its namesake gasoline car. The difference may seem like a matter of semantics, but if your passengers like to have legroom or you want to toss your luggage in the trunk, it's kind of a big deal. 

Here's what sets so-called "purpose-driven" EVs apart from the retrofits:
 
1. Purpose-driven electrics are more spacious. They use flat-format battery cells that are placed under the floor of the car, freeing up space for passengers and other cargo. The Tesla Model S, for example, has a trunk in the front where an engine would otherwise go, plus a hatchback big enough to accommodate a rear-facing third-row seat. By contrast, the Ford Focus Electric's battery dominates the trunk and the Volt's battery hogs enough room that only two passengers can fit in the back seat. 
 
2. Purpose-driven EVs handle and brake better. Placing heavy batteries underneath the floor lowers the center of gravity, which improves braking and handling and provides a smoother ride overall. (Consider how a heavy battery in the trunk would affect a car's handling.)
 
3. Most purpose-driven EVs are purely electric. The Leaf, which can go 100 miles per charge, and the new Chinese BYD e6, which gets a reported range of 186 miles, both use electric motors without back-up gasoline engines. The Volt, on the other hand, relies on a small gas engine to power a generator, which gives additional charge to the battery. Without relying on the engine, its range is just 40 miles. (However, with a full tank of gas in the range extender, it goes 300 miles.) 
 
4. Purpose-driven EVs aren't necessarily more expensive. Using gasoline cars as the basis for electric vehicles has one big advantage: It's cheaper for the manufacturer. But those savings don't necessarily get passed on to the consumer. The Volt, in fact, is more pricey than its main competitor, the Leaf. 
 
One exception to the purpose-driven/retrofit divide is the Coda, an electric sedan based on a 2000-model-year Mitsubishi Lancer. The California-based company has wedged the bulk of the battery underneath the floor, making this the rare nonpurpose-driven EV that still has the advantages of one. Its range is 150 miles (no extra engine) and it takes just six hours to charge (half the time of the Leaf). 

15Comments
May 11, 2012 12:28PM
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I have a Volt and live in Nevada so the car works great for me. Most days I drive less than 40 miles so I am almost always in Electric mode. The days I do have to exceed 40 miles I have the gas engine that recharges the batteries as I go and if I want to "get off the island" I can drive as far out of town as I want to go in gasoline mode.

 

Our local power is generated through hydro-electric. But I do agree, the grid needs to be cleaned up in order to make a truly environmental play.


My gas consumption will go from 550 gallons of fuel that I used in my old car to about 55 gallons.

 

My main reason for getting an EV is simply to reduce my support of terrorism. The less money I can send to foreign countries that support terrorism the better it is for the USA. I would like for the USA to be self-sustaining AND clean. I don't want anymore American blood to be spent on protecting our "interests" in the middle east...

 

Just my 2 cents...

Jun 26, 2012 3:47AM
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Aside from the charging problem I am reading about with electric cars, my biggist complaint is the price. Many people may be able to afford the cost of a new electric vehicle but for the people it could benefit the most, by saving us the cost of fuel, it is out of the question to buy one. My wife & I don't drive more than 6000 miles a year, so an electic would probrably work great, but we can't afford the purchase  price (even with any discounts or rebates). Low income people like ourselves could use a cost saving car but not when they cost more than we would spend on a gas powered vehicle , & the gasoline we purchase for it.  I like the idea of environmental friendly products, just make them truly affordable,
May 12, 2012 7:45AM
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I do think that electric cars are part of the solution to energy independence, but not the whole solution.  In my opinion what needs to happen is, America needs adjust it's infrastruction to accomadate for electric, as well other fuel alternatives This adjustment should be directly propotional to resources availible (especialily with regards to fossil fuel ie:petroleum and natural gas). Next cars need to built according to that resource budget as well, with the remainder trending towards biofuels and electric. In short if resource X acounts for 60% of America's fossil fuel and resource Y accounts for 40% then build cars that follow those trends. Electric and biofuels get a break because those aren't finite resources. Under this plan Amercica could easily become energy independent.

Jun 26, 2012 6:04AM
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Hmmmm.  What is worst for the environment or economy?

 

1.     More efficient gasoline vehicles or more coal for our outdated power plants

2.     More efficient gasoline or toxic used batteries in our landfills

3.     More efficient gasoline or more taxes to upgrade our infrastructure (new power plants to handle the demands or places to plug in that could charge for its use)

 

It’s a tough decision

 

Jun 26, 2012 4:43AM
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1, with Electricity everyone is time driven yet need time to relax & re-charge, so should your car (we'd just need to be efficient in managing it);

2, the world will still use fossil fuel because so far nothing can replace that Power

3, considering Atoms {with the nuclear scare- under the carpet- if another earthquake hits Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant the cores are hit= meltdown we won't even be thinking about cars because we will no longer exist after the release of radioactive materials} Yet Hydrogen ooo which combines electicity w/ O2 to create exhaust =pure water vapor and creates 0 harmful pollutants, yet people need to be educated for proper usage- ignition + pressure. Plus we can create new jobs by getting a Water creation Plant running!

4, think of how much $$$ is INVESTED in overseas oil and need I mention our 'Wars'...we are talking about Stocks & Banking Industry and General Public vested in Old ideas.

*Guess we can't always rely on the Decision makers to make life easier for everyone, since the Money holders (GM Ford, or somebody, bought the Design prints many yrs. ago, in fact I saw pictures in 80'S + 90's) held onto the Idea till recently.

5.Excerpt from:

'WHO INVENTED IT': It was in 1665 when Ferdinand Verbiest, a Jesuit priest and astronomer, began designing a four-wheeled self-moving wagon powered by steam.

6.**and we are not allowed to be inventive + use RECYCLED cooking Oil because that'd mean they're not making a $ cut ~ instead search 'HHO' uses water already starting a contract with 1 US Automaker & the Government..... or we can go old school by using a horse & carriage, or maybe our feet :D

Jun 26, 2012 4:11AM
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I currently live in an apartment complex. This makes an all electric car problematic for me. I wouldn't be able to charge the car here, nor would I be able to charge it at my place of work. We need infrastructure to catch up with the times. I would love to drive an all electric car the 17.3 miles to work and back each day. I also find it impossible for me to afford one of the new electrics, but I can't afford any new car electric or otherwise. I just do not earn enough money working for the state to afford anything like a new car or even a home.
May 11, 2012 3:21PM
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Any car the size of a Volt only has room for 2 adults in the back. Sixty percent of people that have bought Hybrids say the won't buy another. The Volt would be my choice.

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We have owned a leaf for more than a year now and have 7000 miles on it and have not bought gas in all that time. We use it for 95% of our driving to store shopping doctor and other appointment. Here in the Northwest a lot of stores have charging stations in front of their business and where else can you get free fuel for shopping? The electric car is the wave of the future and not subject to the rising price of gas, which at time can really hurt when you have to buy it to get to work. New charging stations are going in all the time and it won't be long till they out number gas stations. One thing to keep in mind there was not a gas station on every corner when the gas car was starting to replace the horse and that’s what is happing to the gas automobile now, it will go the way of the horse. I will be replacing my pickup as soon as there is an electric one available. I have bought my last gas vehicle and I'm not looking back.

Jun 26, 2012 7:34AM
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I saw a show and we've used approximately 1 trillion barrels of oil since the start of the industrial age.A trillion is a thousand billion.  We have approximately 1 trillion barrels of proven reserves left, though maybe upto 3 trillion in the earth's crust.  (supposedly).  At the current rate of usage (86/87 million barrels per day in the world) that means in 31 years a trillion barrels will have been used up or approximately in 94 years 3 trillion barrels will be gone. The number of LNG (liquefied natural gas) vehicles is thought maybe to go up 5 times in the next 23 years.  I think electric vehicles are important.  Electric skateboards are now being made that go upto 20 mph.  And the same with electric bicycles that are becoming available.  I think we might have to use solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear  etc.,to

take the co2 out of the air and maybe convert it into coal or gasoline or diesel perhaps?  :-)

Jun 26, 2012 4:04AM
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yes if we would have went to the electric cars or used the better fule.We could try a little better they the oil compeny wave to make a profet and will do every thing in there power to get us to use the gas that they have been making because it's all profet to them .
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