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The History of Electric Cars – The Current Years (1990 to Present) – Part 3

The History of Electric Cars – The Current Years (1990 to Present)
Several  legislative and regulatory  actions  have renewed  electric  vehicle development  efforts.  Primary among  these  is  the  1990 Clean Air  Act  Amendment,  the  1992  Energy  Policy  Act,  and regulations issued  by  the California Air  Resources  Board  (CARB).  In addition to  more  stringent  air  emissions requirements  and regulations  requiring  reductions  in gasoline use,  several  states  have issued Zero Emission Vehicle requirements. The “Big  Three”  automobile  manufacturers,  and the Department  of  Energy,  as  well  as  a number  of vehicle conversion companies  are actively  involved in electric  vehicle development  through  the Partnership  for  a New  Generation  of  Vehicles  (PNGV). 
Electric  conversions  of  familiar  gasoline powered vehicles,  as  well  as  electric  vehicles  designed  from  the ground up,  are  now  available that reach  super  highway  speeds  with ranges  of  50 to  150 miles between recharging. Some examples  of  these vehicles  are the Chevrolet  S-10 pickup truck,  converted by  U.S.  Electricar  and  no  longer available.  It  was  powered by  dual  alternating  current  motors and  lead acid batteries.  It  had a  range  of  about  60 miles,  and could be recharged in less than 7 hours.
The Geo Metro,  converted by  Solectria Corp.,  is  an  electricpowered 4-passenger  sedan  powered by  an  alternating current  motor  and lead-acid batteries.  
It  has  a  range of  50  miles,  and  it  can  be recharged in  less  than 8 hours.  During  the  1994 American  Tour  de  Sol  from  New  York  City  to Philadelphia,  a  1994  Solectria Geo Metro cruised over 200 miles on a single charge using Ovonic nickel metal hydride batteries. The “Big  Three”  automobile  manufacturers  are also  developing electric  vehicles. An  early  1990s  vehicle was  the Ford  Ecostar  utility van with an alternating  current  motor  and sodium  sulfur  batteries. The top speed was  70  mph  and it  had  a range of  80  to  100  miles. While  about  100  Ecostars  were produced,  it  was  considered an  R&D vehicle and never offered commercially.
Ford is  now  offering  an  electric  version of  its  Ford Ranger  pickup.  It has  a  range of  about  65 miles  with its  lead  acid  batteries,  has  a  top speed of  75  mph,  it  accelerates  from  0 to 50  mph  in 12 seconds,  and it has a payload of 700 pounds.  General  Motors  has  designed and developed  an electric  car  from  the ground up instead  of  modifying  an existing  vehicle.  This  vehicle,  called the EV1,  is  a  2-passenger  sports  car  powered by  a  liquid-cooled alternating  current  motor  and  lead-acid batteries.  The  EV1 has  a  top speed of  80  mph,  has  a range of  80  miles,  and  can  accelerate from  0  to 50 mph in less than 7 seconds.
In addition  to  the  EV1,  General  Motors  is  offering  an electric  vehicle  Chevrolet  S-10 pickup.  This vehicle has  a range of  45  miles,  it  accelerates  from  5 to 50 mph in 10 seconds,  and it  has  a payload of 950 pounds. Other  electric  vehicles  that  are now  available in some states,  or  will be available during  1998,  include  the  Toyota RAV4 sport  utility, the  Honda EV  Plus  sedan,  and the Chrysler  EPIC  minivan. 
These three  vehicles are all  equipped with advanced nickel  metal  hydride battery  packs. Nissan has  announced  that  they  will  place  limited numbers  of  their Altra EV  station wagons  in California  fleets  during  1998.  The Altra  is equipped  with a lithium-ion  battery  pack.  In addition,  both Ford  and General  Motors  have  announced that  during  1998  the  Ranger,  the EV1,  and the S-10 pickup will  all  be available  with nickel  metal  hydride battery packs. While the vehicles  currently  available will  satisfy  the  driving  requirements  of  many  fleet  operators  and two car  families,  the  cost  of  $30,000 to $40,000 makes  them  expensive.  However,  this  cost  can be considerably lower when tax credits and incentives are included. Large-volume production and improvements  in the production process  are expected to reduce this price  to the range of  current  gasoline-powered vehicles.

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