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The Eco-Corner

The electric car — has it finally arrived?

Actually, it has been around for quite a long time, since somewhere about 1840, and only falling behind the petrol (gasoline to Henry Ford) driven car in 1908. The early electric cars were all equipped with heavy lead-acid batteries, and there was no universally available electricity supply to recharge them. They only survived in the form of the milkman's delivery van, golf cart and the fork lift truck because of their ability to stop and start over and over again without trouble of waste. It is the development of lighter and more powerful batteries which has made the electric car once more a practical proposition.

The most noticeable benefits are the ride, almost silent and smooth, with no gears and a low centre of gravity, no polluting exhaust gasses and lower running costs than petrol. It all sounds too good to be true, and it does avoid the question of where the electric power is to come from.

Electricity is not a primary source of energy, it has to be generated by burning coal, gas or oil in a power station, by harnessing the wind or the flow of water. We have become so used to it, we can cook the dinner with it, do the washing, clean the carpet, keep our factories running and play football at night, all a long way from where the electricity is generated. The power to drive the electric car comes from somewhere else too, the battery allows us to store it and use it when and where we want, so we still need to pursue ways of cleaner generation even if our cities have clean air. A modern power station is far more efficient at its job that a petrol or diesel engine in a car or lorry so there is an immediate advantage. The electric vehicle only uses what it needs whilst the petrol driven vehicle, making its way through traffic jams and road blocks to is forced to use a great deal more. The electric car can be charged up at night, when power stations needs consumers to operate efficiently.

My own suggestion for the month — company cars, which are a feature of todays business could all be equipped with solar panels on the roof so that after a sunny day in the car park, they could be driven home at no cost at all.

Bob Weighton

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