Before reading any further I would recommend a browse of the Wikipedia page on Electric Cars – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_car it is a wealth of information on all the controversial topics as well as a good source for information on current state of technology and the history of EVs.
Primer – I am currently in the finishing stages of converting a truck to electric drive.
November 2016 update – Toyota Ev Truck is now licensed and on the road with 18kwh of LiFe4Po batteries and a 3kw charger. Its done its first week well and can achieve 2.9mi/kwh if I don’t stomp on the accelerator every chance I get 🙂
Final build cost was right around my estimate, $11,000
Will electric cars save us all from climate change and the energy crisis ?
No. No more than a twinkie will save you from heart failure. Electric cars are more efficient, can be cleaner (see Wikipedia) and will serve the driving habits of roughly 80% of people.
They are a “good” compromise in the energy intensive growth addicted world in which we find ourselves today and in my opinion a “good” vehicle to start winding down oil addicted industrial society with. If you study energy and the way we use it you quickly realize we choose convenience, density and portability of certain forms of fuel over other concerns.
Electricity as a transportation fuel runs counter to this because of the energy density of current batteries, a hurdle being slowly overcome. Necessity is the mother of invention.
Why build and what to build?
I don’t know what made me build rather than buy new, as of Jan 2013 I am struggling financially, as the economy finally gets around to affecting me personally, with some major components left to buy for my 1986 Toyota Truck. This has left a bitter sweet taste, I own an EV but it is of no use to me.
My initial hesitation was of a financial nature but I decided to go for it and I’m confident it will see daily use in the future. Remember these sage words – it will ALWAYS take longer than you think.
So would I rather be stuck with a higher car payment and driving a 3 year old OEM EV ? that’s a very tough question and one I can’t even answer for myself, let alone anyone else.
So why build ? Of course budgetary reasons, instead of spending over $30k for a car, if you’re good at automotive and electrical work (moderately!) you can end up with a really nice EV for under $12k That is also assuming that you don’t opt to build something smaller than a car.
Single person EVs are likely to be a growing part of the market in the next couple of decades. I went with the classic truck conversion because of heavy old batteries, but I find myself pining for a much smaller, quicker vehicle, even smaller than my 2007 Toyota Yaris.
Like any vehicle, consider the use and passengers it would see, for me a single seat reverse trike built from motorcycle parts might be in my future. Because the battery to vehicle weight ratio can be tweaked in a smaller vehicle, less capacity is needed thus going with a higher energy dense, longer lasting chemistry is more affordable.
If you think you want to go the builders route, check out evalbum.com for a whole list of every possible shape and size of custom EV.
The environmentalist’s perspective
Lately, in fact within a year after I had started my EV conversion I already started to see it as nothing more than conforming to another doomed paradigm. Not least because its a huge heavy truck (ed- hardly, its sooo 80’s) stuffed with lead antimony and acid. Gross.
This is the pessimistic green doomsayer in me talking, but every time I hear about how EVs are “clean” I just cringe. There really is no 100% clean solution to power our current society, EVs are still cars, cars that still use a fair bit of oil, steel, copper, aluminum and now lithium etc… all inputs from extractive, environmentally impacting activities.
That’s at least one reason I will admit that drove me to convert: you’re recycling an old vehicle.
The techno-optimist’s perspective
Amory Lovins is a very optimistic guy and I really hope he’s right about efficiency and rapid transition away from oil/coal.
If only I could afford to make an EV entirely out of carbon fiber, or even aluminum. 😦