Electric cars are known for being energy efficient, small and quiet. It’s the last part that has some public activists crying foul and the federal government stepping in to make these cars a little less quiet.
The problem is that these quiet electric cars produce no warning noise for pedestrians-especially blind or vision impaired pedestrians-who might not realize they are close and could potentially step in front of them.
Advocates for the blind have been pushing the federal government to do something about these hazardous situation, and the feds have finally agreed. The new federal government mandate will force electric car manufacturers to install a special noise production device which will alert everyone the vehicle is coming, until it reaches 17mph. What is so far unclear is what sort of “noise” will be considered effective and how much this noise device will cost manufacturers and ultimately the consumers.
There is also something to be said for the fact that the quietness of these cars is a selling point. People like quiet cars. The people who are buying electric cars are the same people who are intentionally avoiding ‘noisy’, gas guzzling cars. They think noisy is uncool and quiet is “in.”
Will noisy electric cars sell as well as the quiet ones did? And given that the quiet ones haven’t been selling as everyone had hoped they would be by now, will this spell doom for electric automakers? Only time will tell.
According to a new study by the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, American new car buyers simply aren’t interested in electric cars, whether hybrid or plug-in. The new study does seem indicate that new car buyers in certain cities are embracing electric cars. Places like Chicago, Boston and San Francisco are showing strong growth in electric car purchases, but this is not enough to sustain the entire industry, the study says.
Given that electric automobile sales across the board have been steadily growing does not seem to influence the authors of this new study. They say that President Barack Obama’s plan to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 is misguided at best.
However, it is important to note that the data for the just released study was collected in autumn of 2011, long before the most current fleet of hybrid electric and plug-in electric vehicles, with increased reliability and extended range hit the market. It was also before the new hybrid-electric Chevy Volt, with a range of nearly 400 miles hit the market.
Their study was also conducted long before the current crop of more than 11,000 electric charging stations were installed around the country. Cities such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Indianapolis have embraced electric vehicle technology and have begun installing hundreds of new electric charging stations around their downtown areas. Tesla Automotive has already begun installing a massive nationwide network which allow owners of their plug-in electric Tesla Model S vehicles to criss-cross the country without the need to rush home and recharge.
The Indiana University report data was also collected before Consumer Reports determined that electric vehicles have nearly the same depreciation rate as their fossil-fuel only cousins and began rating electric as higher value vehicles both for their reliability and quality craftsmanship.
Based on all the recent reports showing electric vehicle technology has so far surpassed gasoline technology and expectations, it seems way too early, and indeed shortsighted, to base a study on data collected before a new technology had hardly had a chance to begin.
One of the biggest drivers of consumer demand for electric powered vehicles has been the underlying belief that these vehicles are actually better for the environment. However, a new study conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology seems to cast doubt on this belief.
The study was conducted to determine is electric vehicles simply shift concerns about the environment from one aspect to another. In other words, these new vehicles might not run on fossil fuels, which has been shown to cause global CO2 issues, but what about the toxic materials used in construction of the batteries and the production of the electricity used to power these vehicles? Do these factors outweigh any benefits gained from the fact they do not require fossil fuel to operate?
Perhaps not surprisingly to many, the study showed that yes, these vehicles do shift the balance away from fossil fuels and that the shift results in negative gain. In other words, are electric vehicles better for the environment? The answer is, no.
This does not mean that electric vehicles are bad and the technology should be abandoned. It simply means that consumers should be made aware that there are disadvantages to using electric vehicles and efforts should be undertaken to make them less harmful to environment, much as those same efforts made fossil fuel powered vehicles less harmful to the environment, such as the introduction of the catalytic converter and the elimination of the need for gasoline with lead.
No technology when first introduced is perfect. There is always a learning curve and always room for improvement when something new is rolled out. However, it is important for consumers to understand exactly what they getting before they commit to buy. If they are choosing an electric vehicle simply to decrease their dependence on having to stop at a gas station, then that’s ok. If they believe that buying an electric vehicle will somehow save the planet, well, that’s another story altogether.