Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New Hope For The Electric Car

Car manufacturer Chevrolet is taking a step towards reducing fuel emissions linked to rising levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and climate change.

The Chevrolet Volt is an electrically-powered car that allows the operator to choose one of three different power sources to generate electricity: a fuel cell, an engine, or a battery charged from the power grid.

The Volt uses an electrical propulsion system along with a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder turbocharged engine. The engine requires that only a blend of 15 per cent gasoline and 85 per cent ethanol, or E85 fuel, be used.

Although ethanol is mildly better for the environment, it is still considered “mildly toxic,” according to Wikipedia, and so will still emit harmful greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

Chairman and CEO of General Motors Corporation, Rick Wagoner, stated that “tomorrow’s automobiles must be flexible enough to accommodate many different energy sources,” and that “a key part of that flexibility will be enabled by the development of electrically driven cars.”

In fact, electric cars are not a new phenomenon.
General Motors began producing the electrically powered car, EV1, in 1996 to meet the looming zero-emissions mandate initiated by California in 1990.

After the California Air Resources Board dropped its Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate, production of the EV1 was terminated. Customers who still had EV1s on lease were forced to return them to the dealership, despite the fact that many people were unwilling to do so and told the car manufacturer that they would jump any legal hurtles to keep their EV1s.

Before turning in their cars, EV1 owners and their supporters held a mock-funeral at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, California on July 24, 2003.

Despite bolstering a lot of support for their cause, EV1 owners were all forced to return their cars to GM. The EV1s were then left in storage, put into museums or scrapped.

California is again cracking down on fuel emissions, but this time they have the celebrity power and legal and financial backing in Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to hopefully make green-technology stick.

As for the rest of the world, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if the Volt has some teeth.

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