|The History of Electric Vehicles|
|Recent Years (1990 to 1998)|
The "Big Three" automobile manufacturers, and the U.S. 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 (top image), 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 electric-powered 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 also developed 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 offered an electric version of its Ford Ranger pickup. It had a range of about 65 miles with its lead acid batteries, had a top speed of 75 mph, it accelerated from 0 to 50 mph in 12 seconds, and it had 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, was a 2-passenger sports car powered by a liquid-cooled alternating current motor and lead-acid batteries. The EV1 had a top speed of 80 mph, had a range of 80 miles, and could accelerate from 0 to 50 mph in less than 7 seconds.
In addition to the EV1, General Motors offered an electric vehicle Chevrolet S-10 pickup. This vehicle had a range of 45 miles, it accelerated from 5 to 50 mph in 10 seconds, and it had a payload of 950 pounds.
Other electric vehicles that were available during 1998 included the Toyota RAV4 sport utility, the Honda EV Plus sedan, and the Chrysler EPIC minivan. These three vehicles were all equipped with advanced nickel metal hydride battery packs. Nissan placed limited numbers of their Altra EV station wagons in California fleets during 1998. The Altra was equipped with a lithium-ion battery pack. In addition, both Ford and General Motors during 1998, made the Ranger, the EV1, and the S-10 pickup available with nickel metal hydride battery packs.
While the vehicles in 1998 satisfied the driving requirements of many fleet operators and two car families, the cost of $30,000 to $40,000 (1998) made them expensive. However, this cost was considerably lower when tax credits and incentives were included.
Large-volume production and improvements in the production process are expected to reduce prices to the range of current gasoline-powered vehicles.
An excellent site on the history of electrical vehicles is "the history of electric vehicles" site, the first online archive created to encourage electric vehicle enthusiasts to help preserve the recent history of electric vehicles.
Next page > The History of Gas Powered Cars
Photos and partial information provided by the U. S. Department of Energy