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Electric cars are getting a lot of attention lately. With a growing concern about the impacts that driving has on our environment, consumers and automakers are moving towards more sustainable models. Electric cars are just like regular cars, but they have electric motors that run on electricity from a battery, instead of (or sometimes in addition to) an internal combustion energy that burns gasoline. This means reduced or no greenhouse-gas emissions. While some electric vehicle models feature a small gas engine to compliment the electric drivetrain, some models run on battery power alone.
Here’s a list of 10 fun facts about electric cars:
10. You can use a home power outlet to charge them!
Plug-in electric cars are gaining popularity. While early electric vehicles that were popular have been hybrids that charge their batteries with the aid of a gas-powered engine, some vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, can plug into an outlet at your home. You need a 240 volt outlet, like the kind that would power an electric stove, but if you have one in your garage or can retrofit one, you will never have to pay for gas again. This doesn’t make an electric carbon-neutral, and it can take a handful of hours to charge your car, but it is pretty cool to power your car at home.
9. They’re quiet
Hybrid and electric cars run significantly more quiet that gas-powered vehicles. This could be advantageous to people who live close to heavy-traffic areas, it could also pose some unintended consequences. In 2007 the Wall St. Journal did a story on hybrids and their lack of noise. The focus of the story was on the threat that hybrids and EVs can potentially pose to pedestrians and bicyclists. There has even been talk of mandating some sort of noise for EV’s to alert pedestrians to their approach.
8. They can be fast — really fast
The electric Peugeot EX1, which looks like it came out of Tron, beat the electric world records at the Nürburgring racetrack in Germany, a punishing, internationally-renowned track nicknamed “Green Hell.” You can view of video of the record lap here. It beat the previous record by 50 seconds, finishing the twisting, 12-mile track in 9:01.338 minutes — that’s not as fast as some gas-powered cars which have posted times under 7 minutes — but it shows electrics increasing ability to flat-out run.
7. They’ve been around for over 180 years
In 1828, Hungarian Anyos Jedlik made a model car that was propelled by an small electric engine. In 1895 American William Morrison developed the first 6-passenger electric vehicle. Electric-powered taxis debuted in New York City in 1897. Some car companies sold electric vehicles in the early 20th century and in 1917, and the first gasoline-electric hybrid was sold by Woods Motors of Chicago. Electric cars fell out of favor around the 1920s, when improvements were made to the internal combustion engine and the highway infrastructure expanded.
6. They’re selling well
The top-selling hybrid model in the US is the Toyota Prius, with 140,928 units sold in 2010. This is no surprise, considering that the Prius was the first widely-available hybrid option extended to consumers. Since 2000, almost 1 million Priuses have been sold. The 2011 Chevy Volt was sold out by December 2010 and Nissan announced in May that the 2011 Leaf has sold out as well.
5. The range is getting better
Smaller, more efficient batteries are giving electric cars a greater range. Manufacturers are aiming for at least 100 miles per charge, as exemplified by the Nissan Leaf and the BMW Mini E. Tesla Motors’ line of high-performance electric sports cars offer even greater range, though only if driven at moderate speeds.
4. SUVs are going electric
The sports utility vehicle, often seen as emblematic of over-consumption and terrible gas mileage, has gotten new life with the growing popularity of electric vehicles. Car companies are starting to develop “crossover” SUVs, built on a car platform and reduced in weight. The Toyota RAV-4 electric is currently the most popular hybrid SUV, but there are more on the way. So you can still haul cargo and children, go off-road and have a roomy interior, all while conserving fuel.
3. Celebrities love them.
George Clooney, Cameron Diaz, Will Ferrell, Jay Leno and Tom Hanks all love their hybrids and electrics. Here’s a photo roundup of stars with their cars.
2. Car companies haven’t always been excited about Electric vehicles.
Maybe one of the most famous stories involving electric vehicles was highlighted in the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, which chronicles the birth and death of the General Motors EV1. The EV1 was an electric, limited-release model that was brought down in a flurry of corporate pressure from oil companies and auto manufacturers that were unsure that they wanted to comply with more demanding state clean air standards. The film’s writer and director, Chris Paine has now made another movie about the resurgence of EV’s, called “Revenge of the Electric Car.”
1. You can do it yourself!
Many electric cars have been built by hobbyists and regular people who want to convert their existing car with the aid of manuals and conversion kits. Some auto garages specialize in electric car conversion. If you’re crafty, love the environment and hate paying for gas, a DIY conversion may be the right thing for you. Check out diyelectriccar.com for more information.
CC Flickr photo of Tesla electric car courtesy of faceme.