While electric vehicles aren’t exactly new, the last few years have seen a big push to offer more fully electric vehicles rather than hybrids, giving us an increasing range of options. Diving into a full explanation would take more time than we’ve got (at the moment - hint: stay tuned!), so the short version is that electric vehicles are run by an electric motor rather than an internal combustion engine the way traditional fuel vehicles do. Because an electric motor accelerates faster, some describe them as ‘lighter to drive.’
There is also a type of electric vehicle that is actually a hybrid - many vehicles, such as the Ford Fusion and the Toyota Prius, can run on the electric motor by itself only at low speeds or for short distances, in which case the electric motor is used primarily to move the car quickly from a stop, or to accelerate more efficiently and reduce fuel consumption; these types have only a small battery that are charged by the gas engine at higher speeds, and have no plug-in charging capability. Some have model options available to operate on pure electric at faster speeds (the Ford Fusion has the ‘Energi’ model and the Toyota Prius has the ‘plug-in hybrid’ model) and are called ‘PHEV’ for ‘Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle.’ Other plug-in hybrids, such as the Chevy Volt, call them ‘Range-Extended EVs’ and can run on pure electric at any speed, but switch to the gas engine when the battery is exhausted (typically around 50 miles for the Volt, for example).
Some of the earlier EV models since the late 90s had a reputation for being both prohibitively expensive and also exclusive, but that’s not so much the case anymore.
Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly practical and are being released in a widening range of makes and models. There are sedans, SUVs, people movers and yes, there’s even an electric overhaul of the classic vehicular workhorse, the Ford F150 Lightning! In fact, there’s so many new models and concepts coming out in recent years that we’ll continue with a series of posts describing the pros and cons of many of them - feel free to comment on which models you’re interested in, and we’ll include reviews and impressions of those in a future post!
Most of that is still in the future, though. So what about now? Right now, our pretty blue and green planet is feeling rapid changes in climate and weather patterns. Those effects have been felt all over the world, sometimes with significant loss of life. Those changes tell us that if we’re gonna survive, we need to be able to change, to adapt, to move. Electric vehicles are a huge step in lessening our reliance on fossil fuels and fossil fuel infrastructure, especially with the way clean energy is expanding in reach and availability. Preserving the planet we live on will depend on us finding new ways to power our vehicles and our communities, but the good news is how many different options we already have!
No matter which way our future builds, technology has the means to help us all get there. With clean power options, nothing says we can’t continue to enjoy most modern conveniences more or less as they are. For the things that need to be changed, working WITH our environment rather than just IN our environment is the most sustainable way forward.
Now, don’t get me wrong - you can still have electric heat, lights, washers and dryers - none of that has to go away. We just need to generate and harness our power in ways that don't ultimately do more harm than good. Science is pointing us in the right direction: the data is in, the technology exists, the groundwork has been set and the advancements just a-keep on comin’. A future where we as a species live with our environment while retaining technological advances could wind up looking a lot of different ways, but my favorite is solarpunk. It’s a world where electric vehicles can fit right in: metropolitan high rises with vertical gardens, regular city fountains that water graduating tiers of air filtering plants, public parks that include community gardens where you can grow own organic food for free, and both private EVs as well as public transit that goes by without a haze of exhaust in its wake.
It’s gonna be great - we just need to figure out how to [get there].