As I've mentioned before, I've been looking for some kind of Electric Vehicle (EV) to cut the cost of commuting to/from work. Building in a little extra range to get around traffic jams, I figure I need about 90 miles/150 km of range on a single charge. So far, though, there aren't any vehicles available which will do the job. There have been, but they were leased, not sold, and most of them have been withdrawn and destroyed by their manufacturers.
One of the reasons why there aren't more EV's out there is the fact that batteries tend to be low in capacity and very heavy. That's changing, though. More and more companies are coming out with Lithium-Ion-powered prototypes and concept cars, which have range and performance similar to existing Internal Combustion Engine (ICE)-powered vehicles. Consequently, we're getting closer to the day when I can drive to/from work on electric, instead of gasoline.
I'm really looking forward to that day.
I ran across an interesting website this last week: EVUK. In this site, the author complains (frequently) about the fact that all these wonderful electric cars are available in the US, but not in the UK (where they are frequently paying more than USD 6/gallon for gasoline; and I thought the prices around here were bad!). Sorry to burst your bubble, guys, but most of these vehicles aren't actually available over here. Some are prototypes, some are vaporware (announced, but not actually in production), some are just plain speculation, some have been cancelled. Their website does have some interesting links, though. For example, they turned me on to a battery company I hadn't heard of: Thunder Sky, in China. They are supplying high-capacity lithium-based batteries, for very good prices. I'm estimating their energy density at 267 Wh/kg; the best I'd seen, previously, was < 200 for lithium-ion batteries, and those were the small ones you find in aftermarket laptop batteries. These guys are building large, high-capacity batteries, not the small wimpy stuff.
How much capacity is that, really? Let's play with a theoretical situation. I need 90 miles per charge. If my car gets 5 miles / kWh (that's do-able, for something compact), that's 18 kWh. With their batteries, that's only 68 kg/ 148 pounds of batteries. Thats about as much weight as about 23 gallons of gasoline. Yes, you're reading that right: 90 miles in an EV, and the battery pack weighs about as much as two tanks of gas.
At that rate, it shouldn't be hard to make something with a higher range. Indeed, they have. Take a look here. They list motorcycles/scooters, cars and even BUSSES which are running pure electric. These vehicles have been built, but only as showcases for their technology. I believe they are actually building the busses, though, as part of an agreement with the bus manufacturers.
Want more specs? Take a look here. Metric Mind is now supplying their batteries, along with everything else you need to do an electric conversion. Some of those cars not only have enough range to get me to/from work, they also have enough range to drive to my mother-in-law's place. While I'm not that keen on visiting my in-laws, that's a trip we take fairly often. My dad lives a little closer than that, so any vehicle that can take us to see my wife's family can also take us to see mine. That's useful for more than just going to/from work; that eliminates most of the need for a gasoline vehicle, altogether.
This changes things. Soon, I hope.