(another post from Frank Ganje, who has been on fire. Many thanks to Frank for picking up the slack in a week where I have been otherwise engaged)
I was looking to replace my aging Ford van with a small economy pickup, but discovered that they are becoming scarce. Ford Motor Company may have shot themselves in the foot by announcing the closure of the Ranger production facility in St. Paul, Minnesota just as fuel prices were climbing to record levels.
I also discovered that small isn’t so small any more. Even the venerable Datsun pickup which sold in the millions has been renamed Nissan and resized to a not so fuel efficient hunk of steel and plastic. However, the situation is changing as fast as fuel prices. Ford Motor Company has back-pedaled and announced a two-year reprieve to its St. Paul Ford Ranger plant.
Like many drivers shocked by fuel prices, I am seriously considering a fully electric vehicle because 95% of my driving needs could be met by one. For the occasions when I need to travel longer distances or haul larger loads it may make more sense to rent a gas burner. I certainly could afford to do so with my savings in fuel costs.
An electric vehicle manufactured in Fargo, North Dakota by Global Electric Motorcars which gets the equivalent of 150 mpg and two-cents a mile operation costs has certainly gotten my attention. It has also received Chrysler Corporations attention. They purchased the company. E-Ride Industries, who build a full sized electric vehicle in Princeton, Minnesota is also getting attention.
Evolving from golf carts, a new class of automobile has been created. Called Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV), sales of electric vehicles are getting a boost from governments in 40 states who are easing licensing requirements and removing road restrictions in response to public demand. Two years ago the Minnesota legislature legalized their use on city streets. On August first a new law takes effect, upping the allowed top speed of neighborhood electrics from 25 miles per hour, to 35 miles per hour.
Another innovating company, A123systems is ramping up production of a new lithium-ion battery which overcomes many of the problems of rechargeable batteries and extend the range and speed of electric cars. These batteries can be recharged up up to 2000 times and are 1/3 the weight of conventional lead-acid devices. They can be recharged in as little as 1 hour.
Demand for the batteries is strong and they are difficult to get. Dewalt is delivering 36 volt power tools with battery packs which experimenters and innovators are buying to strip the batteries from and use to build electric bicycles with 20 mph speed and a 25 mile range. There is a thriving underground market on E-bay for these batteries.
We may eventually be grateful to OPEC for doing nothing to reduce fuel costs, and to the tree huggers who are making us aware of the true cost of polluting our environment.
(editor’s note – I would just remind everyone that the power to charge these vehicles and their batteries has to come from somewhere. More and more EVs means more pressure on the grid. We need more power generation now, both to replace older generation plants with more efficient newer ones as well as to add extra capacity. That means wind, that means solar, that means nuclear, that means clean coal.)