Battery electric vehicle

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The Toyota RAV4 EV was powered by twenty-four 12 volt batteries, with an operational cost equivalent of over 165 miles per gallon at 2005 US gasoline prices.

A battery electric vehicle (BEV) is an electric vehicle that utilizes chemical energy stored in rechargeable battery packs. Electric vehicles use electric motors instead of, or in addition to, internal combustion engines (ICEs). Vehicles using both, electric motors and ICEs, are examples of hybrid vehicles, and are usually not considered pure BEVs. Hybrid vehicles with batteries that can be charged and used without their ICE are called plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and are pure BEVs while they are not burning fuel. BEVs are usually automobiles, light trucks, motorized bicycles, electric scooters, golf carts, forklifts and similar vehicles, because batteries are less appropriate for larger long-range applications.

BEVs were among the earliest automobiles, and are more energy-efficient than all internal combustion vehicles. BEVs produce no exhaust fumes, and minimal pollution if charged from most forms of renewable energy. Many are capable of acceleration exceeding that of conventional gasoline powered vehicles. BEVs reduce dependence on petroleum, mitigate global warming by alleviating the greenhouse effect, are quieter than internal combustion vehicles, and do not produce noxious fumes.

Ongoing battery technology advancements have addressed many problems with high costs, limited travel distance between battery recharging, charging time, and battery lifespan. Those drawbacks have historically been blamed for the limited adoption of the BEV. Toyota, Honda, Ford and General Motors all produced BEVs in the 90s, but only because they were forced to do so by California Air Resources Board's Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate. The major US automobile manufacturers have been accused of deliberately sabotaging their electric vehicle production efforts.<ref name="idahoobserver">"The Death and Rebirth of the Electric Auto" Hari Heath. The Idaho Observer Vol 8, No. 26, Sept, 21, 2006.</ref><ref name ="whokilled">Who killed the electric car? (website)</ref> A handful of future production models have been announced, although many more have been prototyped.

Battery electric vehicles in Monaco at the 2000 Transeuropean event


Main article History of the electric vehicle

File:Detroit Eletric ad.jpg
1912 Detroit Electric advertisement

BEVs were among some of the earliest automobiles, because electric vehicles predate gasoline and diesel. Between 1832 and 1839 (the exact year is uncertain), Scottish businessman Robert Anderson invented the first crude electric carriage. Professor Sibrandus Stratingh of Groningen, Netherlands, designed the small-scale electric car, built by his assistant Christopher Becker in 1835.

The improvement of the storage battery, by Frenchmen Gaston Plante in 1865 and by Camille Faure in 1881, paved the way for electric vehicles to flourish. France and Great Britain were the first nations to support the widespread development of electric vehicles.<ref>Bellis, M. (2006) "The History of Electric Vehicles: The Early Years" article at accessed on 6 July 2006</ref>

Just prior to 1900, before the pre-eminence of powerful but polluting internal combustion engines, electric automobiles held many speed and distance records. Among the most notable of these records was the breaking of the 100 km/h (60 mph) speed barrier, by Camille Jenatzy on April 29, 1899 in his 'rocket-shaped' EV, Jamais Contente which reached a top speed of 105.88 km/h (65.79 mph).

BEVs, produced by Anthony, Baker, Detroit, Edison, Studebaker, and others during the early 20th Century for a time out-sold gasoline-powered vehicles. Due to technological limitations and the lack of transistor-based electric technology, the top speed of these early production electric vehicles was limited to about 32 km/h (20 mph). These vehicles were successfully sold as town cars to upper-class customers and were often marketed as suitable vehicles for women drivers due to their clean, quiet and easy operation. Electrics did not require hand cranking to start, and a backfire during hand-cranking could break the owner's arm.

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Thomas Edison and an electric car in 1913 (courtesy of the National Museum of American History)

The introduction of the electric starter by Cadillac in 1913 simplified the task of starting the internal combustion engine, formerly difficult and sometimes dangerous. This innovation contributed to the downfall of the electric vehicle, as did the mass-produced and relatively inexpensive Ford Model-T, which had been produced for four years, since 1908.<ref>McMahon, D. (2006) "Some EV History" Econogics, Inc. essay at accessed on 5 July 2006</ref> Internal-combustion vehicles advanced technologically, ultimately becoming more practical than -- and out-performing -- their electric-powered competitors.

Another blow to BEVs was the loss of Edison's direct current electric power transmission system in the War of Currents. This deprived the BEV of the source of DC current necessary to recharge their batteries. As the technology of rectifiers was still in its infancy, producing DC current locally was infeasible.

Battery electric vehicles became popular for some limited range applications. Forklifts were BEVs when they were introduced in 1923 by Yale[2] and some battery electric fork lifts are still produced. Golf carts have been BEV since their introduction including early models by Lektra in 1954.[3] Their popularity led to their use as neighborhood electric vehicles and expanded versions became available which were partially "street legal".

By the late 1930s, the electric automobile industry had completely disappeared, with battery-electric traction being limited to niche applications, such as certain industrial vehicles.

The 1947 invention of the point-contact transistor marked the beginning of a new era for BEV technology. Within a decade, Henney Coachworks had joined forces with National Union Electric Company, the makers of Exide batteries, to produce the first modern electric car based on transistor technology, the Henney Kilowatt, produced in 36-volt and 72-volt configurations. The 72-volt models had a top speed approaching 96 km/h (60 mph) and could travel nearly an hour on a single charge. Despite the improved practicality of the Henney Kilowatt over previous electric cars, it was too expensive, and production was terminated in 1961. Even though the Henney Kilowatt never reached mass production volume, their transistor-based electric technology paved the way for modern EVs.

After California indicated that it would kill its ZEV Mandate, Toyota offered the last 328 RAV4-EV for sale to the general public during six months (ending on Nov. 22, 2002). All the rest were only leased, and with minor exceptions those models were withdrawn from the market and destroyed by manufacturers (other than Toyota). Toyota not only supports the 328 Toyota RAV4-EV in the hands of the general public, still all running at this date, but also supports hundreds in fleet usage. From time to time, Toyota RAV4-EV come up for sale on the used market, at prices that have ranged up to the mid 60 thousands of dollars. These are highly prized by solar homeowners who wish to charge their cars from their solar electric rooftop systems.

As of July, 2006, there are between 60,000 and 76,000 low-speed, battery powered vehicles in use in the US, up from about 56,000 in 2004 according to Electric Drive Transportation Association estimates.<ref name="wsj">Saranow, J. (July 27, 2006) "The Electric Car Gets Some Muscle" The Wall Street Journal, pp. D1-2.</ref>


Citroën Berlingo Electrique vans of the ELCIDIS goods distribution service in La Rochelle, France
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Electric Micro-vans produced by Micro-Vett on the basis off a Piaggio (rebranded Isuzu) vehicle exchanging the internal combustion engine for distribution services in Rome, Italy courtesy

France saw a large development of battery-electric vehicles in the 1990s; the most successful vehicle was the electric Peugeot Partner/Citroën Berlingo, of which several thousand have been built, mostly for fleet use in municipalities and by Electricité de France.


In Norway, zero-emission vehicles are tax-exempt and are allowed to use the bus lane.


In Switzerland, battery-electric vehicles are popular with private users. From 1985 to about 1995 there was an annual kind of nation-wide race for solar powered vehicles called the Tour de Sol. This resulted in the development of stylish and useful vehicles, mostly one and two-seaters with three wheels. Some vehicles were powered exclusively by on-board solar cells, some additionally by human power, but most used primarily indirect solar energy fed into the national electricity grid by stationary solar installations. There is a national network of publicly accessible charging points, called Park & Charge, which also covers part of Germany and Austria.

United Kingdom

In London, electrically powered vehicles are exempt from the congestion charge, although BEVs need to be registered and pay an annual £10 fee. With a £8 payable daily charge, this could provide a potential annual saving of up to £2000 - and is the reason that most UK BEVs are currently sold in London.

In most UK cities, low-speed electric milk floats (milk trucks) are used for the home delivery of fresh milk. An active hobbyist group called the Battery Vehicle Society regularly organises racing events for mostly home-built vehicles. The inventor Sir Clive Sinclair developed an extremely cheap small three wheeler called the C-5. This generated an enormous amount of publicity but not enough sales to continue the development.


In Italy, all private ZEVs are exempt from taxes and have a substantial insurance fee reduction. In most cities the trash collection is performed by BEV trucks. Furthermore access to certain city centres is restricted for internal combustion engines (like in Rome) enabling the use of electric vehicles (small transporters and buses).

Regulation in California

Since the late 1980s, electric vehicles have been promoted in the US through the use of tax credits. BEVs are the most common form of what is defined by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as zero emission vehicle (ZEV) passenger automobiles, because they produce no emissions while being driven. The CARB had set a minimum quota for the use of ZEVs, but it was withdrawn after complaints by auto manufacturers that it was economically infeasible due to an alleged "lack of consumer demand".

The California program was designed by the CARB to reduce air pollution and not specifically to promote electric vehicles. So the zero emissions requirement in California was replaced by a combined requirement of a very small number of ZEVs to promote research and development, and a much larger number of partial zero-emissions vehicles (PZEVs), an administrative designation for a super ultra low emissions vehicle (SULEV), which emit about ten percent of the pollution of ordinary low emissions vehicles and are also certified for zero evaporative emissions.

Selected production vehicles


and List of production battery electric vehicles


Selected list of battery electric vehicles include (in chronological order):

Name Comments Production years Number produced Top Speed (mph) Cost
Baker Electric The first electric car and it was reputedly easy to drive, and could cruise a distance of 50 miles when fully charged 1899-1915 ? 14 US $2300
Detroit Electric Sold mainly to women and physicians. 80 miles (typical) to 211.3 (maximum) miles between battery recharging. 1907-39 <5000 20 >US $3000 depending on options
Henney Kilowatt The first modern (transistor-based) electric car and outfitted with modern hydraulic brakes. 1958–60 <100 60
General Motors EV1 For lease only, all recovered from customers by General Motors and most destroyed 1996-2003 >1000 80 ~ US $40K without subsidies
Honda EV Plus First BEV from a major automaker without lead acid batteries. 80–110 mile range (130–180 km); 24 twelve volt NiMH batteries 1997–99 ~300 80+ (130 km/h) US $455/month for 36 month lease, or $53,000 without subsidies
Toyota RAV4 EV Some leased and sold on US east and west coasts, supported. Toyota agreed to stop crushing. 1997–2002 1249 78 US $40K without subsidies
Ford Ranger EV Some sold, most leased; almost all recovered and most destroyed. Ford allowed reconditioning and sale of a limited quantity to former leaseholders by lottery. 1998-2002 1500, perhaps 200 surviving ~ US $50K subsidized down to $20K
Nissan Altra EV Mid-sized station wagon designed from the ground up as the first BEV to use Li-ion batteries, 120 mile range, 100,000+ mile battery lifetime 1998–2000 ~133 75+ US $470/month lease only
TH!NK City Two seat, 85 km (52 mile) range, Nickel-cadmium batteries. Next generation vehicle production planned for fall 2007. 1999-2002 1005 56 (90 km/h)
REVA Indian-built city car (sold in England as the "G-Wiz"). 2001- >1800 45 ~ £8K US $15K
ZAP Xebra Chinese built sedan and truck 2006- 200 40 $10,000

Comparison to internal combustion vehicles

Tzero an older model electric vehicle on a drag race with a Dodge Viper left behind

BEVs have become much less common than Internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEV). Therefore, it is often helpful to consider many aspects of BEVs in comparison to ICE vehicles.


Electric vehicles typically cost between two and four cents per mile to operate, while gasoline-powered ICE vehicles currently cost about four to six times as much.<ref>Idaho National Laboratory (2005) "Comparing Energy Costs per Mile for Electric and Gasoline-Fueled Vehicles" Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity report at accessed 11 July 2006.</ref> The total cost of ownership for modern BEVs depends primarily on the cost of the batteries, the type and capacity of which determine several factors such as travel range, top speed, battery lifetime and recharging time; several trade-offs exist.

Batteries are usually the most expensive component of BEVs, though the price per kWh of charge has fallen rapidly in recent years.Template:Fact The cost of battery manufacture is substantial, but increasing returns to scale may serve to lower their cost when BEVs are manufactured on the scale of modern internal combustion vehicles. Since the late 1990s, advances in battery technologies have been driven by skyrocketing demand for laptop computers and mobile phones, with consumer demand for more features, larger, brighter displays, and longer battery time driving research and development in the field. The BEV marketplace has reaped the benefits of these advances.

10 kWh of battery power provides a range of about 20 miles in a Toyota Prius.<ref></ref> For prices of a kWh of charge with various different battery technologies, see the "Energy/Consumer Price" column in the "Comparison of battery types" section in the rechargeable battery article.

Ownership costs

Ownership costs for battery electric cars are higher than for their petrol or diesel equivalents, primarily because their purchase price is higher to begin with. Typically for a new car, or a small van, the price is increased by up to 80%. Very often the batteries are not included within the purchase price because they are also expensive. Instead they are often leased for £60-£70 ($116-$135) a month. If the battery is purchased outright, the owner will also be required to replace it every 3 to 5 years, depending on the battery type.

In the UK other changes in ownership costs include vehicle excise duty or road tax. Electric vehicles are now exempt and so BEV owners will save around £100 per year compared with an average conventional car. There remains some uncertainty about annual depreciation rates and resale values for BEVs due to the unknown length of battery-life and the low demand for battery electrics compared to other green car types. As BEVs lose their value faster than conventional cars depreciation rates are likely to be higher than for a conventional car at this time.

In the UK, BEV users who install additional recharging equipment will face additional financial penalties. Costs per standard charge point are around £500-£2000, depending on the difficulty of installation. Fully installed fast-chargers will cost between £10,000 and £30,000 per point although this depends on whether an on-board or off-board fast-charging system is used.

Running costs

Some running costs are significantly less for BEVs than for conventional cars. In particular, fuel costs are very low due to the competitive price of electricity - fuel duty is zero-rated - and to the high efficiency of the vehicles themselves. Taking into account the high fuel economy of battery electric cars, the fuel costs can be as low as 1.0-2.5p per mile (depending on the tariff). For a typical annual mileage of around 10,000 miles per year, switching from a conventional car to a battery electric could save you around £800 in fuel costs. However if the battery hire is considered a running cost, then the saving on fuel is cancelled out by the monthly battery leasing cost.

Energy efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions

Production and conversion BEVs using NiMH battery chemistry typically use 0.3 to 0.5 kilowatt-hours per mile (0.2–0.3 kWh/km).<ref>Idaho National Laboratory (2006) "Full Size Electric Vehicles" Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity reports at accessed 5 July 2006</ref><ref>Idaho National Laboratory (2006) "1999 General Motors EV1 with NiMH: Performance Statistics" Electric Transportation Applications info sheets at accessed 5 July 2006</ref> Nearly half of this power consumption is due to inefficiencies in charging the batteries. The US fleet average of 23 miles per gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 1.58 kWh per mile and the 70 MPG Honda Insight gets 0.52 kWh per mile (assuming 36.4 kWh per US gallon of gasoline), so battery electric vehicles are relatively energy efficient.

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Sources of electricity in the U.S. 2005[1]

Generating electricity and providing liquid fuels for vehicles are different categories of the energy economy, with different inefficiencies and environmental harms. When considering only the driving cycle (ie, not the charging and electricity production) a 55 % to 99.9 % improvement in CO2 emissions takes place when driving an EV over an ICE (gasoline, diesel) vehicle.<ref> Template:PDFlink</ref>

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are useful for comparison of electricity and gasoline consumption.<ref>US Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency (Model year 2007) "Search for cars that don't need gasoline" Fuel Economy Guide database at accessed 5 July 2006</ref> Such comparisons include energy production, transmission, charging, and vehicle losses. CO2 emissions improve in BEVs with sustainable electricity production but are fixed for gasoline vehicles.

Model Short tons CO2
mostly fossil fuel
electricity production)
Short tons CO2
(renewable electricity
e.g., solar panel,
Nuclear, or wind power)
2002 Toyota RAV4-EV (pure BEV) 3.8 0.0
2000 Toyota RAV4 2wd (gasoline) 7.2 7.2
Other battery electric vehicle(s)
2000 Nissan Altra EV 3.5 0.0
Hybrid vehicles
2001 Honda Insight 3.1 3.1
2005 Toyota Prius 3.5 3.5
2005 Ford Escape H 2x 5.8 5.8
2005 Ford Escape H 4x 6.2 6.2
Internal combustion engine vehicles
2005 Dodge Neon 2.0L 6.0 6.0
2005 Ford Escape 4x 8.0 8.0
2005 GMC Envoy XUV 4x 11.7 11.7

Aerodynamic drag has a large impact on energy efficiency as the speed of the vehicle increases. A list of cars and their corresponding drag coefficients is available.


EVs, particularly those using AC or brushless DC motors, have far fewer mechanical parts to wear out. An ICE vehicle on the other hand will have pistons, valves, camshafts, cambelts, gearbox and a clutch, all of which can wear out.

Acceleration performance

Venturi Fetish - a limited production electric car capable of reaching 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds

Relatively few of today's BEVs are capable of acceleration performance which exceeds that of equivalent-class conventional gasoline powered vehicles. An early solution was American Motors’ experimental Amitron piggyback system of batteries with one type designed for sustained speeds while a different set boosted acceleration when needed.

Electric vehicles can utilize a direct motor-to-wheel configuration which increases the amount of available power. Having multiple motors connected directly to the wheels allows for each of the wheels to be used for both propulsion and as braking systems, thereby increasing traction. In some cases, the motor can be housed directly in the wheel, such as in the Whispering Wheel design, which lowers the vehicle's center of gravity and reduces the number of moving parts. When not fitted with an axle, differential, or transmission, electric vehicles have less drivetrain rotational inertia.

A gearless or single gear design in some BEVs eliminates the need for gear shifting, giving such vehicles both smoother acceleration and smoother braking. Because the torque of an electric motor is a function of current, not rotational speed, electric vehicles have a high torque over a larger range of speeds during acceleration, as compared to an internal combustion engine.

For example, the Venturi Fetish delivers supercar acceleration despite a relatively modest 300 horsepower, and a top speed of around 100 miles per hour. Some DC motor-equipped drag racer BEVs, have simple two-speed transmissions to improve top speed.<ref>Hedlund, R. (2006) "The 100 Mile Per Hour Club" National Electric Drag Racing Association list at accessed 5 July 2006</ref><ref>Hedlund, R. (2006) "The 125 Mile Per Hour Club" National Electric Drag Racing Association list at accessed 5 July 2006</ref> Larger vehicles, such as electric trains and land speed record vehicles, overcome this speed barrier by dramatically increasing the wattage of their power system.


File:NASA Lithium Ion Polymer Battery.jpg
75 watt-hour/kilogram lithium ion polymer battery prototypes. Newer Li-poly cells provide up to 130 Wh/kg and last through thousands of charging cycles.

Main article Rechargeable batteries

Rechargeable batteries used in electric vehicles include lead-acid ("flooded" and VRLA), NiCd, nickel metal hydride, lithium ion, Li-ion polymer, and, less commonly, zinc-air and molten salt batteries.

The amount of electricity stored in batteries is measured in kWh.

On the other hand, for BEV's to be competitive on a cost per performance basis to internal combustion engines, improvements in battery performance would be required.


Batteries in BEVs must be periodically recharged (see also Replacing, below). . BEVs most commonly charge from the power grid (at home or using a street or shop recharging point), which is in turn generated from a variety of domestic resources; such as coal, hydroelectricity, nuclear and others. Home power such as roof top photovoltaic solar cell panels, microhydro or wind may also be used and are promoted because of global warming.

Charging time is limited primarily by the capacity of the grid connection. A normal household outlet is between 1.5 kilowatts (in the US, Canada, Japan, and other countries with 110 Volt supply) to 3 kilowatts (in countries with 240 V supply). The main connection to a house might be able to sustain 10 kilowatts, and special wiring can be installed to use this. At this higher power level charging even a small, 7 kilowatt-hour (14–28 mi) pack, would probably require one hour. This is small compared to the effective power delivery rate of an average petrol pump, about 5,000 kilowatts. Even if the supply power can be increased, most batteries do not accept charge at greater than their charge rate ("C1".)

In 1995, some charging stations charged BEVs in one hour. In November 1997, Ford purchased a fast-charge system produced by AeroVironment called "PosiCharge" for testing its fleets of Ranger EVs, which charged their lead-acid batteries in between six and fifteen minutes. In February 1998, General Motors announced a version of its "Magne Charge" system which could recharge NiMH batteries in about ten minutes, providing a range of sixty to one hundred miles.<ref>Anderson, C.D. and Anderson, J. (2005) "New Charging Systems" Electric and Hybrid Cars: a History (North Carolina: McFarland & Co., Inc.) ISBN 0-7864-1872-9, p. 121.</ref>

In 2005, handheld device battery designs by Toshiba were claimed to be able to accept an 80% charge in as little as 60 seconds.<ref>Toshiba Corporation (2005) "Toshiba's New Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Recharges in Only One Minute" press release at accessed 5 July 2006</ref> Scaling this specific power characteristic up to the same 7 kilowatt-hour EV pack would result in the need for a peak of 336 kilowatts of power from some source for those 60 seconds. It is not clear that such batteries will work directly in BEVs as heat build-up may make them unsafe.

In 2007, Altairnano's NanoSafe batteries are rechargeable in a few minutes, versus hours required for other rechargeable batteries. A NanoSafe cell can be charged to over 80% charge capacity in about one minute. Also Nanotechnology enables increased battery energy density <ref></ref>.

Most people do not always require fast recharging because they have enough time, six to eight hours, during the work day or overnight to recharge. As the charging does not require attention it takes a few seconds for an owner to plug in and unplug their vehicle. Many BEV drivers prefer refueling at home, avoiding the inconvenience of visiting a fuel station. Some workplaces provide special parking bays for electric vehicles with charging equipment provided.


The charging power can be connected to the car in two ways (electric coupling). The first is a direct electrical connection known as conductive coupling. This might be as simple as a mains lead into a weatherproof socket through special high capacity cables with connectors to protect the user from high voltages. The second approach is known as inductive coupling. A special 'paddle' is inserted into a slot on the car. The paddle is one winding of a transformer, while the other is built into the car. When the paddle is inserted it completes a magnetic circuit which provides power to the battery pack.

The major advantage of the inductive approach is that there is no possibility of electrocution as there are no exposed conductors, although interlocks can make conductive coupling nearly as safe. Conductive coupling equipment is lower in cost and much more efficient due to a vastly lower component count.

Travel range before recharging and trailers

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The General Motors EV1 had a range of 75 to 150 miles with NiMH batteries in 1999.

The range of a BEV depends on the number and type of batteries used, and the performance demands of the driver. The weight and type of vehicle also have an impact just as they do on the mileage of traditional vehicles. Electric vehicle conversions depends on the battery type:

  • Lead-acid batteries are the most available and inexpensive. Such conversions generally have a range of 30 to 80 km (20 to 50 miles). Production EVs with lead-acid batteries are capable of up to 130 km (80 miles) per charge.
  • NiMH batteries have higher energy density and may deliver up to 200 km (120 miles) of range.

Finding the economic balance of range versus performance, battery capacity versus weight, and battery type versus cost challenges every EV manufacturer.

With an AC system regenerative braking can extend range by up to 50% under extreme traffic conditions without complete stopping. Otherwise, the range is extended by about 10 to 15% in city driving, and only negligibly in highway driving, depending upon terrain.

BEVs (including buses and trucks) can also use genset trailers and pusher trailers in order to extended their range when desired without the additional weight during normal short range use. Discharged baset trailers can be replaced by recharged ones in a route point. If rented then maintenance costs can be deferred to the agency.

Such BEVs can become Hybrid vehicles depending on the trailer and car types of energy and powertrain.


An alternative to recharging is to exchange drained or nearly drained batteries (or battery range extender modules) with fully charged batteries.

Uploading and grid buffering

Main article Vehicle-to-grid

Smart grid allows BEVs to provide power to the grid, to provide energy during peak load periods, when the selling price of electricity can be very high.These vehicles can then be recharged during off-peak hours at cheaper rates while helping to absorb excess night time generation. Here the vehicles serve as a distributed battery storage system to buffer power.


Individual batteries are usually arranged into large battery packs of various voltage and ampere-hour capacity products to give the required energy capacity. Battery life should be considered when calculating the extended cost of ownership, as all batteries eventually wear out and must be replaced. The rate at which they expire depends on a number of factors.

The depth of discharge (DOD) is the recommended proportion of the total available energy storage for which that battery will achieve its rated cycles. Deep cycle lead-acid batteries generally should not be discharged below 80% capacity. More modern formulations can survive deeper cycles.

In real world use, some fleet Toyota RAV4 EVs, using NiMH batteries, have exceeded 100,000 miles (160,000 km) with little degradation in their daily range.<ref>Knipe, TJ et al. (2003) "100,000-Mile Evaluation of the Toyota RAV4 EV" Southern California Edison, Electric Vehicle Technical Center report at accessed on 5 July 2006</ref> Quoting that report's concluding assessment:

"The five-vehicle test is demonstrating the long-term durability of Nickel Metal Hydride batteries and electric drive trains. Only slight performance degradation has been observed to-date on four out of five vehicles.... EVTC test data provide strong evidence that all five vehicles will exceed the 100,000-mile mark. SCE’s positive experience points to the very strong likelihood of a 130,000 to 150,000-mile Nickel Metal Hydride battery and drive-train operational life. EVs can therefore match or exceed the lifecycle miles of comparable internal combustion engine vehicles.
"In June 2003 the 320 RAV4 EVs of the SCE fleet were used primarily by meter readers, service managers, field representatives, service planners and mail handlers, and for security patrols and carpools. In five years of operation, the RAV4 EV fleet had logged more than 6.9 million miles, eliminating about 830 tons of air pollutants, and preventing more than 3,700 tons of tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions. Given the successful operation of its EVs to-date, SCE plans to continue using them well after they all log 100,000-miles."

Jay Leno's 1909 Baker Electric (see Baker Motor Vehicle) still operates on its original Edison cells. Battery replacement costs of BEVs may be partially or fully offset by the lack of regular maintenance such as oil and filter changes required for internal combustion engine vehicles, and by the greater reliability of BEVs due to their fewer moving parts. They also do away with many other parts that normally require servicing and maintenance in a regular car, such as on the gearbox, cooling system, and engine tuning. And by the time batteries do finally need replacement, they can be replaced with later generation ones which may offer better performance characteristics, in the same way as you might replace old batteries from a digital camera with improved ones.


The safety issues of battery electric vehicles are largely dealt with by the international standard ISO 6469. This document is divided in three parts dealing with specific issues:

  • On-board electrical energy storage, i.e. the battery
  • Functional safety means and protection against failures
  • Protection of persons against electrical hazards.

Firefighters and rescue personnel receive special training to deal with the higher voltages and chemicals encountered in electric and hybrid electric vehicle accidents. While BEV accidents may present unusual problems, such as fires and fumes resulting from rapid battery discharge, there is apparently no available information regarding whether they are inherently more or less dangerous than gasoline or diesel internal combustion vehicles which carry flammable fuels.


The future of battery electric vehicles depends primarily upon the cost and availability of batteries with high energy densities, power density, and long life, as all other aspects such as motors, motor controllers, and chargers are fairly mature and cost-competitive with internal combustion engine components. Li-ion, Li-poly and zinc-air batteries have demonstrated energy densities high enough to deliver range and recharge times comparable to conventional vehicles.

The cathodes of early 2007 lithium-ion batteries are made from lithium-cobalt metal oxide. This material is pricey, and can release oxygen if its cell is overcharged. If the cobalt is replaced with iron phosphates, the cells will not burn or release oxygen under any charge. The price premium for early 2007 hybrids is about US $5000, some $3000 of which is for their NiMH battery packs. At early 2007 gasoline and electricity prices, that would break even after six to ten years of operation. The hybrid premium could fall to $2000 in five years, with $1200 or more of that being cost of lithium-ion batteries, providing a three-year payback.<ref name="ieee">Voelcker, J. (January 2007) "Lithium Batteries for Hybrid Cars" IEEE Spectrum</ref>

Hobbyists, conversions, and racing

The Silver Sofa can spin in place and is charged by solar panels. It is intended for use at off–road events such as Burning Man

Hobbyists often build their own EVs by converting existing production cars to run solely on electricity. There is a cottage industry supporting the conversion and construction of BEVs by hobbyists. Universities such as the University of California, Irvine even build their own custom electric or hybrid-electric cars from scratch.

Short-range battery electric vehicles offer the hobbyist comfort, utility, and quickness, sacrificing only range. Short-range BEVs may be built using high-performance lead–acid batteries, using about half the mass needed for a 60 to 80 mile (100 to 130 km) range; the result is a vehicle with about a thirty mile (50 km) range, which when designed with appropriate weight distribution (40/60 front to rear) does not require power steering, offers exceptional acceleration in the lower end of its operating range, is freeway capable and legal, but are expensive due to the higher cost for these higher-performance batteries. By including a manual transmission, short-range BEVs can obtain both better performance and greater efficiency than the single-speed BEVs developed by major manufactures. Unlike the converted golf carts used for neighborhood electric vehicles, short-range BEVs may be operated on typical suburban throughways (40 to 45 MPH or 60 or 70 km/h speed limits are typical) and can keep up with traffic typical on such roads and the short "slow-lane" on-and-off segments of freeways common in suburban areas.

Some drag race such conversions as members of National Electric Drag Racing Association (NEDRA). Battery electric vehicles are also very popular in quarter mile (400 meter) racing. The NEDRA regularly holds electric car races and often competes them successfully against exotics such as the Dodge Viper or Saleen S7.

Japanese Professor Hiroshi Shimizu from Faculty of Environmental Information of the Keio University created the limousine of the future: the Eliica (Electric Lithium Ion Car) has eight wheels with electric 55 kilowatt hub motors (8WD) with an output of 470 kilowatts and zero emissions. With a top speed of 370 kilometers per hour, and a maximum reach of 320 kilometers provided by lithium-ion-batteries. (video at However, current models cost approximately $300,000 US, about half of which is the cost of the batteries. Template:Fact



EV1s crushed by General Motors shortly after their leases expired

The three major US automobile manufacturers, General Motors, Chrysler Corporation and Ford Motor Company have been accused by a variety of consumer advocates, activists, commentators, journalists, and documentary makers of deliberately sabotaging their companies' BEV efforts through several methods: failing to market, failing to produce appropriate vehicles, failing to satisfy demand, and using lease-only programs with prohibitions against end of lease purchase. By these actions they have managed to terminate their BEV development and marketing programs despite operators' offers of purchase and assumption of maintenance liabilities. The Chrysler "golf cart" program has seemed to some as an insult to the marketplace and to government mandates; Chrysler has been accused of intentionally failing to produce a vehicle usable in mixed traffic conditions. Moreover, the three major American motor companies have almost exclusively promoted their electric cars in the American market, where gas has been comparatively cheap, and virtually ignored the European market, where gas is significantly more expensive.

The manufacturers, in their defense, have responded that they only make what the public wants. At the end of their programs GM destroyed its BEV fleet, despite offers to purchase from drivers. Ford's Norwegian-built "Th!nk" fleet was covered by a three-year exemption to the standard US motor vehicle safety laws, after which time Ford had planned to dismantle and recycle its fleet. However, Ford was persuaded by activists to refrain from destroying its fleet and return them to Norway and sell them as used vehicles. Ford also sold a few lead-acid battery Ranger EVs, and some fleet purchase Chevrolet S-10 EV pickups are being refurbished and sold on the secondary market.Template:Fact

Critics have pointed out that General Motors' customer survey highlights the company's efforts to lower demand. GM called interested customers and emphasized negative characteristics disputed by EV1 drivers. CARB removed their zero emission regulations in part because such surveys purported to show that no demand existed for the EV1s.Template:Fact

Both Honda and Toyota also manufactured BEVs. Honda followed the lead of the other majors and terminated their lease-only programs, completely destroying their fleet and its components by shredding. Toyota offered vehicles for both sale and lease. While Toyota has terminated manufacture of new vehicles, it continues to support those manufactured. A small number of Toyota RAV4 EVs are still on the road.

Oil companies have been accused of using patent protection to keep modern battery technology from use in BEVs[4].

A film on the subject, directed by former EV1 owner and activist Chris Paine, entitled Who Killed the Electric Car? premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006, and was released July 2006.

Proponents' arguments

Supporters point out the following:

  • BEVs reduce dependence on oil.
  • BEVs reduce dependence on price manipulated oil markets.
  • BEVs reduce vehicle energy costs by up to 90%
  • BEVs are up to 75% energy efficient (with ReGen) VS as little as 15% for a petrol ICE powered car (inc. transmission losses)
  • BEVs have much more torque than an ICE (for a given power rating) and a flat torque curve.
  • BEVs mitigate global warming.
  • BEVs are quieter than internal combustion engine vehicles (Though in the newest ICE vehicles engines only account for a small fraction of the noise; most noise is produced by tires and aerodynamics in an equal measure as BEVs).
  • BEVs do not produce noxious fumes.
  • BEVs can readily satisfy the needs for short trips and up to 500 km with Li-Ion and regeneration.
  • Home recharging is more convenient than trips to gasoline stations. If combined with green home energy or devices like Honda's Home Energy Station (which uses hydrogen to produce electricity) BEVs can truly be considered emission-free.
  • Regenerative braking can significantly improve vehicle efficiency.
  • Recharging costs are more predictable than gas prices, and not subject to volatile international incidents.
  • Maintenance such as oil changes, smog inspections (and their sometimes expensive consequences), cooling fluid replacement, and periodic repair and adjustments are reduced or completely eliminated, significantly reducing the cost of ownership.
  • BEVs can be powered indirectly by home photovoltaics using net metering, which offers advantages to both power producers and other grid users through peak demand satisfaction and to the EV user through cost reduction and load balancing, especially with time of use net metering.
  • BEVs can provide power to a home in the case of a power outage if specially equipped.
  • Even if powered by electricity from polluting coal plants, they are still far more energy efficient than gasoline-powered cars.
  • In case of an accident or during refueling no need to be worried about burning or exploding gasoline.
  • BEVs are favorable to hydrogen vehicles because there is no need to invest in a large scale system of hydrogen distribution/storage, and BEVs have a significantly higher energy conversion efficiency than hydrogen electrolization cycles. The electricity distribution system is already in place.

The greatest supporters of BEVs are often those who have obtained or built and used them. This is a self-selected group because BEVs have not been promoted by the major manufacturers in the United States, so their enthusiasm may be misleading.

Detractors' arguments

Skeptics of the viability of BEVs argue on conventional practicality grounds and in more general terms. Practicality grounds include:

  • Electricity is produced using such methods as nuclear fission, with its attendant regulatory and waste issues, or (more often) by burning coal, the latter producing about 0.97 kg of CO2 (2.1 pounds) per kilowatt-hour[5] plus other pollutants and strip-mining damages: electric vehicles are therefore not "zero emissions" in any real-world sense, except at their point of use unless renewable energy (solar, wind, wave, tidal, geothermal, or hydro power) is employed;
  • Zero emission electrical sources such as solar panels must still be manufactured, producing various pollutants.
  • Limited driving range available between recharging (using certain battery technologies)
  • Expensive batteries, which may cost US$2,000 (lead acid) to $20,000 (li-ion) to replace; most real EV cars do not get 20,000 miles (32,000 km) from a set of batteries due to low miles per day, therefore the cost per mile can be 20 to 30 cents more than gasoline cars due to battery replacement in a limited number of cases.Template:Fact
  • Poor cold weather performance of some kinds of batteries.
  • Danger of electrocution and electromagnetic interference.
  • Poor availability of public charging stations reduces practicality and may hinder initial take-up. People who live in flats or houses without private parking may not have an option to charge the vehicle at home.
  • Pedestrians are less aware of quiet vehicles, and are more likely to collide with them.

Those arguing in more general terms ponder the future of the car as a transport solution for even more widespread global adoption, noting that the issues of traffic jams, noise pollution, total life-cycle pollution, land use, road fatalities, energy expenditure, as well as the health toll resulting from a sedentary lifestyle, will not be solved by zero-emission vehicles.

It can also be argued that the current state of the automobile industry is simply experiencing a shift due to superseding technologies, as was the case when the automobile drove the production of horse-drawn carriages, saddles, and buggy-whips into obscurity. Future automobiles will thus shift toward low-cost and low-maintenance items, compared to today.


See also

Electric scooter at the 2005 Vancouver EV gathering



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