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Madman’s take on electric vehicles

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Posted: Friday, November 11, 2011 2:46 am | Updated: 6:35 am, Mon Feb 13, 2012.

I am not totally sold on cars that are powered not unlike my toaster oven and microwave. It just doesn't seem right - yea, I'm referring to electric vehicles.

I am torn on the Toyota Prius. Well, that is not completely true. On further thought, I hate the Toyota Prius. I do not have a rational reason for hating the Prius. After all, the Prius is safe, good on gas, and ridiculously reliable. However I cant help but think it could be all those things without the super heavy electric motor and battery pack. For those of you who remember the dreadful Geo Metro and slightly less dreadful Honda Civic HX, they were just as thrifty with the go juice. The formula was simple ... take a light car introduce a tiny fuel efficient engine and that's it.

The Prius is, in my opinion, a child of the marketing department. It is a clever way to convince the motoring public that it turns water into wine through science. I am not bashing the Prius or any conventional gasoline/electric hybrid, they are fine. Well, then again, maybe I am.

The Chevrolet Volt, however, is not just fine; it is genius. The odd thing is, even though it is a complicated modern marvel, it is a simple concept. The Volt is an electric vehicle, an EV; but instead of having a short range it has a gasoline generator under the hood. There is no convoluted sharing of propulsion duties like most hybrids. Simply, the Volt runs off of batteries until they go flat then the gas engine kicks in and recharges the batteries. I am, of course, simplifying both cars drive trains; but I don't have an engineering degree, so further detail is not possible.

The Volt is going to have some competition in 2012. Ford has begun taking orders for the Focus EV. The Focus EV is powered by a 92 kilowatt electric motor and is capable of 84 mph. I am not sure what a kilowatt is, but I think it is what powered the time machine in "Back to the Future." It appears as if it goes just fast enough for traversing interstate 5, barely. Prices start around forty-thousand bucks, about the same as the Volt.

While I see no reason to chose the Ford over the Volt I am interested to see what Mercedes is cooking up. With some help from Palo Alto based Tesla Motors, Benz is developing their first mainstream EV. Tesla will be developing all the electric go parts while Mercedes will concentrate on the rest of the car. While Mercedes did spill the beans about the partnership, they are not releasing any details about the actual car. While I am no psychic I will make a prediction...it will be mid sized, leather and burl wood interior, exquisite body work and completely unaffordable.

Even though I would rather get a root canal from a blind dentist than drive any of the cars listed above, I do find them fascinating. Ok, maybe I don't find the Prius fascinating; but the rest are pretty interesting. Even though the Chevy Volt will eventually be overthrown as king of the electric vehicles, it will not be any time soon.

I will leave my loyal readers with this thought - I have to go and recharge my batteries.

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