The Frontal Cortex

Electric Cars

This is the car I covet:

It’s been a long day for our adorable yellow test car. This morning we headed for Think’s factory in Aurskog, some 40 miles into the bluegrass Scandinavian countryside, with about an 85% charge in the car’s advanced sodium-cell battery. But Ladehaug — who is directionally challenged too — got us turned around. Now, after several course corrections that added perhaps 20 miles to the trip, we’re both eyeing the battery gauge, while warning lights flash ominously. Still the Think City — a 2,449-pound runabout with plastic body panels and an official range of 112 miles on full charge — hums along.

About the size of a Mercedes-built Smart car, the two-seat Think (backseat optional) scoots away from stop lights, thanks to its torque-rich electric motor, and doesn’t feel at all strained at highway speeds of 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph). First impressions: dead solid, quiet, comfortable, fully realized. A real car. It’s got a great look, with big moony eyes as headlamps that make you want to take it home. The brakes are kind of touchy, the pedals are kind of small, the steering a bit leaden. But for the most part, it feels like any other sub-compact economy car, except there’s not an exhaust note. Nor exhaust pipe. When we have to make a quick change in direction — “Here, this turn!” Ladehaug shouts — the little car darts in the direction it’s pointed.

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Obviously, electric cars aren’t a panacea, since we still have to get that electricity from somewhere (and plenty of Americans still get most of their power from coal fired power plants.) But it would feel so fantastically futuristic to just plug my car into a socket. One of the more poignant backstories of the Think car is that Ford actually funded a large part of the car’s development. (It bought the company in 1999, shortly after California passed a strict Zero Emission mandate.) But then, in 2003, after the Big Three managed to get California’s mandate overturned, Ford decided to get out of the electric car business and sold Think to a Swiss conglomerate. Yet another example of Detroit’s penchant for long-term planning.

Comments

  1. #1 shanta
    June 25, 2008

    25% of all journeys made in the UK are less than two miles, according to the BBC’s new website on climate change Bloom. So you can hardly say that electric cars are incompatible with our lifestyles. And that’s not even taking into account the fact that traffic in London is about as fast as a lame donkey.

    BBC Bloom’s new climate change website…
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/bloom/flash.shtml#/actions/electriccars.shtml

  2. #2 mlf
    June 25, 2008

    I have made a personal vow that my next car will be an EV. The Aptera (http://www.aptera.com) would be ideal, but I don’t live in California… Other than that, I think the most promising looking one at the moment is the Triac (http://www.greenvehicles.com). People who reserved theirs are supposed to be getting them next month so I am anxiously waiting for their reviews.

  3. #3 Jim Thomerson
    June 25, 2008

    I think the main virtue of electric cars is they concentrate pollution into a point source at the power plant, rather than turning roads into nonpoint sources. Point sources are much easier to deal with than nonpoint sources. Also, an electric car uses an energy distribution infrastructure already in place and does not require an new distribution system such as would be needed for hydrogen cars.

  4. #4 mlf
    June 25, 2008

    Covered Parking Spaces + Solar Panels + Electric Cars = Awesome

  5. #5 themadlolscientist
    June 25, 2008

    ZOMGZ WANT!!!!!!!!!!1!111!!!!!elevenhundredeleven!!!!!

    Unfortunately, I live in a second-floor apartment about 100 feet from the nearest parking space, and my landlord would have kittens if I tried to string an extension cord that far (to say nothing of the fact that they’d be paying for it since my rent includes all utilities), so plugging it would be impossible.

    I hope it’s not long before these puppies come equipped with solar panels – now that would make sense! Suddenly they’d be accessible to the enormous segment of the population that can’t even consider owning them due to the physical constraints of their homes.

  6. #6 GMB
    June 26, 2008

    I just love reading great comments on blogs. Everyone knows the problem with gasoline engines, but now we are seeing some real solutions beginning to emerge. About four weeks ago, the electric power grid in the Pacific Northwest (Bonneville Power Administration) broke a new record with 1380 MW of wind energy on the system. (Thats about 1/3 of the power for the City of Seattle…) That’s progress…I know the wind doesn’t always blow, but when it does, why not USE it??

    Quantum has a plug in hybrid with a solar roof… pricey… but its coming folks. http://www.quantum.com.

  7. #7 GMB
    June 26, 2008

    Sorry – wrong URL for quantum. I really meant to type Quantum Fuel Systems.

    http://www.qtww.com

  8. #8 BAllanJ
    June 27, 2008

    Some modifications for these to work here (Canada) would affect their range…. you have to be able to heat AT LEAST the windows, seats and steering wheel when it’s -35C when you get up in the morning. I suppose you could use an in car heater with a plug running outside to preheat before I get in in the morning, but still would need heat while driving.

  9. #9 doking xd
    September 5, 2010

    I live in South East Europe so there is not a lot EV to choose. There is one electric vehicle in development in Croatia – Doking XD (Docking XD). It is small 3 seater with original concept. It will be the cheapest EV in own class. I wait to get out on the market so I can buy one.

    http://www.cars-10.com/2009/08/docking-xd-fully-electric-car-from-croatia/

  10. #10 shaman
    February 16, 2011

    Oh yes they do have exhaust pipe, in power plant: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Elektrowniaopole02.jpg