Electric is the word for auto builders these days. All the major manufacturers seem to be producing an electric car or plan to have one soon. Sounds great, but will it work? We’ll see. Today, on Engineering Works!
Figuring out how well electric cars work comes down to one thing: Batteries. Compared to gasoline, the best batteries we have don’t store much energy. Look at it this way. A gallon of gasoline weighs about six-pounds. The energy in that gas will take your Toyota Prius between 40 and 50 miles down the highway. Use an electric motor and the latest lithium-ion batteries to store your energy, and you’ll need 300 pounds of batteries to make that same 40 miles.
You can see where this is going. It’s about 200 miles from College Station, Texas, where we live, to Dallas. You’ll burn about four gallons of gas in your Prius to make the trip, about 24 pounds worth. If you drive it on electricity, you’ll need about 1,200 pounds of battery to give you the same energy as that four gallons of gas. That’s the payload for a full-sized pickup. It won’t fit into your Prius.
None of this means electric cars are a bad idea. In fact, we think they’re a very good idea. But we need to understand what they can do and what they can’t. And work hard to design better batteries.
Our truck runs on gas and we’re going to drive it home now. See you next time.
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Start the discussion: What do you think about the hype electric cars are getting these days? We seem to need better batteries before the promise of electric cars becomes real.