Electric Vehicles

Thinking Electric?

July 2007, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Daryl Lubinsky

You have many choices, however, if your fleet needs call for a neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV). A traditional NEV resembles a large golf cart and is used for on-facility, on-campus or warehouse driving.

Yet a newer class of NEV has arrived, with the look and functionality of a sedan or pickup and top speeds of 35 miles per hour. Some towns are beginning to relax the rules for over-the-road driving.

Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan state legislatures have all passed laws allowing cities to enact ordinances allowing NEVs on streets with speed limits of 35 mph and under. As EVS are powered by electricity, running costs are very low—about 1 to 3 cents per mile.

Besides the obvious financial benefit of not having to fill up with fossil fuel, electric vehicles incur less maintenance costs. Most use regenerative braking, which cuts brake wear considerably. EVS need no oil changes, tune-ups or belt replacements.

An internal combustion engine has many moving parts, but the driveshaft is the only moving part in an electric motor. Fewer moving parts means a lot less can break down. The biggest maintenance issue is batteries, says Bill Moore, publisher and editor-in-chief of EV world (www.evworld.com).

Batteries last three to four years, yet their life can be cut in half with abuse. Replacement battery packs can cost $1,500 to $1,800, Moore says. Many individuals and businesses are now looking to do business with companies that are leaving a less harmful imprint on the environment.

Electric vehicles have no tailpipe emissions and produce no local pollution or carbon dioxide. Yet electric vehicles are not entirely pollution-free, as most are recharged from an electric power grid that burns fossil fuels.

The major manufacturers tinkered with limited commercially-available electric vehicles (gm’s ev1, ford’s Th!nk, Toyota rav4 EV to comply with California’s short-lived zero emissions mandate in the late 90’s. At present none offer an on-highway, purely electric vehicle.

However, General Motors has said it may have a production-ready model of the Chevy volt (inset) in “three to four years.”

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