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There is a lot of talk and action regarding the future of electric/hybrid cars as if this technology is going to save the world. To my mind, pure electric cars are unsuitable for anything other than short distances, such as in towns and cities as their battery range cannot sustain long distance travel. Similarly, hybrid cars, on their battery capacity alone suffer a lack of range, except when the engine takes over (the use of this involves petrol/diesel fuels, which are from a non-renewable source and does not help to ‘save the world’). UK electric power generation in the near future will be barely enough for domestic and industrial requirements, so all the anticipated electric cars being plugged in is certainly not going to help matters. There is also the problem of the time it takes to recharge the batteries and the facilities available for this. I have to park my car about 50 yards from my house on the side of the road, a problem shared by thousands of motorists who do not have a driveway to park in or who live in blocks of flats. Just imagine all the extension leads draped all over the footways. To my mind, the motor industry and government should be seriously thinking of going down the hydrogen fuel road and be now thinking of setting hydrogen refuelling stations - possibly at existing petrol stations - in anticipation of the introduction of new age vehicles like the Honda Clarity. The days of hydrocarbon fuels are on their way out, but no seems to be really prepared for the future.
Asked on 24 July 2010 by WS, via email
I agree that electric cars are really only suitable for short runs and are simply not efficient for long runs, nor can they be made to be even with Renault’s Quickdrop battery replacement stations. But, currently, a plug in hybrid offers the best of both. It can make short runs on electricity, then, when driving a distance, it runs on a mix of petrol power and electricity generated from braking. In the latest Toyota Auris hybrid we averaged 74mpg in traffic, though some steep hills then brought that down to about 60mpg. I have both driven both the Honda FCX Clarity and the KIA Borrego FCEV and, depending on how the hydrogen is sourced, they are expensive answers. For most of us who can only afford one car and who do most of our driving in towns, a hybrid makes the most sense.
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