Electric Cars: The Next Big Thing

Electric Cars: The Next Big Thing


Just in case all those stories about the Tesla and the GM Volt don’t drive the point home, let us officially announce that the electric car is back. The very fact that General Motors, the company that famously killed the alternative-fuel vehicle in the film of the same name, is putting both feet into its efforts to build such a beast is proof positive that a large handful of Tesla fanatics can’t be wrong. There’s a reason that the Tesla sold out before it was ever offered on the open market, and it’s not just that it’s cool beyond words.

Electricity is the new ethanol, as it were, many industry analysts think, and they have evidence to prove it. GM is making a big carbon-less footprint, yes, but plenty of smaller companies are getting into the swing of things on the electricity front as well, including Phoenix, which is planning electric pickups and perhaps even SUVs. Electricity has the reputation of being the greenest of all the alternative fuels. And although these electric vehicles won’t be 100 percent electricity-powered, they will be predominantly that way, with gas becoming an afterthought as a vehicle fuel after a few iterations.

Helping the cause of the electric car is a revolution in battery technology, based on the kind of lithium-ion that power most of today’s laptop computers. (These won’t burn or blow up, of course.) No less a presence than Tesla has championed the lithium battery, that one with more than 6,800 individual cells. Another startup, Caterpillar spinoff Firefly Energy, has bumped up the technological advancement factor in traditional power sources, depending on a super-lightweight carbon graphite foam to replace the lead-acid material that weighs down today’s batteries.

Will Tesla sell out everything it makes for the next five years? Will the Volt be a big hit for General Motors, or will the automaker kill it, too? Stay tuned.