All-electric cars aren't yet a viable alternative to our current fleet

October 09, 2012

Commentator Bob Bruninga would have us believe that electric cars could substantially increase the energy efficiency and decrease the environmental impact of autos while providing an economical and practical alternative to our current gasoline-fueled fleet ("Keep on open mind on electric cars," Oct. 4). Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Let's look at energy efficiency. The gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine has an efficiency rate of about 25 percent, while diesels have an efficiency rate of 30 percent. This isn't very impressive, to be sure, since electric motors can have efficiency ratings of 90 percent or higher.

However, let's consider the entire energy chain. A battery needs to store all its chemical energy internally. This is why our best lithium ion battery can store only a small fraction of the energy of a gallon of hydrocarbon fuel.

However, I do believe in the potential for non-plugin hybrids like the Toyota Prius. Hybrids drastically increase energy efficiency by recapturing most of the energy lost by braking and coasting and recycling it to help overcome ground resistance and atmospheric drag.

Electric cars will only be viable when natural gas fuel cells are developed. Fuel cells will solve all the problems inherent to electric vehicles, but in the meanwhile we should promote compressed natural gas fueling stations as an alternative to gasoline and diesel fuels and not push electric vehicles that delay the development of fuel-cell vehicles of the future.

Stuart Hirsch, Reisterstown

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