Electric cars surge forward

Battery-powered cars are making sparks in the automotive industry.



The low profile of the Tesla Model S allows the car to have tons of interior and storage space.

Evan Rocha, Staff Writer

Over the last five years, electric cars have grown from a gimmick in hybrids and other compact cars to a defining push forward in the development of new automobiles. Electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Spark are popular compacts with their over-time savings. Tesla has become a mainstream luxury car manufacturer, producing more Tesla S sedans in 2015 than any similarly priced model by Mercedes, BMW, or Audi.

It’s pretty easy to see why. Teslas are electric cars, which means that they don’t have a combustion motor. They have a battery, stored at the very bottom of the car in the chassis, and a single moving part connecting the battery to the drivetrain. The whole thing is maybe five inches from top to bottom, and this leaves a lot of room for interior space in the car. The Model S is extremely spacious, with a massive trunk in both the front and back of the car. With the rear seats folded down, the Model S can reach the storage space of some minivans or small trucks, and blows out of the water other sedans. Combine that with a touchscreen dashboard console and a lower starting price than most competing German models and you have a luxury car that’s become very popular as an alternative to Mercedes or BMW. It certainly doesn’t slouch in performance. Electric cars get great torque as the power they produce instantly comes from the battery, and this lets the Model S reach 60mph in as little as 2.8 seconds.

Electric-only cars have a few problems, however, and the Tesla is no exception. They need to be charged in an outlet, and when away from home finding a charging station can be tricky. In Pinellas, there are only five charging stations, and the closest to East Lake is in Dunedin. The charging process can also take up to a few hours, which can be a factor when in a hurry. For these reasons hybrid cars are also becoming popular. In models such as the Chevy Volt or Mitsubishi Outlander, a diesel or gasoline motor powers the electric one. This uses less gas than a normal car, and as a result produces less emissions. You won’t be going very fast in most of these cars, but that’s usually not on a buyer’s radar.

But electric-only cars are making strides to improve both their popularity and sales. Tesla has recently announced that they would be releasing a 100kWh battery, an improvement over the standard 70-90kWh batteries, which should greatly improve the range of the car, and many states offer rebates and tax incentives to electric car drivers. On the hybrid side, BMW’s i8 and i3 are becoming popular with their futuristic and angular aesthetic and in the case of the i8, powerful engine. Electric cars are making a continuous effort to improve and become an all-around car for the regular driver. With entries like the Tesla Model 3, electric cars could be as common as Camrys in 15 years. One-day gasoline-powered cars may be completely superseded by electric vehicles, and that could come very soon.