Energy smart inventions
All over the world, scientists are finding new ways to save energy – and make energy. In a few years, you might even be using some of these new energy-smart inventions in your home or school.
Electric car
Electric vehicles have been around for a very long time. In the early 1900s, there were more electric vehicles than there were gasoline-powered cars. The vehicle pictured is a Rauch and Lang Electric Sedan, built around 1922.

Gasoline back then was very expensive. It also was hard to start a gasoline engine; you had to turn and turn and turn a crank in front of the car to get it to start. They did not have a key to start the car like we do today. Gasoline vehicles were also noisy and put out lots of smoke. The cars either had no mufflers, or the mufflers didn't do a good job. So, electric vehicles were a BIG hit!

How Do Electric Vehicles Work?
Electric vehicles (like the Ford Ranger Electric Vehicle above on the left) don't burn gasoline in an engine. They use electricity stored on the car in batteries. Sometimes, 12 or 24 batteries, or more, are needed to power the car. Just like a remote-controlled, model electric car, EVs have an electric motor that turns the wheels and a battery to run that motor.

One of the first modern EVs was the General Motors Impact. GM changed its name and started selling the GM "EV1" in 1997. This sleek looking car even set a World Record of more than 180 miles per hour!

The EV1 is very aerodynamic. This means that air slides around the body of the car very easily. The less air resistance or drag, the less energy is needed to power the car at freeway speeds.

The EV1 is as aerodynamic as some jet fighter aircraft!

Charging an Impact EV To charge an EV's batteries, the car is usually plugged in at night. In the picture to the left, an Impact test vehicle is plugged into a special charging unit attached to a house. The Impact is not yet available for sale. Some EVs can plug right into a regular electrical wall outlet. Others need a larger outlet, like the kind that a stove or electric clothes dryer plug into.

Electricity, the same energy that lights your lamps and runs your TV, is stored in batteries on an EV.

The batteries can be lead acid batteries, like the batteries you find in our flashlight or in regular gasoline cars. Or they can be ni-cad (nickel-cadmium) like the kind that run portable video recorders or a portable video game player -- only much larger.

Better batteries that hold more energy and last longer are being developed. In 2001, by the time today's fifth graders are ready to drive, electric vehicles should be able to go 150 to 200 miles before recharging.

What About Solar-Powered Cars?

Unfortunately, electric cars will probably not be solar-powered. Solar cells, also called photovoltaic cells, produce too little power. They are not practical to power a full-sized electric car.

Some colleges, however, race solar-powered cars. The picture on the right is the solar car from California Polytechnic University in Pomona, California -- CalPoly Pomona for short.

The back of the car is covered with solar cells, but all those solar cells only produce enough power to run an electric hair dryer...about 1,500 watts.

That's not enough energy to run a heavy vehicle. The CalPoly Pomona solar car is also very light, less than 400 pounds. It's not strong enough to be in traffic and protect a driver in an accident with another car or truck.
 
 

 

   
 
 
 
     

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