Putting a jolt into cars

Electricity is a mysterious force to most people.

Electricity is a mysterious force to most people.

It can’t be directly observed and occasionally, when it does show up, it is in a tremendous show of light and sparks.

Every day we indirectly observe this force in action working to make our coffee, cook our meals and light our way.

Electricity is not generally known for moving us around.

If you work in a warehouse you possibly have used an electric fork lift, and golfers are familiar with the quiet conveyance of the golf cart — but odds are it is unlikely you arrive at work in an electric vehicle.

Change is ever-present and today, EVs (electric vehicles) are being produced in some form or another by a number of the major vehicle manufacturers that rising to meet the needs and demands of the automobile market.

No longer can the electric vehicle be classified as a poor replacement to the internal combustion engine in the mass transportation department.

Drag strips in the U.S. are starting to prove to more and larger audiences that the electric vehicle in most respects is equal to, if not superior, as a motive force for the transportation of humanity.

Not only does it exceed the internal combustion engine in torque, speed (zero to 60 in 1.8 seconds) and fuel efficiency, it does it without any direct effect on the environment.

Zero tailpipe, zero tailpipe emissions, period.

There are still a few shortcomings to the electrical vehicle: batteries do have environmental concerns when it comes time for disposal, and if the electricity used is coal-generated, there is some impact on air quality and concerns with the mining of that coal.

Yet, we cannot forget there is a large amount of power generated by environmentally friendly means.

Wind turbine farms are dotting our landscape, hydroelectric dams form a large part of the electric grid supply, and solar is coming in to its own.

Here’s the beauty: if you are so inclined, you could generate the power to run your own vehicle for your everyday requirements.

With EVs now having ranges of 480 km, those trips into and around town could be done with the power you generate yourself.

If your off-grid system is designed correctly to meet the needs of your home power, and your short distance transportation fuel costs, you would pretty much have the world by the tail.

More and more, people are seeing the advantages of a low carbon footprint and correspondingly, adding transportation costs to the mix would significantly reduce your total energy impact.

Of course, an energy system like this would naturally reduce your monthly expenditures as well — a double bonus.

Cost of the primary installation is the major concern.

A system large enough to power your off-grid home and supplement your transportation is not cheap.

But with fuel and electricity costs rapidly rising, this deficiency is quickly being eliminated.

In the not to distance future, you will see alternate energy system become commonplace as economics dictate return on investment.

Lorne Oja is an energy consultant, power engineer and a partner in a company that installs solar panels, wind turbines and energy control products in Central Alberta. He built his first off-grid home in 2003 and is in the planning stage for his second. His column appears every second Friday in the Advocate. Contact him at: lorne@solartechnical.ca.