Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Challenging Road To More Fuel Efficient Automobiles

So far, automakers Ford, Nissan and Tesla are sharing part of a $25 billion dollar government loan program to the auto industry to develop a future generation of cleaner and more fuel efficient vehicles. For Ford and Nissan this likely to mean the development of more hybrid automobiles, while the tiny Tesla company focuses on electric automobiles. Almost as ambitious as the program to put men on the Moon in the 1960's, the Obama plan is to increase the fuel efficiency of automobiles to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, an awesome goal that can only be reached by crash programs into new technology development. However, at least the American government is helping to assist automakers towards this goal instead of simply mandating new future standards.

The automobiles developed by the Tiny Tesla company might be some of the most interesting of the next generation of fuel efficient automobiles. The Tesla Roadster is an all-electric automobile capable of speeds up to 0-60 in just 3.9 seconds which is a blisteringly fast speed on a par with Corvettes or other high end sports cars. Right now, the Tesla cars are capable of traveling 244 miles between charges thanks to a complex network of lithium-type batteries much like sturdy laptop computer batteries looped together. The newer sedan type body model which sells for a lower price than the sports car for $49,900 features an awesome claimed 300 mile range between recharges, and boasts a quick 45 minute recharge. The more expensive roadster sells for $101,500. The Federal government is so impressed with the Tesla automobiles that they are giving the tiny automaker a $465 million loan to build more of the model S sedan type cars. In addition, buyers of Tesla automobiles may be entitled to tax savings or credit of $7,500 or more from either the Federal government or their state governments, making the purchase of a $49,900 Model S considerably cheaper and a great bargain in many ways because of all the fiuel savings involved. And the Lithium batteries have a long service life as well.
Because electric motors make such high power and torque compared to gasoline engines, the 115 pound electric motor in the Tesla roadster produces power comparable to a large displacement sports car engine weighing in at several hundred pounds. However, the energy storage system which brings together the power of several thousand computer grade lithium-ion type computer grade batteries. But future versions of the Tesla automobiles will likely include larger new generation lithium-ion batteries especially suited for automobile use.
The products from Ford or Nissan are more likely to be some new generation of hybrid versions of existing or new conventional models. The use of more hybrids should help both automakers to meet the tough future fuel efficiency standards, while the future of Tesla is to carve out a new marketplace with more reasonably priced, yet high end luxury electric cars. Reportedly, comic David Letterman bought one of the Tesla Roadsters and just loves the car.


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