National / News / February 11, 2010

Future of electric cars steers closer to home

The streets of Israel will hum quietly, Des Moines, Iowa will be invaded by Romania and Ford will finally move into the future. No, this is not some kind of science fiction story; all of this is real and happening right now, all the result of electric cars. The last couple of days have seen some major advances in electric car technology both here in the U.S. and abroad.

Shai Agassi of the Silicon Valley company Better Place has signed an agreement with 92 fleet owners in Israel to change their automotive fleets entirely to electric vehicles produced by Renault and Nissan. Agassi’s current deal is set to put 45,000 electric cars on the roads of Israel starting next year and 100,000 by 2020, according to Wired.com (2/8/10). Along with the deal with the fleets, Agassi has also made a deal with the Israeli filling station chain Dor Alon to provide charging and battery swap stations around the country.

“Jerusalem, like other world capitals, is taking strong action to reduce urban air pollution and to prepare the city for a sustainable future,” said Agassi about plans to built charging stations in Jerusalem, according to Better Place’s Web site.

The action is not just in the Middle East, though. Ford Motors, in an announcement made in Chicago on Feb. 9, says that they will be putting an electric delivery van, the Ford Transit Electric Connect, into production later this year, to be followed by the Ford Focus Electric in 2011. The company claims the van will have a range of 80 miles. On their Web site Gerry Koss, Ford’s fleet marketing manager, says, “With interest in eco-friendly vehicles stronger than ever among commercial and government fleet operators, the Transit Connect Electric promises to offer another unique solution for their needs.”

Finally, closer to home, the Romanians are coming. The Des Moines Register reported on Feb. 6 that Des Moines Motors has just taken shipment of the United States’ first electric pickup truck. Being sold under the ‘Electric Motor Cars’ name, the vehicles are Dacia Logans on the outside, with an electric motor on the inside. Dacia, the Romanian company best known in the U.S. as being the company that made cars for the Romanian Communist Party during the Cold War and as the butt of many jokes on Top Gear, has branched out into a new market with a new product.

The truck will have a 260-mile range and as odd as it sounds may be in some ways the ideal pickup truck. Electric motors tend to provide much higher and more constant torque curves than gasoline or diesel engines do, making them ideal for towing. Additionally, drivers of the Dacia will not have to deal with the long wait that one would with a diesel truck. The real test, though, will be on the farm, not in the show room.

Ben Reeves


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