Electric Mobility is a broad category of things that move around using electric motors. Forklifts, wheelchairs, trolling motors for small boats, golf carts are some of the types of mobility systems that have been around for many years. One of the major mobility systems that you might not know about that is electric are the 30 ton, three story tall earth movers built by Marathon LeTourneau many years ago. Earth movers and locomotives share the fact that they are hybrid electric drive trains. There is a diesel electric generator providing electricity and the force turning the wheels actually comes from an electric motor.
Consider the speed torque capability of some of these systems. Locomotives and earth movers are large, multi-ton loads that move at low speed high and require high torque. Wheelchairs, forklifts and golf carts share similar performance profiles, but they are all successful applications of electric mobility.
Historically, the car industry has used racing to stimulate the development of technology that ultimately increases vehicle performance for consumers. Racing in many transportation segments leads to technology development, weeding out of technology that is marginal, and demonstration of performance. Marketing dollars going into the promotion of events lead to brand perception for the manufacturers of top performing vehicles.
What is extremely interesting to note is that electrically powered motorcycles, cars and boats are competing with gasoline powered vehicles, and winning. After only a few years of competitive racing, the fastest production motorcycle in the world is an electric, the Lightning LS-218. So named because it will reach a 218 mile per hour top speed with the limiters disabled. The Mercedes-AMG/Cigarette racing collaboration has resulted in a two-seater with conventional propeller drive that tops 100 miles per hour. The “twin” car tops the Mercedes AMG brand in terms of torque and acceleration beating its gasoline powered siblings by 40% in torque, reaching 60 miles an hour in 3.9 seconds, and having a published top speed of 155 miles per hour.
In fact, the notion of an electric ‘supercar’ has prompted a number of companies to build and offer vehicles with 0-60 mph accelerations around 3.0 seconds. The fastest so far is the Rimac with 0-60 time of 2.8 seconds, but with a $1mil price tag it’s unattainable for most mortals.
The takeaway here is that good old fashioned competition has brought the field of electric drive to parity with most fuel powered alternatives. The difference between the two is the energy density of gasoline as a fuel versus the energy density of a battery pack, which today is still an order of magnitude higher than fuel. So for vehicles with drive ranges over 100 miles, there are plenty of electric and hybrid options.
A lot more research, trial and error, and competition is going to bring the soluiton.