People these days often look at their friends’ cars and go, “Wow, is that a hybrid?” But in the near future, hybrids will be obsolete, because Japan’s fourth-biggest automaker Mitsubishi has already come out with a working zero-emission car or, in other words, an electric car.
Before introducing it, a spokesman for the car company told the audience, “Please erase your image of electric cars being like golf carts,” and he was right. What was shown had the size of a regular sedan and, other than the bright array of LED lights in the front acting as headlights, there was visually no difference between the all-electric car and a sedan that eats up gasoline and pollutes the air.
Our firm’s car accident lawyers believe that a cheaper, more environmentally friendly car is essential to further development in the car industry. But they are also weary that with new technology comes new design defects that could lead to catastrophic injuries out on the road.
More questions arise to in the practical sense of can cars like this be covered under auto insurance policies? How safe are they during a car accident? Is there anything different about them that would make passengers more prone to wrongful deaths?
Mitsubishi spokesman Kai Inada described the all-electric car (iMiEV) as “fast, powerful, and smooth.” As mass-produced electric cars come closer to reality, the car manufacturers are attempting to polish the image of what experts claim could be hard to sell in the current economic recession.
Even so, zero-emission cars may not be such a new concept for long. Japanese carmakers are racing against the clock to develop all-electric cars, while US companies, as well as European manufacturers, have also announced plans to mass produce them in a few years.
After technological breakthroughs in the development of long-lasting lithium-ion batteries, pretty soon Joe the Plumber, and not just Hollywood stars, will be driving all-electric cars. The most feasible and first widespread electric car may be the iMiEV, which Mitsubishi plans to sell at a price of less than 3 million yen (about $30,000 US) as early as 2010. Currently, it has the ability to run 160 kilometers (100 miles) on a single 14 hour charge through a regular 100 volt outlet, or just 30 minutes through a special charger. Issues with the car are still being resolved, however.
“The price and the short mileage per charge are the two biggest challenges we must address,” admitted Kazuhiro Yamana, head of Mitsubishi’s public relations department. “But we expect that technological breakthroughs in lithium-ion batteries will continue, realizing longer distances – for example triple the current distance in 10 years.”
Next behind Mitsubishi, in the all-electric car race seems to be Nissan. They aim to start selling an electric car in the United States and Japan in 2010 and to the rest of the world in 2012.
Other automakers are taking a new approach towards solving the recharge/distance problem. They have been working to create fuel cell cars, which produce electricity through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, with water as the only by-product. According to Honda engineer Michio Shinohara, “Most users are not satisfied with the mileage” of electric cars.
But with fuel cell cars, the problem is sufficiently solved. Honda’s latest fuel cell car, the FCX Clarity, has a cruising distance of 620 kilometers, or about 500 miles, per charge and takes only three to four minutes to recharge.
Fuel cell cars do not spit out any of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, but their high cost and lack of hydrogen refueling stations are major obstacles to mainstream use. Many car manufacturers believe that all-electric cars may be the way of the future, unless the government makes more hydrogen refueling stations.
At this point, one of the only things preventing fuel cell cars from being more widespread is that only 12 refueling stations exist throughout the US. And with the US currently in a major recession, the government may not be looking at regulating these changes for another couple years, especially when car consumers may be averse to buying more environmentally friendly cars.
At some point or another, the government will have to regulate the building of refueling stations, because technology will be demanding it. Unfortunately, the current recession is not helping, along with the fact that the Big Three US automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) are ailing and facing criticism from Washington for being too slow to develop something other than gas-guzzling SUVs.
Our car accident lawyers hope that action will be taken in the near future for the widespread introduction of the fuel cell car.
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