The depletion of the supply of liquid hydrocarbon fuels in the predictable future has accelerated interest in vehicles powered by different forms of energy. The battery is one form of energy storage that has successfully found application in special-purpose vehicles for nearly three-quarters of a century. Heavy duty lift-trucks and tugs, golf carts and delivery vehicles are among the vehicle types powered by battery-electric systems. Personal transportation needs have been served to only a limited extent by electric vehicles because of the low power, limited range and lack of durability provided. by the conventional lead-acid battery. However, recent changes in the energy availability picture have necessitated reconsideration of the electric vehicle.
In order to compare the efficiency of utilization of the Earth's fossil energy resources (petroleum and coal) by battery-electric and gasoline powered special-purpose urban vehicles, an analytic study was conducted. The guidelines of this study restricted it to three special-purpose cars that are smaller and have lower performance than conventional subcompact cars and a delivery van. The vehicle power train components represent demonstrated current technology. The most important guideline of the study required the performance levels and load carrying capacity of the gasoline and electric-powered vehicles to be the same. The results of the study indicate that a lead-acid battery powered, two-passenger shopper vehicle with a 40 km range consumed about
The position of the electric vehicle is improved with respect to the gasoline vehicle by the development of advanced batteries, increased electric component efficiencies and an actual electric vehicle mass less than assumed due to a reduced mass compounding factor. An aspect related to the conventionally powered vehicle that tends to reduce the advantage over the electric is a potential efficiency penalty of the spark ignition engine due to its small size. Incorporation of these considerations into the study produce results more favorable for the electric version. The energy consumption of a nickel-zinc battery powered shopper is only about 30 percent more than its spark ignition engine powered counterpart considering petroleum as the prime source of energy. With coal as the prime source, the advanced technology electric vehicle consumes about 30 percent less than the spark ignition engine powered version.