Friday, December 24, 2010

Carbon Fiber Cars

BMW's Electric Automobile Revolution

12/24/2010 - BMW is hoping to revolutionize the electric car industry. Whereas most manufacturers rely on traditional -- and heavy-- steel car bodies, the German company hopes that carbon fiber components could lead electric cars into the future.

Cars may have conquered the world, but they didn't do it overnight. Decades after its invention in 1886, the passenger car was still too expensive and too impractical to be anything more than a rare sight on the streets. Gas stations didn't even exist in those days.

The spread of electric cars in the 21st century seems to be proceeding at a similar slow pace. The first models from major manufacturers are now hitting the market, but as a form of transportation, these vehicles face much the same acceptance problem as Gottlieb Daimler's horseless carriage did. These cars have a high price tag but offer low performance.

Mitsubishi has released its first electric car series under the rather uninspiring model designation i-MiEV. It's a simply furnished compact car with an oval body and lithium-ion batteries under the floor panel. With one charge of the battery, the vehicle can travel 100 kilometers (62 miles) in summer or 60 kilometers (37 miles) in winter. It costs €34,390 ($45,240).

Nissan's electric car, the Leaf -- set to hit the German market next year -- faces the same cost-benefit plight. Even so, European automobile journalists saw fit to name the Leaf their "Car of the Year." {continued}

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