Since then, the electric car has struggled to make a return,despite low emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Hopes have risen recently, after Audi, Honda, Nissan and others announced electric vehicle projects. Ford joined them last week by revealingEuropean plans to launch three new vehicles: a battery-powered Transit Connect van and two hybrid versions of its Fusion range of cars and Escape range of SUVs. The hybrid vehicles have separate electricand petrol engines, with the latter taking over at higher speeds.
All three were presented to the press at the company's Aachen research centre in Germany and each demonstrated how the electric carhas progressed as a rival to the power of petrol. The all-electric Transit Connect made the greatest impact. It does a nippy 75mph and although its acceleration is modest – 0-60mph in 12 seconds – ithandles well. This is no mere jumped-up milk float.
The Connect is also distinctive for its absence of engine noise. Indeed, it is so quiet that other sounds – a squeaky steering wheel or a loosedashboard fitting – can be become noticeable and distracting. This is a minor price for silent running, you may think, which suggests that encouraging progress is being made in electric car development.We should not get over enthusiastic, however, as Ford officials made clear last week.
While obstacles had been overcome, current battery technology continues to limit electric car use drastically."You can get journeys of around 80 miles at best," said Peter Schmitz, the team leader for Ford's electrified vehicles. "But if you put on your heating, add a modest load and then play your stereo,...