Electric vehicles made up about 4% of the vehicles sold in the United States in 2021. While that number is growing, the U.S. lags behind other countries, such as those in Europe, where 14% of all new cars are EVs.
As vehicle performance, range and pricing improves, U.S. buyers are being enticed to look closer at going electric. In 2020, more than 240,000 EVs were sold in the United States. That is still behind the almost 455,000 hybrid vehicles sold in that same year, according to the latest figures available from Energy.gov.
The list of manufacturers making electric vehicles continues to grow. No longer a niche item, EVs are made by most major automobile manufacturers and several new entrants to the field.
Let’s examine some of the recent achievements that will help us go farther, faster and higher with EVs.
Today’s EVs are a giant leap beyond early models with oodles of heavy batteries and underwhelming range.
Many of today’s models can easily travel 150 to 250 miles on a charge. Higher-end models can reach 350 miles or more on a charge, easing range anxiety.
One way to increase range is to improve charging infrastructure. While most daily driving can be done on a single charge, longer trips require a prolonged stop to charge the battery. That assumes a charger can be found.
Experienced EV drivers map out longer trips before leaving home, planning where to stop for charging. But more charging stations are on the way.
Under the EV Charging Action Plan announced last year by President Joe Biden, the Department of Energy and the Department of Transportation will establish a Joint Office of Energy and Transportation to support deployment of $7.5 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to build out a national electric vehicle charging network.
The new office will provide technical assistance to states and help develop plans for charging station networks.
EVs used to be reserved for energy-conscious drivers who didn’t mind staying in the right-hand lane. But times have changed. Many EVs pack a lot of horsepower under the hood.
In June, a stock Tesla Model S Plaid set a world record for the fastest quarter-mile acceleration at 9.234 seconds and a top speed of 152.16 mph.
Speed on the road isn’t the only time going faster is better. One drawback of EVs is the time it takes to charge the batteries.
“Today, chargers are limited in how quickly they can charge an EV’s battery due to the danger of overheating,” says Michael Degner, senior technical leader for Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. “Charging faster requires more current to travel through the charging cable. The higher the current, the greater the amount of heat that has to be removed to keep the cable operational.”
Ford and Purdue University researchers have patented a new charging cable technology that uses a liquid that changes to vapor as a cooling agent.
Ford says this new technology, combined with other advances, could result in EVs charging as quickly as a conventional vehicle fills up at a gas station.
Rolls-Royce—long an innovator in the aeronautical field—has laid claim to building the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft, called the Spirit of Innovation.
In November 2021, the single-engine plane recorded a top speed of 345.4 mph while covering 3 kilometers and climbing to 3,000 meters in 202 seconds.
The Spirit of Innovation is part of the Accelerating the Electrification of Flight project. Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute, in partnership with the United Kingdom’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.
“We are delighted to have played an integral role in this landmark project,” says Stjohn Youngman, managing director of Electroflight, which partnered with Rolls-Royce. “Developing the propulsion and battery system, in collaboration with experienced program partners, has resulted in a world-class engineering capability that will lead the way toward the decarbonization of air travel.
“Our next step is to adapt this pioneering technology so it can be applied across the wider aerospace industry to deliver a more sustainable way to fly.”
In time, these advancements are sure to drive more owners toward EVs as prices between internal combustion engine and electric vehicles level out, and EV range and performance improve.