According to InsideEVs.com, of the more than 16.5 million new cars and trucks sold in the United States in 2014, a mere 0.4 percent were electric models.
Concerns continue to mount over the depletion of Earth's ozone layer, causing seemingly every new appliance to be developed with an eco-friendly setting, so why has the general public not yet fallen in love with the idea of the zero-emissions automobile? Do we not understand the technology? Are we so used to filling up at the gas station that we're not willing to adjust? Or is the battery-powered hatchback just not as sexy as a pickup with a roaring v8 engine?
If you ask industry insiders, they'll probably say that much of the public's hesitancy over the electric vehicle stems from the perception that the best, most reliable brands are too expensive, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.
That hesitation is not ill-founded—for reasonably priced electric vehicles, battery capacity hasn't yet reached the point where they can realistically replace standard gas models. While drive time is dependent upon on a number of factors—type of motor, outdoor temperature, drag produced by open windows, etc.—the average electric vehicle in 2015 is capable of traveling anywhere between 40 and 100 miles on a single charge.
If you're looking for a model that can run twice as far, you can plan on spending two to three times as much. The industry's most renowned electric vehicle, the luxurious Tesla Model S, starts at $61,000 and has a travel range of 200-300 miles per charge. Good news is the Model S utilizes some of the most cutting-edge battery technology available, the patents to which Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk released to all automakers in June 2014 in an attempt to boost electric vehicle production.
However, despite Musk's efforts and substantial advances in battery technology in the last decade, sky-high production and maintenance costs for the market's most powerful batteries remain a roadblock to the case for electric vehicles taking over highways. At the moment, engineers for more affordable car companies have to settle for mid-level batteries at mid-level prices, which results in the creation of electric vehicles that aren't wholly appealing to the consumer.
That's why in recent years companies such as Sakti, manufacturers of a low-cost, high-performance solid-state battery technology, have received major financial backing from venture capitalists. Named in 2012 to MIT Technology Review's Top 50 Most Innovative Companies, Sakti is a University of Michigan spinout that is nearing the commercialization of a lithium-ion battery capable of storing twice the amount of energy as conventional batteries.
After signing a development deal on March 15 with British home appliance giant Dyson to potentially co-design a cordless vacuum cleaner, the startup moved one step closer to its ultimate goal of having its technology installed in standard model electric vehicles. The high-powered battery, which is both lighter and more energy-dense, could double the distance standard electrics are able to travel on a single charge.
The challenge will be translating success in the lab to real-world application. Reduced engine weight and more power are nice to dream about, but according to MIT Technology Review, past battery startups have failed to deliver a reliable product that appliance and automobile makers can utilize.
Down the road for Sakti, it's a matter of consistent results and financial support. Dyson's $15 million investment is a promising sign that the innovative technology Sakti boasts could be useable and the electric vehicle more appealing. And that's encouraging, because the sooner we can create a zero-emissions vehicle that is a practical choice for all consumers, the sooner we can eliminate the automobile industry as Mother Nature's most powerful adversary.