The INIZIO electric car has attracted a good deal of attention since it was unveiled by Li-Ion Motors in 2010. Launched at SEMA, an automotive trade show, the promise of an all-electric supercar certainly whet a few appetites - particularly one whose lithium-ion batteries are capable of holding up to 96.7kWh of power, along with an electric motor that delivers 145kW. According to Li-Ion, the North Carolina-based company that produced it, this puts the INIZIO's zero-to-60mph time at a heart-stopping three to four seconds, coupled with a top speed of 170mph.
It looks the part, too, with an exterior that's clearly modelled on the Dodge Viper, 90-degree rotational doors and all. But it's not just for boy racers: the INIZIO has a range of up to 250 miles, making it more than suitable for everyday driving needs, with around eight hours needed for a full battery charge. Mass production began around mid-2011, with Li-Ion expecting to build 2,500 units per year.
However, here comes the bad news - all this power comes with a price tag of $139,000 (£87,000), putting it somewhat beyond the price range of the everyday buyer. Or does it? The INIZIO is obviously an extreme example, but it raises the question of whether electric motors can ultimately pay for themselves in terms of reduced running costs. Since the development of the lithium-ion battery, which stores up to four times more energy than traditional units, the electric car has come to be a much more viable option - particularly when combined with other eco-friendly technologies.
Hybrid cars, which combine electrical and fossil fuel power, are currently the most commercially feasible alternative to traditional petrol guzzlers. Plug-in hybrids can charge their batteries when the car isn't running to provide increased range and improve fuel efficiency. However, this power is still drawn from the national grid, which remains largely dependent on fossil fuel or nuclear power, in spite of efforts by governments around the world to switch to more sustainable sources like solar power.
Recently, though, carmakers have had the bright idea of cutting out the middle-man and sticking solar panels directly onto hybrid cars. In the past, photovoltaic cells have not been efficient enough to make this worth the effort, but some automotive companies, including Toyota and Audi, have added solar arrays to some vehicles like the Prius and A8. In some cases, these panels only power small systems like fans, but as the technology develops, we may begin to see vehicles that can charge some of their power as they drive - at least, while the sun is shining.
It's still a bit of a stretch to suggest that an all-electric monster like the INIZIO could become fully solar-powered in the near future - photovoltaic arrays still aren't even close to the efficiency that would require. But as electric and hybrid vehicles grow in popularity and power grids around the world move towards sustainable generation, we are at least seeing the seeds of a truly pollutant-free mode of transport.
This is a guest post from EvoEnergy. The UK based solar energy business is a customer-focused company, who guides its customers though every stage of the installation process, whatever the size of the project.