A road into the future

2010 Nissan LeafOne of the worst feelings you can experience as a motorist is that horrible sinking one as you fill the car up and watch the pounds drain away…

You need your car and your car needs filling up so there’s not much you can do but accept your fate and watch the fuel pump gauge click past £20, £30, £40 and £50!

But what if by some miracle you woke up one day and never needed to drain your wallet because of an empty tank ever again? This is no miracle – but the future, probably, because electric cars are sparking a revolution that could mean that in years to come we no longer need to rely on the petrol engine.

With the rising cost of fuel comes a rising demand for an alternative and manufacturers are competing with each other and scrambling to make these electric dreams reality.

This is an exciting time for the car industry and manufacturers are doing their best to develop the electric car and to change people’s perceptions.

Many people consider electric cars ugly, slow and with limited power and range but they are gradually developing and the mould is breaking.

The first mass-produced electric cars like the new Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-Miev have really started the ball rolling. Stop thinking milk float and start thinking the future because modern electric cars are starting to catch up with the speed, safety and refinement of conventional cars.

I’ve driven the Nissan Leaf and actually it really did disperse some of my initial negative perceptions. Driving the Leaf has made me take the electric car a lot more seriously – things in the electric world are definitely improving.

The Leaf actually looks like a conventional car, has the same amount of space as a conventional car and also performs and handles just like a conventional car. I would have never believed it if I hadn’t tried it, but it’s even fairly entertaining to drive.

One day the electric car will probably be widely accepted and charging points will stand where petrol stations once did. It really makes me wonder what our roads and cities will look and sound like in years to come if electric really does take off.

No longer will we hear the rattling diesel engines of buses and lorries, or the lovely burble of a sporty V6.
If things change and we do go completely electric our roads will not only be a lot less polluted but they will probably be a lot quieter. However, manufacturers are starting to develop sounds for their electric cars so that they can be heard by pedestrians.

Cities might end up sounding like computer games full of various whirring electronic and synthetic noises. Petrol heads like me will miss the roars, growls, snorts and burbles of high-performance petrol engines. Will there ever be a synthetic match for the sound of a V6? I don’t think so.

In years to come, bigger cars may even cease being made as manufacturers turn their attention to smaller, more efficient, electric vehicles. Many car manufactures have already started to branch out into motorbikes and scooters and smaller, two-wheeled vehicles could be much more common on our roads.

Noise and fumes will no longer exist and small electric cars could perhaps be brought inside and we may be able to travel along dedicated vehicle corridors.

Of course there is still a long way to go and there are some issues to overcome – like extending the range electric cars can go before they need a recharge and prices also need to come down. Once these issues are ironed out and electric cars become widely accepted then our roads, towns and cities will start to adapt.

It’s impossible to guess exactly how our environment will change and I’m going to have to stop wondering now because for all I know we could be hovering around in spaceships – like the cartoon characters in ‘The Jetsons’.

By Gemma Senington

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