Q - I always liked the idea of electric cars, but I wondered how much one would increase my utility bills to charge it at night. Are there any electric cars available today or any kits to build one myself? D.P.
A - The new electric passenger cars are an excellent form of transportation. They have acceleration and performance similar to standard gasoline-powered cars. Other than no noise and the smooth low-end torque, many people would not realize they are driving an electric car.Some electric cars, converted from Toyotas or Hondas for example, are powered by 16 standard six-volt lead-acid batteries. These give about 50 to 60 miles of driving per charge. You plug the charger into a wall outlet in your garage and plug the leads into the car for a nighttime recharge.
At an electric rate of 9 cents per kilowatt-hour, it costs less than $1.70 per recharge for each 60 miles of driving. Although you must also include the replacement cost of batteries every several years, you won't have the expense of oil changes, tune-ups, antifreeze, etc. Always consider the total long-term operating cost before buying an electric car.
Today, it is possible to buy completely finished electric cars. These can be ordinary compact, full-size and minivans that have been converted to electric power. They attain top speeds of 65 mph and have ranges of 60 miles per charge. This is adequate for the majority of daily driving. You can extend the driving range by adding more batteries.
You can also buy do-it-yourself electric car conversion kits. These contain all the electronic controls, motors, chargers, adapter plates, etc., to convert a standard car to electric power. The old gas engine is removed from the car and the electric motor and batteries are mounted in its place. This is ideal for a car with a worn-out engine.
For maximum energy efficiency, you can use sun-powered solar cell panels to charge the batteries during the day when you are not using it. Although these alone cannot provide a full charge in one day, they reduce total electric costs and overall pollution. Some electric minivans have solar cells built into the roof so they charge while you are driving.
Electric cars are also very friendly to the environment. It is much more effective to control pollution at a remote electric generating plant than at the tailpipes of thousands of cars. They also don't run on imported oil and they are usually charged up at night when the electric utility companies have excess capacity anyway.
You can write to me for UTILITY BILLS UPDATE No. 062 showing a list of suppliers of completed electric cars, information and prices of some complete electric cars and components of a do-it-yourself electric car conversion kit, and recharging costs at various electric rates. Write to James Dulley, The Deseret News, 6906 Royal Green Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244. Please include $1 and a self-addressed STAMPED BUSINESS-SIZE envelope.
Q - I am building a new house and I want to make it as airtight as possible. In my old house, I often felt drafts coming from the electrical outlets. What can I do to eliminate the drafts in my new house? H.C.
A - Electrical wall outlets are a primary location for outdoor air leakage into your house. It gets into your walls through cracks and gaps on the outside and leaks out through the electrical outlets.
In your new house, make sure that all exterior gaps and cracks are sealed. Wrap the outside with air barrier material before adding the siding. You can also buy special outlet conduit boxes that are airtight and designed to seal against the vapor barrier film or drywall.