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Silicon Valley driving electric car advances

The aim is to replace the dirty technology of the internal combustion engines with cleaner and safer smart vehicles, including the self-driving ones from Google. Tony Glover writes
Topic

United States
Transport

A Silicon Valley believes it is only a decade away from solving the world’s fossil fuel crisis while dramatically cutting road deaths.

By producing electric cars that can perform better than traditional vehicles while cutting carbon emissions, Silicon Valley’s new breed of car maker hopes to replace the dangerous and dirty 20th-century technology of the internal combustion engine with a cleaner, safer form of automobile. Some of the computerised electric vehicles being driven around California are also programmed to do all the driving, potentially cutting the number of road accidents.

Silicon Valley’s first indigenous electric car maker Tesla launched a high-priced electric sports car, the Roadster in 2008, some of which can be seen being driven around the UAE. The Roadster runs on laptop batteries and had a basic price of US$109,000 (Dh400,335), but it can accelerate from nought to 100kph in 3.7 seconds. It was followed by the Tesla Model S last year, a full-sized electric four-door fastback sedan with a price tag of $57,400, just over the half that of the Roadster. The company intends to launch a new electric car, the Model X, a full-sized sport utility vehicle, around 2015.

According to the Tesla spokesman, Karl Berridge, the Silicon Valley car maker subsequently will launch “third-generation electric cars” with a lower price tag and designed to have mass appeal, although the company’s first priority has been to make its current model turn a profit.

“In the first quarter of this year, 4,750 vehicles were delivered. This is a significant number as it moves us into full profitability, making it over 7,000 Model S delivered [in total so far] with more than 20,000 to be delivered this year,” says Mr Berridge.

But it is by no means certain that Tesla will be able to make the leap from a manufacturer of rich men’s toys into a mainstream car maker. Even if electric car enthusiasts’ claims that the traditional car makers are paying only lip service to electric cars is true, companies such as Toyota and Volkswagen may prove to be deadly competitors in an industry they know well. The Toyota Prius, a hybrid vehicle that runs on both petrol and electricity, is already selling well in Tesla’s home market of California.
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