It seems to me that the guys pushing electric vehicles started off on the wrong foot. California decided in the early 90s that it wanted a Zero Emission Vehicle to combat their terrible air quality – and thus the EV1 was born. We all know how that went. Toyota knew environmentalists (read: Hollywood celebrities, not the ones with compost in their pockets) had some money lying around and subsequently released the Prius gas/electric hybrid (the industry’s way of going halfsies) which ended up becoming one of the most popular cars ever. But it’s hardly a concern for the environment that’s driving people to these monstrosities – despite what some would say – it’s the fact that we’re in the realm of $3/gallon gas, manipulated by international consortiums that are just fine with profiting off everyone’s misery. Not so secretly, people buy Priuses for the touted gas mileage, not their carbon emissions.
The Electric Car
Now that the technology is permitting, it appears that we can’t go a week without another car manufacturer announcing a new electric car or van. Chevy’s been getting high marks for its Volt hybrid and it seems that the future for most drivers is no longer in internal combustion, but in having a trunk full of laptop batteries. At CES earlier this month, Ford unveiled the Focus Electric (a car extremely popular in Europe) and several other battery-ed vehicles, but this year hasn’t been thin on hybrid and electric vehicle announcements. You simply can’t argue that charging an electric car via 220v outlet is going to be comparably priced to filling up once a week at the pump because of the ridiculous price of gas that will probably never go down. (That’s not to mention the fact that if we’re paying our utility bills, we’re primarily supporting our local economies, rather than the staff overseeing petrol drills around the world.)
But how practical are electrics? Obviously, if you’re driving a semi or other large vehicle that requires a ton of power, these aren’t very practical (although SUV electrics have been announced), but for the vast majority of Americans – ones who don’t travel more than 60 miles a day – these may be a great alternative. There’s also the several hours required to charge the majority of the battery, meaning that travel management will be a new force in some people’s lives, plus the fact that prices are still a bit on the high side ($30k+) although the feds are offering some pretty decent rebates. Electrics are finally becoming practical for the average American.
What If It’s All A Fad?
True, gas prices may fall to $1/gallon tomorrow and interest in these new drive trains may evaporate – much like they did in SUVs through the mid-00s – but for the most part, there may finally be a valid market for the electric car. Until batteries can get me better than a day’s life on my smartphone or allow me to to zip to the nearest city and back without running out of juice, electrics aren’t going to ever fully displace internal combustion, but for most people, they may end up being a great second vehicle in the garage.
Personally? It makes perfect sense to have one. If Ford wants to send me one of those new Focuses, I mean, I won’t stop ’em…
Photo credit: Engadget