Are Electric Cars Still the Wave of the Future?
By Gregg Rio
With all the hype and then subsequent let down of the electric car movement many people are beginning to wonder if these cars will ever become mainstream or if they will remain the occasional oddity on the road. Many gas-electric hybrids by companies like Toyota, Ford, Lexus and Mercury are already enjoying some success, but true electric cars are still not capable of attaining the speed or traveling distance required to make them a viable alternative to the gas guzzling vehicles that many Americans are still driving. And the cost is still prohibitive for the average person as well. Saving money on fuel expenses isn't likely to help the average household afford a vehicle in the $80,000 to $500,000 price range any time soon.
Keeping Kurrent in the Neighborhood
Still, electric vehicles are getting better and there are some inexpensive models on the road from independent companies like American Electric with their Kurrent selling for around $10,000. However, this is not a family vehicle as it only seats two people. It isn't meant for cruising down the highway either, the manufacturers suggest that people need to "slow down" a bit anyway and tout this vehicle as a "neighborhood vehicle". This would be perfect for college students or people who live a short distance from work, but it won't replace your regular vehicle just yet. Meanwhile, countries like Norway have been driving electric cars like the Think which can go 112 miles on a charge at top speeds of 62 mph for years now and these vehicles are expected to hit US markets within the next couple of years for less than $20,000.
Innovations on the Rise
Most Americans aren't ready to settle for driving 30-100 miles on a charge and then waiting many hours to get back on the go and so the car manufacturers are still working hard to overcome the obstacles and build better batteries and vehicle designs that will extend the driving distance and increase speed. Ideas being developed include hydrogen fuel cells and plug-in hybrid. Either manufacturer are going to have to find a way to create electric vehicles that are comparable in performance and price to conventional vehicles or Americans are going to have to alter their lifestyles by limiting the number of hours driven per day and their driving speed. Since the latter is unlikely in the near future, automakers will have to keep working on new designs.
Weighing the Options
There are several good, inexpensive electric vehicles on the market right now for people who travel short distances to work or to the grocery store like the Kurrent, the Fly bo (made in China), and the GEM. There are also more expensive electric cars like the Venturi Fetish that top out at speeds of 100mph and have an equally impressive price tag at over $400,000 in the US. Meanwhile, it will likely still be few years into the future before the electric car becomes a viable option for the majority of people in the United States.
The American Electric Car
GM is not the first and certainly will not be the last American auto manufacturers to create a mass marketed electric car. GM did it in the 90's with the "EV" which was a success to the consumers, but not for GM as it was more of a test car. They are working on a car, the "Volt" which will be designed to travel 40 miles solely on battery power. Something like 75% of Americans travel less than 40 miles in their commute to work. So it can provide a clean means to travel and will have a small engine for those with greater distances. The Volt is highly anticipated to charge into American's lives.
Gregg Rio is an excellent writer and an experienced Santa Cruz Real Estate broker for 20 years. He enjoys selling Santa Cruz beach homes and Santa Cruz Best Neighborhoods.
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