Is America ready for the electric car?
Article was added on Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Much buzz surrounded the
2011 release of electric vehicles by two prominent automakers. The
Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf were hailed as "the future is
now" cars that would usher in a new era of energy independence and
technological innovation for the United States.
Personally, I'm still waiting for the flying DeLorean that Doc
Brown and Marty McFly promised us by 2015 in "Back to the Future."
Auto manufacturers have only three more years to figure that
In the meantime, I'll have to settle for the phasing out of the
gas combustion engine.
One question I hear a lot about electric cars is their effect on
the environment. Because you plug them in just like any other
appliance-creating more work for power plants-will we really
prevent carbon emissions? According to the Electric Power Research
Institute, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based consortium, the short answer
is yes. Despite the extra load, various airborne emissions will
decline with the onset of electric cars. Each region of the country
will see reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over several
decades, thanks in part to technologies that decrease carbon
dioxide emissions from power plants. In addition, electric cars
could actually help electric cooperatives if consumers plug them in
at night. That helps the system run more efficiently because power
costs and demand are at their lowest.
However, the costs may still be prohibitive for most Americans.
The Cooperative Research Network estimates that payback in terms of
gasoline savings would take about a decade (depending on your
driving habits). And if you want the car to charge up quickly
(instead of the usual four to eight hours or so with a regular
110-V outlet), you'll have to install a higher-voltage outlet at
your home. Besides the cost of having the 220-V outlet
installed-which one cooperative wholesale power provider estimates
to be about $2,000-your home's wiring may need to be updated to
accommodate it. The costs add up.
Whether an electric car suits you also depends on your
lifestyle, how much you drive, and whether you want your vehicle to
have fancy amenities that use more
Cities across the country are attempting to do their
part-electric vehicle charging stations are springing up at various
locations here and there. But barriers, including cost, limited
driving range on a charge, and easy access to chargers, still
inhibit widespread use.
I wonder if we'd be any quicker to embrace a car that flies.
Floyd L. Keels
President and Chief Executive Officer
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