California Charges Ahead on the Road to Electric Car Ubiquity

Man charging electric car on street
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Over the last year, as Congress has dithered over the college tuition crisis, it has become increasingly clear that solutions to high education costs will come from state governments like Oregon and Delaware, not Washington, D.C. But education is only one of many problems facing the country. For another one -- high gas prices -- the solution may come from California.

For years, gas prices have fluctuated wildly, ranging from relatively-bearable lows to budget-busting highs. The wider adoption of one increasingly popular solution, electric vehicles, has been severely hampered by a few key factors: high sticker prices, expensive batteries, and a limited number of charging stations. The first two problems are linked, and largely technical issues: The batteries for an electric car currently cost $12,000 or more, which keeps their retail prices high. Analysts predict that prices will drop by half within the next seven years -- a prediction that is promising, but not all that useful right now.

And then there's the charging station issue. Currently, the number of stations in each state ranges wildly, from Wyoming, which has one, to California, which has 1,417. Given that charging stations are a prerequisite for electric vehicles, it's not surprising that the Golden State currently leads the country in electric cars, while Big Wyoming ... doesn't.

However, Californians aren't resting on their laurels: A law recently by the Palo Alto city council requires that every new home must be electric car compatible. On the surface, this isn't all that impressive: After all, electric chargers hook into a simple 220-volt line, which is basically the same kind of outlet that a clothes washer uses. The added cost to install one in the garage of a home under construction is about $200; on the other hand, the cost of retrofitting a house to install one later would run you about five times as much.

On a broader scale, however, the cost and impacts of the new law are less important than what it signifies: an expectation that electric cars are here to stay. And it's only one of several programs that California has enacted to encourage electric vehicles. As Wired recently noted, the state is laying the groundwork to include charging platforms in the parking areas of apartment houses and commercial buildings, setting up initiatives to encourage low-income drivers to trade in their gas cars, and allowing EV drivers to use carpool lanes, regardless of the number of passengers. And all of this is aimed at a definite end goal: By 2025, California hopes to have 1.5 million EVs on the road.

EVs aren't the state's only nod toward sustainable energy; it has also become a leader in biogas. Clean Energy Fuels Corp (CLNE), which is making the first commercially-available renewable natural gas vehicle fuel, is doing so in California. The fuel, named Redeem, is distilled from landfill gas and, according to the company, can lead to a 90 percent reduction in emissions when it is used to replace diesel or gasoline. This year, Clean Energy Fuels plans to have 35 stations in California, with a longer term goal of expanding to 400 across the country.

When it comes to sustainable fuels in America, a new day is indeed dawning -- but this time, the sun is coming up in the West.

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My electric powered GM Volt saves me $3200 per year in gas cost. After dealer rebates and state/Federal tax credits, the car only cost 28,000 well equipped.

The car is charged by electricity drawn from nuclear power plants here in Illinois at a rate of 7 cents per KWhr, which is the equivalent of 250 mpg.

In a 5 year period, the realized savings from not having to buy gas and not having oil changes every 5k miles will be more than $16k, which makes the cost of owning and driving this vehicle a measely $12k. It will be worth at least that on a trade, so it's as close to a free ride as you can get. Tell me again why I should go back to a gas car?

P.S. the Volt has a range of over 350 miles, so I don't really worry about running out of go-juice.

October 08 2013 at 4:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

California is so far gone because of its idiotic epa regulations and laws...and the housing crunch ...and all the insane laws they have on the books it cannot factually ever recover..too far gone and way past the point of no the nation has junked all the inexpensive used good running cars and melted them down so scrap metal and wiped out all the used car markets..Sorry high school kids and college young will have to walk to the non existant jobs you spent thousands of dollars getting educated now you cant even buy yourself an affordable first car to get you off to any jobs..if you could find one....

October 08 2013 at 2:01 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

here to stay or people still trying to ram something down peoples throat they dont want?....forgot the bomb called the VOLT?

October 07 2013 at 11:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to greatonenonly's comment

agreed only the politicians can afford them...The government junked all the used autos that any of the workers could afford to buy ...and the college kids well where are those jobs that they need to pay back th9se student loans HUH and how are they going to get a loan with no credit for a 30,000.00 - 40,000.00 car??? after all thier parents already lost thier homes and even thier parents are broke and have no now what einstien? Keep listeing to the people that junked all your you in debt from college your 17 trillion dollas in national debt...really start to think for yourself and use that college brain to do the t least you constitutuional rights...your certainly going to need them someday sooner than you think... time for men to be men and build a T-bucket with a 4 cylinder engine in it....sure beats walking and you can fix it yourself...and they would get great gas mileage

October 08 2013 at 2:15 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Just add another reason to the long list of reasons NOT to live in California. I'm suprised some city council somewhere in some jackwagon California town hasn't passed a law that requires one to purchase a permit to blow one's nose.

October 07 2013 at 11:25 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to aevf101's comment

agreed... Just build a gas sipper and live with it...solid 2x3 inch boxed t-bucket frame styled with a bolt on carbon fibre 3 d prited body on top and a 4 cylinder engine with oil presure gauge and gas gauge and temp gauge and volt meter and off you go..simple wireing and simple construction..sure beats walking and gets great gas mileage...without the 1500 mile extension cord..

October 08 2013 at 2:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply



October 07 2013 at 10:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pdbliz's comment

it will happen soon enough..I just wish some of the good people would use thier brains and escape the sinking state...there is life elsewhere...just take the guts to pack up and relocate to a free state you can still afford to live in and own your own car and a place to live in...

October 08 2013 at 2:22 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Ted Smith


October 07 2013 at 10:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

You run out of water when it doesnt rain in your area, been there, done that

October 07 2013 at 9:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Coopbbmfic3's comment

ya and these idiots still have not built one stinking salt water conversion plant and not one hydrogen gas plant WTF ...sitting on an ocean of salt water and no drinking thats stupidity...desalinated drinking water would work but the idiots would rather take everybody in the states affordable cars away from them so they have to go furter in debt to get a new electric kidding but the people allready lost thier homes and have no credit and the kids are bankrupt with college debt...and your still talking about what..hiring up more taxpayer funded bigger government EPA police to hunt down and wipe out the few remaining struggling working taxpayer....smooth move exlax

October 08 2013 at 2:28 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

DRILL BABY DRILL...........KALIFORNEY has an ocean of oil off the coast

October 07 2013 at 9:51 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Clothes washers do not typically run on 220 Volts.

October 07 2013 at 6:33 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

For all of the whining by conservatives about California\'s alleged liberalism (actually, they are mostly moderates) California often leads the nation in many things, especially enviromental issues. Electric cars are not for everyone, but for many, they will work just fine. Studies have shown that even if the electricity for these cars is generated by coal-fired power plants, the total emmissions generated will be far less than with gas-powered cars. If we used renewable or nuclear power, it will be even better.

October 07 2013 at 5:31 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to elendil3136's comment

ya and the batteries last about 3-5 years and cost about 5000.00 dollars..I would rather buy a 2000.00 dollar 4 cylinder car that runs on gasoline and gets 38 mpg if the government had not junked them all for cash for clunkers

October 08 2013 at 2:32 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply