What Would It Take to Get You Behind the Wheel of an Electric Car?

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Nissan Leaf five-door hatchback electric car, Winchester, UK, 28 04 2011
Alamy
Everybody knows that electric cars make sense. They consume fewer resources, produce fewer emissions, and often have excellent acceleration. They're quiet, getting cheaper to buy, and -- given current gas prices -- cost less to use. At the risk of making hard-to-substantiate predictions, it looks like they could very easily be the wave of the future.

So why aren't you driving one?

Sure, there's the range issue. Depending on where you live, it can be a long drive between charging stations. For example, California has 1,413 stations, Florida has 395, and Idaho has only five. So if you don't live in California, you might be doing a lot of math as you calculate the distances that you'll need to travel between recharges.

Then there's the emissions issue: As I wrote recently, depending on where power plants in your state get their fuel, electric cars may not be as green as you thought. Still, even in the worst states, an electric car has about the same emissions as a Honda.

But the biggie might be price -- which really comes down to a battery issue. Forget that $100 Sears Die Hard: electric cars' battery arrays routinely cost $12,000 or more, which makes them a huge factor in determining the overall price of the car. On the bright side, analysts predict that their price will drop by half within the next seven years or so. On the down side, we're not there yet.

Bottom line, as Lydia DePillis seemed to suggest in The Washington Post's Wonkblog earlier this week, there needs to be a concentrated, sustained push for electric cars. Right now, their growth is largely dependent upon fluctuating factors, like the rise and fall of gas prices, or the periodic surges and declines in government incentives to the alternative energy industries. Consistent support for infrastructure and development could cut electric car prices, increase their useability, and generally speed up their adoption by the general public.

Who knows? Maybe it could even put you behind the wheel of one.

Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings editor. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.


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36 Comments

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betty_brock

Answer: A really long extension cord.

September 28 2013 at 11:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chris1011

I plug my Chevy Volt in at night. By next morning it's fully charged and ready to go. I commute 22 miles every day to work and don't ever need to buy gas for this. On the weekends I travel around town all over the place and normally don't use any gas there either. The only time I use any gas is when going up north for camping and fishing. The Volt has a range of 45 miles on pure electric and 300 miles on gas. It uses about 7 gallons to go 300 miles (that's 42 mpg).

I paid a total of $28,000 for the car new, fully decked out with leather seats, fancy stereo etc. You can get them cheaper now, especially the 2013 models.

It costs me 9 cents per KWhr for the electric. It takes 10 KWhrs to fully charge, which allows me to go 45 miles. So basically it costs me 90 cents to go 45 miles. In a normal gas car it would cost about $4.00 for the same ride.

September 24 2013 at 1:21 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to chris1011's comment
red8cr

Thank you for the information did chevy tell you how long battery would last and how much if needs replacement ? thank you

September 24 2013 at 2:51 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to red8cr's comment
chris1011

In tests that they did on the battery they estimate 200,000 miles before it needs replacement. I won't keep it that long of course. They are already developing a 200 mile version of the Volt versus the 45 mile that I have. The car will also have a lower pricetag, I'm told. I will rpobably trade mine in 3 years for another newer model.

September 24 2013 at 3:00 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down
chris1011

Yes cruiser, the final price was 28k plus change. Federal tax credit $7500, Illinois rebate of $3945. Dealer price for the car was 39,450 - bought it thru internet car search, had it delivered to local dealer from another dealer 140 miles north of here. Lots of Volts sitting on dealer's lots, and dealers are willing to part with them for low price. They are not high sellers, so dealers would rather move them out at low price than have them hang around another year.

My other car is a supercharged convertible (American made muscle car) that I use on Sundays. I'm a car guy and love both of them. Each has its pluses and very few minuses.

September 24 2013 at 5:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
mrscdel

MONEY. A whole lotta money. Because they dont have the distance capacity of gas engines. IF the obama adm was SO concerned with efficiency then the ETHANOL would be taken out of fuel and it would return to being efficient.

September 24 2013 at 12:43 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
YourFtr

As long as they are making an electric car;
why don\'t they make the car so it can be upgraded every year;
so you don;t have to buy a new car every 10 years or so......

September 24 2013 at 12:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ktz1017

More power, more places to "plug in" or "juice up" and the ability to travel longer distances. Also, an affordable price. All of these things will need to be in place for me to make the move.

September 24 2013 at 12:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rrgalvanjr

When they can make a car that has the acceleration of my current car and it not cost twice as much, I will buy it.

September 24 2013 at 12:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
smiles41

Maybe if it were \"free\" with a lifetime or for the life of the car TOTAL maintenance warranty..but it wouldnt be my \"go to\" car for traveling more than 50 miles...w/o a plug. LOL...

September 24 2013 at 11:53 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Kay

I would love to end my addiction to fossil fuels but I cannot for 2 reasons.
1) The initial cost of the electric vehicles - Who has $30, 000 to spend on a car? - The car will wear out before I realize my ROI. This calculation does not even consider the cost to replace the batteries!
2) I have not seen any charging station where they might be needed in the Phoenix metro area. The powers that be should have installed the charging stations BEFORE they started selling the electric cars! For electric cars to become popular, they need to develop a way to plug the car into any ordinary electrical outlet.

September 24 2013 at 11:42 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Avatarxx1

Just like the horseless carriage back in the day. In some major cities electric vehicles around the turn of the 20th century were one third of the vehicles.

Today electric vehicles are ideal for short commute travel to and from work and for running around town.

I drove an suv electric for about a year off and on around town. It was ideal. Lot of pep, quiet, easy to weave in and out, pass, etc. Ideal vehicle the job.

September 24 2013 at 11:14 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
chuckhalper

Everybody knows that electric cars make sense he says.IMO, they don\'t make sense except in limited applications, such as route delivery.All the environmental and social arguing cannot change the laws of physics. Whether its lithium ion, zinc air, sulpur, hybrid lead acid or whatever, batteries are are not very efficient source of energy versus gasoline ..its called energy density.
If you only need a car for short commutes then really what difference does it really make? You could drive a Packard...Look for pure electrics to take maybe a 1% or less market share by 2020.IMO, its much ado about nothing as far as a practical substitute for an ICE or Hybrid.

September 24 2013 at 11:01 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to chuckhalper's comment
Lifes a Beach

Ice is ~25%(best case) efficient, throwing away 75% of it's energy source (gasoline) as heat out the tailpipe. Electric motors, on the other hand, deliver ~90% to the wheels. energy density is not the only efficiency metric available in the equation of utility.

September 24 2013 at 11:13 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply