Monday, 13 August 2012

Facts About Electric Cars

  1. Electric cars have arrived, but the pace of adoption will be slow.
  2. There are several different types of cars that plug in, and their electric ranges vary.
  3. In the early years, most charging will be done in garages attached to private homes.
  4. You have to consider where and how you use your car(s) if you consider buying electric.
  5. Electric cars are cheaper to “fuel” per than petrol cars, and they have a lower carbon footprint too—even on dirty grids.
Last year, roughly 17,000 plug-in cars were sold in the United States—more than were sold in any year since the very early 1900s. But to put that number in perspective, total sales in 2011 were 13 million vehicles, meaning that plug-in cars represented just one-tenth of 1 percent. Sales this year will likely be double or triple that number, but it remains a stretch to reach President Obama’s goal of 1 million plug-ins on U.S. roads by 2015.

The two main plug-in cars that went on sale last year, the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, use somewhat different technologies, and this year will see a third variation arrive, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid. Each works slightly differently, and their electric ranges vary considerably, roughly proportional to the size of their battery packs.

There will soon be more public charging stations than there are gas stations in the U.S. That’s a little deceptive, since most gas stations have a dozen or so pumps, while the electric-car charging stations have one or two cables. But it points out the relatively low cost and fast installation pace of charging stations, aided in some cases by Federal incentives.

Plug-in cars are not for everyone. They still cost more than the gasoline competition, though their running costs are far lower. And the limited range of battery electric cars may make them impractical for households with only a single vehicle. Range-extended electrics and plug-in hybrids solve that problem, but the complexity of two powertrains plus the pricey battery pack makes them more costly than regular hybrids.

Retail car buyers act irrationally. Often, we more car than we really need, and we also put too much weight on initial purchase price—or the monthly payment—and not enough on the total cost of ownership, including maintenance and fuel cost.

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