With all the talk about electric cars I began to wonder if these automobiles are really the way of the future. In theory we all want to get better fuel economy, spend less and get better performance, but at what cost? We have automobiles powered by gas/hybrid and diesel engines now that are more than capable of generating upwards of 40 mpg, but in the end these engines are generally small and do not provide the performance that most consumers are looking for and herein lies the problem. There are a few cars out today that give us, as consumers insight as to the longevity and feasibility of electric vehicles for a mass market, but as they are too new to get any real data, we’re still somewhat in the dark.
The Tesla Roadster for example is an all electric car that gets two hundred miles on a single charge and has great performance, but it only has two seats and costs $100,000. Then there is the upcoming 4-passenger Nissan Leaf sub-compact that’s due out later this year. That will be priced at around $35,000 but it only delivers around 100 miles per charge. Both cars take about 8 hours to fully recharge the lithium-ion batteries that power them.
Going green is not cheap and neither is the technology it takes to get us there. For example, the lithium-ion batteries that power these cars tend to run hot, don’t last that long and getting them to power a 1.5 ton automobile is no easy feat. The other part of this equation is the advancement of technology. Cars like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Roadster are going to be left behind as the next generation of batteries come into being. So, that begs the question, do we pony up the big money and buy these cars now, or do we wait until the technology reaches the point where the electric car gives us the performance and range of standard gas powered vehicles. Truth be told… I have no idea.
What I do know is that getting Americans into electric cars is going to be a hard sell and I’ll tell you why. We live in a country of vast open spaces with roads and interstates that go on forever. Because of this we need vehicles that can travel these roads and rack up the miles in a timely manner. To go across the country for example in a Nissan Leaf you’d have to charge that sucker up 30 times and with a charging rate of 8 hours you’re talking 240 hours – that’s TEN FULL DAYS! For city applications these cars are great, but for anything more and I hate to say it, they’re useless.
This country runs on the fact that we are able to get from point A to point B quickly. We don’t wait for anything and nor do we want to. So until there are electric cars out there that deliver 300 miles on a charge, cost $25,000 and recharge in less than 30 minutes I have a feeling that the majority of Americans are simply not interested.