Electric Cars Today

EV's: Yesterday and Today

reva india ev

A proud Reva driver. Photo by Jon Rawlinson

Just as they did at the turn of the 20th century, electric cars appear to be coming of age in the early 21st century. Sales numbers have fluctuated with the economy but we'll leave those figures to other folks. We're looking at the big picture and from our perspective there's a lot of buzz about EV's. Detroit automakers are committed to building electric cars, both federal state governments are offering tax incentives to EV consumers, and driveable battery-powered models are showing up on the convention floor at major auto shows.

EV's: A Powerful Trend

On the roads and highways of the U.S. the unavoidable presence of hybrid cars underscores the trend toward alternative fuel vehicles [AFVs]. Have a look at this chart:

chart of alternative fuel vehicles on the road

Number of AEVs in use by fuel type, 1992-2006. Source: DoE AFDC

If this trend continues, the buzz you're hearing might turn into the hum of an electric motor. It's impossible to know if today's buzz will be tomorrow's irony, but the powerful drivers of EV production are only going to get stronger:

  • Air and water pollution
  • Dwindling oil supplies controlled by politically noxious governments
  • High oil prices

Barring any black swan-type developments in the auto industry, electricity is the best short-to-medium term power alternative for personal transportation. Other alternative fuels hold promise but electricity is well understood, readily available from a variety of sources, and is supported by infrastructure.

Financial Incentives

Aside from saving money on gas, U.S. consumers and businesses benefit from an increasing number of financial and other incentives available to them as buyers of BEV:

Admittedly, EVs – even the golf-cart-style neighborhood electric vehicles [NEV's] – are still expensive and not so widely available. AFV's and EV's in particular are out of reach for most drivers. But if the success of the Prius, which has made hybrids commonplace, is any indication, more and more people will have access to these cars.

Electric Car Disadvantages

Currently, BEVs suffer from limited range and low speeds. As a result, their use is limited to local destinations (thus the aforementioned "NEV"). Electric charging stations in the U.S. are far and few between. However, an electric car can be charged at home and solar recharging is becoming more and more feasible.

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