Now that electric cars are making their way to the show rooms, how will they really compete with more conventional vehicles? Are consumers really ready to turn in their gas-powered vehicles for something they have to plug in every night? Polls have shown that 62% of car buyers are concerned with climate changes and about 74% are concerned with our dependence on foreign oil. These numbers show that maybe the consumer is willing to take the plunge into giving up their gas-powered car for the new electric ones. The Chevy Volt has hit showrooms and Nissan has taken orders for its all-electric vehicle the Leaf and is set to begin deliveries in November.
Many states are offering up incentives to encourage consumers to purchase an electric car. Some states are offering drivers of electric vehicles the privilege of using the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane on highways even with only one driver. However, in California this privilege will not be in effect until 2012 and will require a special sticker on the car to qualify. This incentive may not be the best to convince drivers to buy an electric vehicle. But cash incentives are always a good way. During the Cash for Clunkers program thousands of people turned in their old cars and got both a new car and extra cash. The state of California understands this and is offering numerous rebates including a $3,000 to $5,000 tax credit in addition to the $7,500 federal tax credit. California hopes to have 7,500 all-electric and 25,000 plug-in hybrids on its roads by 2014 with an increase to 60,000 electrics and 85,000 plug-in hybrids by 2017.
A plug-in hybrid is a vehicle like the Chevy Volt. It can run on electric power for a certain range and then the gas engine will turn on. All-electric vehicles include the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Roadster. Most of the all-electric vehicles have a range of no more than 100 miles. However, as technology improves this range will become more and more. As for now, some companies have taken it into their own hands to start installing charging stations for electric cars around certain cities. California plans on putting over $200 million a year into low-emission vehicles and this includes subsidizing charging stations that should be operational by 2012. There are already about 140 charging stations installed around the Los Angeles County area. New York City also recently installed their first charging station using a grant received from the Department of Energy and Mayor Bloomberg hopes to have over 100 charging stations installed throughout the city by September of 2011. President Obama hopes to have one million plug-in vehicles on US highways by 2015 and with charging stations being installed in eight different areas around the country this could become a reality.
The idea is to have these charging stations in areas where drivers will be spending an ample amount of time. To reach a full charge the vehicle must be plugged in for 8 hours. Since most drivers don’t spend 8 hours at any one place other than their homes the main purpose of these charging stations is to give people enough “juice” to get home. Charging stations are being installed in the parking lots of movie theaters, restaurants and malls; places where people will spend at least 2 hours before they need the use of their car again.
Electric cars have a long way to come before they can become mainstream vehicles; but auto manufacturers, politicians and engineers are all doing what they can to improve their popularity. Once electric cars become cheaper with more efficient batteries the average consumer may become more interested. It’s true that consumers do care about the environment, but ultimately when it comes to purchasing something as big as a car the biggest deciding factor is the buyer’s wallet.