Electric cars- an opinion

In the past, I have gone on record to opine that (plug-in) electric cars are the wave of the future. The current breed of “hybrids” (Prius) are interims to the ultimate paradigm which is plug-ins that will go somewhere in the range of 40 miles on battery, then will go up to 300 miles on the battery with a gasoline engine re-charging the battery as an ongoing process.

It’s getting closer.  One of my colleagues now has one. A Chevy Volt that he plugs into an electrical outlet in his garage nightly, 220 volts- it charges in four hours. UPMC is now committed to providing charging for electric cars and the first four reserved spaces with 220 volt plug-ins are on the way.  My friend has had his car now for a month and he’s never used the gasoline portion of the drive train. Battery has a 10-year warranty and more efficient (cheaper) iterations are coming down the road very quickly. He’s absolutely ecstatic with the car.

It ain’t cheap at around US$40,000 to drive it off the lot plus whatever it takes to get your garage wired.  There’s no way the savings in gas will ever recoup from a regular gas eater getting 30 mpg in town and costing under US$20,000, but that is no longer the point 1n 2012.

I think the point now is no longer saving money with gas mileage. The point is now supporting the emerging industry that has a very important double benefit; decreasing our dependence on foreign oil and stoking an industry that American carmakers could use to become leaders.

My friend says that the additional fees for electricity have not been noticeable.  I don’t have any problem supporting the coal industry I West Virginia (producing electricity), but I am increasingly having a problem paying exorbitant rates per barrel on the whims of filthy rich Saudis who hold us up whenever they feel like it. I think the time has come to put our collective money where our gas pumps used to be.

For me, it will happen next year. My daughter by a previous marriage has a son who will be entering college in the Fall of 2102 and my current ride is a cream puff 2008 Toyota Yaris with all the trimmings, circumferential air bags, anti-lock brakes, auto transmission, satellite radio, new tires, serviced to the minute. Will have about 40,000 miles by summer of 2012. Gets 40 mpg on the road and 30 in town the way I drive it. The natural progression is to give this car to the kid.

So I will be purchasing a new car in the summer of 2012.  I am actively planning a plug-in electric.  The trip from my house to Presbyterian Hospital is about ten miles so I can get there and back easily on one charge. If I can charge here at the hospital, I will probably never have to use the gas engine for my routine trips into work. In the nice weather I always take a bike in unless it’s raining and I take the Lotus in on weekends so the electric car will be low mileage.

So I started sniffing around at what’s out there now and what will be out there in the summer of 2012. I looked at what Tesla is doing and found out that it isn’t for me. Their sports model is clearly modeled after the Lotus Elise, and I already have one. Their other proposed car is an expensive luxury sedan that I have no interest in.  I want a small, preferably two-door hatchback.

I have a very strong interest and loyalty to the British Lotus brand and they are coming out with a nearly perfect (for me) plug-in car, the Lotus Ethos, but there are two problems. First, the car is not slated for sale until 2013, which probably means 2014 and I don’t want to wait. The other is the car is made overseas and I think I now feel the need to support American industry by purchasing an American brand, or at least a brand that is made in the USA by an American labor force.

By the time summer of 2012 rolls around, the choices for electric vehicles will explode, and many foreign brands will be manufactured here in the USA. I plan on getting in on that. More as it happens.

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