Back when electric cars were actually available from mainstream manufacturers, I wondered what the big deal was about. It seemed to me that they just moved the pollution from where you were driving to wherever the electicity was generated. How could that help?
But then I heard about Tesla Motors. Now, I have no plans to spend $92,950 on any car, but it’s still a very cool car. And reading their web site I saw their “well-to-wheel” analysis (what it costs starting at the oil well all the way to turning the wheels of a car) of efficiency of electric cars vs. hybrid and conventional cars, and I was convinced that electric is the way to go for a commuter car. For longer range trips, it will require a big infrastructure change (maybe stations where you swap dead battery packs for charged ones), but even today most two car families could get by with one electric car and one hybrid.
If there were any affordable elctric cars to buy, that is.
So what is available today or plausibly soon?
Today you can buy a NmG (“No more Gas”) from Meyers Motors. It used to be called the Sparrow in case it looks familiar. But it has only one seat, a 30 mile range, and costs $24,900. The range is a dealbreaker for me, and the price seems out of line with what you get.
You can buy a Zap! Xebra from Zap. It’s range is only 25 miles and it has a top speed of 40mph, though it seats 4 and has a target price under $10,000. They also say that deliveries are in process and I have read that they have sold 150 or more of them. But again the range is a dealbreaker, and the top speed also means I would have to choose a different route to work.
You can make a deposit on a Tango from Commuter Cars Corporation. They have a Tesla-class (0-60 in 4 seconds) model T600 that sells in kit form for $108,000. They have delivered one to George Clooney, and will be hand-building a few more. The range is 40-80 miles with lead-acid batteries (farther with NiMH). They are taking deposits on the T200 (0-60 in 5 seconds, $39,900, expected in 2008) and the T100 (0-60 in 7 seconds, $18,900, expected in 2009). What I really like about these cars is that they’re narrower and shorter than some motorcycles (they have two seats but they’re front and back rather than side by side). That means they can park in places normal cars can’t, and if they catch on there could be lane sharing on freeways. I’m actually pretty tempted to put down a deposit.
I also looked into electric scooters. GreenEmotor is local (they’re in Santa Clara, CA). From talking to them it doesn’t sound like their current model could handle the climb I have on my commute home, though when they get better batteries, it might work. The Vectrix is much more powerful, but it’s also much more expensive (roughly $11,000), requires a motorcycle license, and it’s not clear if it’s sold in the U.S. yet.
For further reading, wikipedia is a good place to start.
Edit 3/27/2007: Phoenix Motorcars is building an electric truck/SUV that they expect to start delivering in 2007. It has a range of 130 about miles and is expected to cost about $45,000.