Can you handle the compromises that come with owning a battery-powered automobile?
An all-electric version of the new MINI Cooper, the MINI E is powered by an asynchronous electric motor that is rated at 150 kilowatts (204 horsepower) and 160 lb-ft of torque.
With just 10 blocks to go, Paul Eng feared his MINI E electric car didn't have enough juice left to get him home. "The range estimator said zero miles," says Eng, a senior Web editor at Consumer Reports, who leased one of 450 experimental electric MINIs from June 2009 to June 2010 as part of a pilot program. "I kept praying, 'Please, please don't die.'"
The E's claimed 100-mile range, rated under ideal conditions at full charge, should have been more than sufficient for his 60-mile round-trip commute. But life often doesn't work out as neatly as numbers on paper. The car hadn't fully charged the night before, because Eng got home late. It also rained that day, so the editor had to run the defroster, which kicks on the air conditioning, which sucks power like a vampire. Throw in an unexpected stop on the way home to drop off a co-worker, and voilà, the car's battery was stressed to the max.
Thankfully, Eng made it to his home in Queens, N.Y., just fine that night, and the anxiety it caused turned out to be an isolated incident. Why? He learned from the experience. After a couple more months with the MINI E, Eng had habituated himself to calculate mileage and charge times. If he used the air conditioning or heater, he got about 85 miles. If not, the best he usually got was 120 miles. "To me, it became like a cell phone," Eng says. "You came home, plugged it in and left it alone."
So what does this story have to do with the future of the electric vehicle? It illustrates that there is a learning curve when it comes to EVs, and that many people will have to adjust their routines to drive a vehicle like the MINI E, Nissan Leaf or any of the various battery-powered machines set to go on sale over the next year. Don't be fooled: Transitioning from gas to battery power isn't going to be seamless. While the promise of no fuel fill-ups, convenient home charging, easier maintenance and a quiet ride are alluring, those benefits do come with caveats.
Don't Expect to Get a Bargain
"You're basically paying a premium for a compact car," says Matt Mattila, project manager for Project Get Ready, a nonprofit group that connects cities, local utilities and other interests to build infrastructure for electric vehicles.
For instance, the 5-seat Nissan Leaf is about the size of a $14,270 Nissan Versa hatchback, but has a starting price of $33,600. The MINI E, which seats only two, costs $850 a month to lease. And the 2-seat Whip LiFe, made by Atlanta-based startup Wheego, will sell for about $32,995 when it hits showrooms in a few months. All three are pure electric vehicles that can plug into a standard wall socket and get between 80 and 120 miles on a single charge, depending on driving style and other variables. And all are rather small.
The Chevrolet Volt is unique in that it's a plug-in hybrid, so it can run on a gasoline engine when the battery is drained. It is the size of a Chevy Cruze, but seats only four and costs $41,000. By comparison, the gas-powered Cruze starts at $16,275 — more than 20 grand less.
A $7,500 federal tax credit available on electric vehicles will help get the cost down. "GM and Nissan are lobbying Congress very hard to change the provisions of that tax credit so that you can get it at the time of purchase," says Eric Evarts, associate autos editor at Consumer Reports. Some states are even offering a $5,000 tax credit on top of the federal one.
Extraneous Costs Can Be High
As one might imagine, there are also expenses beyond the initial cost of the car. Buyers must have their homes inspected by a certified electrician, and if they require an extra 220-volt outlet — like the one used for a clothes dryer — to charge their car, it could cost between $300 and $1,500 to install.
"Automakers are working with the utilities so that this is handled in a standardized manner," says Sunil Chhaya, senior project manager of electric transportation at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit center for electricity and environmental research, headquartered in California. Energy Department stimulus grants available to a limited number of buyers and other tax credits can help defray these costs as well.
Buyers can opt to use a 110-volt outlet, the standard kind found in every home, for charging electric vehicles. That spares the expense of installing a 220-volt outlet, but results in much slower charge times. Eng had to use a 110-volt outlet to charge his MINI E for the first couple of weeks, and it was so slow to charge that he was able to drive the car only every other day. The Nissan Leaf takes more than 12 hours to fully charge from empty on 110 volts, versus half that on 220 volts.
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Chevron CEO made $65M past 2 years. How much did you make? I was busy filling my gas tank and getting oil changes.
When you generate electricity you pollute.
When you transfer or convert electricity you waste.
40% to 50% of the energy generated, by the time the electricity gets used by electric cars is lost, thus more pollutants are created (aprox. 42%) than if we just stay with gasoline burning engines.
Repeat: 1,000,000 electric cars pollute 42% more, because of the loss in transmission and conversion, down to the point of use (electric cars), thats 42% more than 1,000,000 gas engines.
Until we use the vastly more efficient Nuclear power plants for electric generation we spent and spend but gain no ground, rather we lose ground.
So how would they be cost effective to run the entire car?