The Second Coming of the Electric Car

gm-ev1-front-three-quarterI’ve had a love affair with the Electric Vehicle (EV) for a few years now. I wish I could say I found it on my own, but I really only got into after watching Who Killed the Electric Car? Since then I’ve had dreams of building my own EV, and occasonally dreams of simply buying one. If you would have asked me two years ago if I thought we’d ever see EVs from major automakers, I would have told you “no”. Back in 1999, lots of companies leased EVs because of state mandates in California. As soon as those state mandates went away, so did the EVs. The Auto companies hated being told what to produce.

Now that the world’s economy has fallen apart and the Auto industry has fallen to pieces, things have started to change a little bit. The market finally began to push hard and Automakers found themselves with an awful lot of SUVs that nobody wanted. The government bought American auto-makers (more or less anyway), and somewhere along the line automakers have finally abandoned the absurd idea that a hydrogen based fuel-economy was ever really going to happen.

A couple of EVs have made headlines in the last couple of weeks, and that makes me happy. Nissan announced the LEAF. So far the only thing I don’t like about it is it’s name. 100 Miles to a charge, four doors, it looks like a car, and it’s expected to come in at a reasonable price (hopefully about $25,000.)


The Nissan LEAF (No, it's not an acronym)

This is really the EV that I’ve been waiting for. Tesla came out with their roadster a while back, but let’s not kid ourselves… $100K? They’ve sold plenty of them, but the only people who can afford them have them now I think. Tesla’s model S, while a little more practical, still unfortunately falls in the $50K range. About $25k more than I want to, or could hope to spend. The LEAF represents the first practical EV. My greatest hope is that they are actually willing to sell it, rather than just lease. (Take note guys… the EV1 was a complete failure because you couldn’t buy it.)

The original, meaner Volt

The original, meaner Volt

Then there’s GM. Chevy has been touting a concept for a few years now called the Volt. Up until a couple of months ago, it looked like a mean sports coup. More recently, it’s started to look like sleek sedan. The Volt is actually not a true EV. It’s an extended range EV, meaning that it has an onboard gas engine that will allow it to make longer trips. This is a similar design to the Toyota Prius Hybrids, except that the Volt uses it’s battery power exclusively as long as it can. They estimate currently that it’ll run for about 40 miles before needing to start the gas engine.


A Kinder, Gentler Volt

You may have seen in the last few weeks a commercial with a green background, a 110 Volt outlet, and the numbers 230-8-11. The internet has been mildly buzzing about, trying to figure out what it is. It turns out it was an announcement for today (8-11) that GM’s been preparing for. They announced that the fuel economy of the Volt is judged to be 230 Miles-Per-Gallon. Pretty exciting, though somewhat misleading. The math assumes that you include your first 40 gasless-miles as part of the calculation.

On top of that, I have to say that GM dropped the ball a bit on this… if you google 230-8-11, or a variant thereof, you don’t end up on a specific GM website. Although you get news items this morning, the first thing you should see is the official Volt website, or at the very least, a 230-8-11 website… Unfortunately, neither are anywhere to be seen in this search.

So I’m excited. Automakers are making EVs. I’m still a little hestitant. I’m waiting for the opportunity to acutally buy one of these vehicles. When it comes, you can bet I’ll be first in line… well, for the LEAF anyway.