QUEST Radio test drives the Nissan Leaf. Image: Josh CassidyFirst of all, let me say I wish we could all get around on trains and buses and bicycles and design our cities so that we didn’t have to have such ridiculous commutes. It is no wonder California is the largest automotive market in the country. We have designed much of our infrastructure so that we have to use highways to get anywhere. Like it or not, cars are a part of many of our daily lives. In my search for a greener car I have considered biodiesel but with the intensive use of crop land I am not convinced it is all that environmentally friendly. Then there is hydrogen. Well, I am still looking for an on ramp to that highway. I have heard good things about clean diesel. What looks most promising to me, however, are low and zero operating emission plug-in vehicles.
The Chevy Volt plug-in and the Nissan all-electric Leaf are only the beginning of a new generation of cars. Within the next ten years there could be hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles on U.S. roads. Toyota has plans to release a plug-in Prius, BMW, Tesla and Mitsubishi all plan to roll out EVs or plug-in hybrids. Help from the federal government, cities and air quality districts are making it possible for early adopters to buy these cars while the battery technology is still really expensive.
Things look different than they did in the days of the EV1. GM’s EV1, chronicled in “Who Killed the Electric Car,” never seemed designed to succeed. It was a limited release, two-seater car that customers could only lease. Unlike now, there was not the financial support going into a charging infrastructure and car makers had not even agreed on a standardized plug. In the wake of the BP oil spill, the public also seems ready for these cars.
The Chevy Volt. Image: General MotorsSouthern California Edison has a helpful site on getting plug-in ready. The utility addresses the biggest concern with these new cars: Range Anxiety. This new buzzword means the fear of being stranded in an electric car because the battery has run out. Bottom line – the production of the EV has jumped way ahead of the infrastructure. In our next story, we’ll go in search of a charge.
Listen to the Greening Your Drive radio report.