Despite how many times they're told differently, some Americans persist in their belief that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Sorry, nope. And almost as enduring are the myths about the forthcoming electric vehicles. So let me use my bully pulpit here to dispel some of the more common rumors, half-truths and innuendos.
1. Electric vehicles will be slow "Ralph Nader-mobiles." Definitely wrong. I've driven every single one that will be out this year, and not one of them was a slug. Electric motors benefit from huge low-end torque, so they're actually very fast indeed off the line. That makes even some of the little econo-boxes capable of blowing off complacent Camaros and Mustangs. And some EVs, such as the Tesla Roadster and Fisker Karma, are serious high-performance cars.
2. Electric vehicles will be expensive. This is a half-truth, since the purchase price will indeed be higher than you're used to paying. Expect $35,000 to $40,000 for entry-level cars the size of a Subaru Forester. But the last time I looked, nobody was subsidizing my purchase of gas-powered cars, and there is money for EVs. Specifically, there's a $7,500 federal tax credit for the purchase of battery cars, and a second credit of up to $2,000 that will pay up to 50 percent of your home charger installation. It's even better if you live in certain states. California just launched a $5,000 "cash-for-clunkers" type rebate (much better than a tax break) to early adopters of EVs there. Other states are similarly generous. Oklahoma (who knew?) subsidizes half the purchase price of battery cars, which made it possible to buy Wheego EVs for only $2,500, and more than 100 have already been sold there.
3. Electric vehicles will be unsafe. You're not going to get shocked when you plug them in, and battery acid won't spill all over you in an accident. Automakers, working with the Society of Automotive Engineers, have standardized the ultra-safe five-pin J1772 connector. Battery packs, heavily protected from passenger compartments, will be mostly under the car. The biggest safety issue so far is whether they'll be heard by pedestrians, a challenge some carmakers are addressing by having them produce tailor-made noises (they could even be like ringtones).
4. Charging electric vehicles will be a hassle. Never have I seen so many great minds working to make something as simple as possible, and they've pretty much succeeded. Carmakers and charging companies are lobbying for, and will probably get, streamlined rules for home wiring, which should reduce installation times from a month to 24 hours. Your home charger (about $2,000 installed) is likely to be addressable like the cable box, which means you'll be able to program charging times from your laptop or cell phone. Utilities are very pro-EV, and will be offering lucrative time-of-day pricing to encourage customers to charge at night. But you don't have to get up in the middle of the night to plug-in _ the charger will be smart enough to start the clock ticking on its own.
5. Electric vehicles aren't really clean because they use electricity from coal plants. This one is undoubtedly true, in that battery cars are not "zero emission" on a "well to wheels" basis. Coal power is indeed dirty power. But, all things considered, EVs are still much better for our planet than gasoline cars. According to Sherry Boschert, author of the book Plug-In Hybrids: The Cars that Will Recharge America (New Society), EVs reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 11 to 100 percent (depending on the type of power plant) compared to internal-combustion cars, and 24 to 54 percent compared to hybrid cars. Even if all our plants burned coal, we'd still reduce CO2 by as much as 59 percent with people driving only EVs. Boschert's primary source was a study by the federal Argonne National Laboratories.
(c) 2010, Mother Nature Network.
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