No Shortage Of Electric Vehicle Contenders

As much as anyone I look forward to the day when Ill be able to drive a car that doesn’t use gasoline as the primary fuel source. And when I use the word car I mean a car like the ones we’ve become accustomed to. In general most people want cars that are stylish, economic, safe, affordable, flexible and have reasonable power.

Each vehicle in the current field of electric vehicle contenders has one or more of those traits but none of them satisfies all the things that people expect out of a car. In fact I’m hard pressed to find vehicles that satisfies more than three of the six criteria mentioned above.

Consider the Aptera electric vehicle which is made in California by Aptera Motors. With three wheels and just enough room for two passengers this vehicle has more in common with a motor cycle than a car. But with an expected price tag between $20,000 and $40,000 the Aptera sure does have a car-like price tag.

electric vehicle

Then there’s the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) which is made by a Chrysler subsidiary called Global Electric Motorcars or GEM. The GEM e4 is touted as, perfect for visiting family and friends or just recreational driving. Unfortunately its only perfect if your family lives on the same block as you do. That’s because the top speed of the vehicle is 25 miles per hour and it has no doors. The vehicle is essentially a golf cart. But at a base price of over $11,000 the GEM e4 will set you back more than most used cars in very good condition.

If you’re part of the champagne and caviar set you have the option of going fully electric in a way that makes few compromises. The Tesla Roadster all electric vehicle made by Tesla Motors looks and performs like a sports car. It also has an impressive range of over 200 miles per charge. But the price tag of the Tesla Roadster is north of $100,000 and the production schedule only allows for about twenty vehicles each month. And with a 1,000 person waiting list you’d probably have to wait four to five years to get one even if you had the money to burn on this hot rod.

There’s no doubt that the idea of a fully electric car is hot right now. The problem is that the economically accessible electric vehicles aren’t really cars. And the electric cars that are real cars are not economically feasible for 99.5% of the population. The future promises many additional entrants into the space like the way over hyped Chevrolet Volt.

The Volt promises a forty mile all electric range with a gasoline engine as a backup. The vehicle is set to roll of the assembly line towards the end of 2010 and have a price tag of about $40,000. There’s no guarantee that General Motors will get all of the current issues with the vehicle (like battery life for instance) resolved so the launched could be further delayed and the price could increase as well.

Chinese automaker BYD is getting into the act too, with a plug-in hybrid that has similar technology to the Chevy Volt. Last month The Wall Street Journal highlighted BYDs efforts to build and market an electric vehicle that will eventually find its way to the United States.

These vehicles are only a few notable examples of the many alternative automobiles that were likely to see introduced in the next few years. Other contenders typically suffer from the same problems as the ones mentioned in this post. Most are not economical due to the prohibitive cost of installing huge battery packs. Those same battery packs also tend to reduce the rear seating and cargo space availability for these vehicles, which assists in cutting back on the practicality as well.

Many feel that mass production of electric cars will lead to lower cost battery packs. Those economies of scale may manifest themselves. But its also possible that mass demand for lithium battery packs could change the economics of lithium. A shortage of lithium could actually cause electric vehicle prices to rise even as demand increases.

Not everyone is betting that the plug is the answer to greatly reducing Americas dependence on gasoline as a transportation fuel. Companies like Honda and General Motors continue to invest money developing hydrogen powered vehicles lick the Chevy Equinox and the Honda FCX Clarity. Unfortunately, Hydrogen vehicles are incredibly expensive to produce and suffer from the lack of a hydrogen distribution infrastructure. The New York Times detailed the story of a New York Legislator who drove a Chevy Equinox to Washington D.C. but needed two additional Chevy Tahoe Hybrid SUVs in order to make it there.

Some really big dreamers are looking to solar to power the car of the future. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has a solar energy vehicle team. And one man from Canada has engaged in a lifelong quest to evangelized solar powered cars. Since last June Marcelo Da Luz has traveled the U.S. and has set the world record for the traveling distance of a solar vehicle. Unfortunately Mr. Da Luz quest is not a gasoline free one. A gas guzzling support van has followed him every step of the way.

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