Goal For The Green

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Is an electric car in your future?

If you are in the market for an electric car then there is probably a good chance that you have been doing some reading recently. News regarding electric cars has been all over for the past year or so, and for good reason. New models are out, and these cars can help the country lose some of its dependency on oil while providing us with an alternative that is gentler on the environment. These latest-generation electric cars have better range and performance than ever before.

2011 Chevrolet Volt exhibited at the 2010 Wash...

Image via Wikipedia

Electric cars are the greenest of the personal transportation industry. They do not emit any (or much less) carbon emissions than their conventional counterparts, but they do utilize  questionable raw materials such as the metals that go into their batteries.  There are some major advantages to owning a green car but there are also some disadvantages. It is important to know all of them before you go out and make a purchase.

Advantages of owning an electric car

The greatest advantage of an electric car is obviously the complete lack of emissions (when running on battery power—some vehicles like the Chevy Volt, only run on batter power for the first 40 or so miles of driving then go gasoline-powered). A full electric vehicle, like the all-new 2011 Nissan Leaf, or Tesla Roadster however, will not even have an exhaust system, muffler or fuel tank. They do not use any fossil fuels internally. They are fueled completely by a rechargeable battery that does not have to be charged via a gas engine. With many hybrid cars, there is a gas engine to go along with the electric component. Which leads to another good point: people like electric-only cars is because they provide a very quiet ride. There are no engine noises or roar even when you have to floor the gas, just an eerie (but cool) whirling sound increasing in pitch. When electric cars are run at very low speeds they are essentially silent.

The maintenance of electric cars is also much easier to handle. Simply put, there are less moving parts and fewer things that can go wrong. With traditional engines, there is constant movement under the hood. With an electric vehicle much more is stationary, only the main motor’s drive shaft and the car’s transmission spin. Much less will wear down from overuse. For example, in a conventional car, eventually all the belts in the engine will wear out and need to be replaced lest they snap on you and leave you stranded. No such things in electric cars, want to go electric? An other advantage of battery-power is that the technology in these vehicles have come a long way. Although you cannot drive hundreds and hundreds of miles on these batteries, you can travel fairly long distances—upwards of 100-miles or so (perfect for commuting). Once you have maxed out your battery for the day it must be recharged before you can get back on the road however. Many forward-thinking workplaces now offer electric car charging stations. Charging the battery back to full strength is quick and easy, especially if you have several hours to let it sit. You simply plug the car in just as you would any other electronic device. As far as income taxes go, the current federal tax credit is another reason why people are choosing an electric car (the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are the most popular). In most cases the amount of money saved is fairly significant—the normal tax rebate for buying an electric car is $7,500.

Disadvantages to owning an electric car

Everything has it’s negatives though, and  currently the greatest disadvantage of owning a car that is fully electric is that they can’t travel the 300 miles+ that regular cars can. Even though the battery technology has advanced greatly during the past decade, it still has some limits. One limitation is the range, which would make it impossible to take an electric car on a long vacation, or road trip, where you do nothing but drive all day. Any trip that is over 100 miles is currently out of range for electric vehicles, but expect this to change within the next 5 years or so.

Charging the battery is also a problem for people that live in an apartment or park on the street. The car needs plugged in at night and if you do not have an area to plug it in at then it will either simply not work or be too cumbersome to do (e.g., dragging an extension cord across the sidewalk and having your neighbor remove it, or trip over it etc.). This is a major disadvantage for people who live in large cities and ironically who would be the best suited for electric cars. Finally, the another current disadvantage to buying an electric car is price. They may not make sense financially, even though they are better on the environment. Just like any other car, the more options you get the more the price goes up. Even though there is no gas expense involved down the road and one will have low ownership costs, most don’t want to fork up the price up-front.

All in all, I am expecting these disadvantages to lessen within five years, and possibly completely disappear in ten. Electric car technology will be accessible and much cheaper by 2020, though if you currently lead a lifestyle suitable for electric car ownership I wouldn’t hesitate a second to buy an electric car and be the first of my peers to help usher in the electric era. More info at Wikipedia: Electric Car

“This is a guest post by Edward Pacheco, an auto enthusiast who shares his knowledge about hybrid and electric cars, financing, and auto insurance at Automotive.com.”

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