Monday, 12 January 2009

The Problem With Electric Cars

Written by  Ed Hiserodt

Chevrolet VoltWilliam Morrison of Des Moines is credited with building the first electric car in 1891. It was successful, except for two problems: the batteries were heavy and expensive, and it wouldn't go very far on a charge. In 2009 Ford and General Motors showed their new line of electric cars at the Detroit Auto Show. They were as pretty as you can make a vehicle. But they have two major problems: the batteries are heavy and expensive, and they don't go very far on a charge.

So how expensive? The GM Chevrolet Volt has a sticker price of $40,000. Hey, that's what a house should cost, not a car. And the Volt has another problem: though announced to be in the showrooms in November 2010, there are indications the batteries haven't been developed — a fact that seems to have gotten lost in the public/environmentalist relations campaign — and at this late date there are no working prototypes. My guess is the odds are 10:1 against this car actually happening, much less happening in 2010.

Ford's un-named competitive model is also un-priced. But Ford has mentioned the car will go 100 miles without recharging — an event that will take "at least" six hours. But what if you actually want to go somewhere in your car, beyond driving five miles to your work and back?

Last Saturday, I drove from El Paso to Little Rock (985 miles) in 14 and one-fourth hours averaging 69 miles per hour thanks to someone in Texas who put the I-10 and I-20 speed limits at 80 mph. Had the electric-mobile been able to actually do 80 mph, it would have taken more than three days for the same trip, and that's assuming there was a Pony Express-type battery charging station at 100-mile increments along the way, each with instant service.

But suppose you do not do any serious driving and only need a car to go five miles to your work and back each day: you'd actually be much better off getting yourself a 1958 Cadillac DeVille and spending $500 per year for gas, as opposed to losing $10,000 in depreciation and another $4,000 for new battery allowances for your electric car.

Environmentalist love electric cars (since they are useless and make taking public transportation more palatable), and politicians love environmentalists (who give them money and support). But do people who actually drive cars and take trips love electric cars?  Ask William Morrison of Des Moines.