Electric cars are here, now where are they headed?

With all the talk about electric cars like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, the public has been waiting to see how they will compete with other more mainstream models. Are consumers really ready to give up their gas powered vehicles for something they have to plug in every night? Surveys have shown that 62% of car buyers are concerned about climate change and about 74% are concerned about our dependence on foreign oil. These numbers show that the consumer may be willing to take the plunge and forgo their gas car for a new electric one. The Chevy Volt has hit showrooms and Nissan has received orders for its all-electric vehicle, the Leaf, and will begin deliveries soon.

Many states are offering incentives to encourage consumers to buy an electric car. Some states offer electric vehicle drivers the privilege of using the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane on the highways, even with a single driver. However, in California, this privilege will not take effect until 2012 and will require a special sticker on the car to qualify. This incentive may not be the best way to convince drivers to buy an electric vehicle. But cash incentives are always a good way. During the Cash for Clunkers program, thousands of people turned in their old cars and got a new car and extra money. The state of California understands this and offers numerous rebates, including a $ 3,000 to $ 5,000 tax credit in addition to the $ 7,500 federal tax credit. California expects to have 7,500 fully electric and 25,000 plug-in hybrids on its roads by 2014 with an increase to 60,000 electric and 85,000 plug-in hybrids by 2017.

A plug-in hybrid is a vehicle like the Chevy Volt. It can run on electric power for a certain range and then the gasoline engine will start. Fully electric vehicles include the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Roadster. Most fully electric vehicles have a range of no more than 100 miles. However, as technology improves, this range will only grow. For now, some companies have taken it into their own hands to start installing charging stations for electric cars in certain cities. California plans to invest more than $ 200 million a year in low-emission vehicles and this includes subsidizing the charging stations that should be operational by 2012. There are already about 140 charging stations installed in the Los Angeles County area. New York City also recently installed its first charging station using a grant received from the Department of Energy, and Mayor Bloomberg expects to have more than 100 charging stations installed throughout the city by September 2011. President Obama expects to have one million. of plug-in vehicles on US Highways by 2015 and with the installation of charging stations in eight different areas of the country, this could become a reality.

The idea is to have these charging stations in areas where drivers will spend a great deal of time. To achieve a full charge, the vehicle must be plugged in for 8 hours. Since most drivers don’t spend 8 hours anywhere other than home, the main goal of these charging stations is to give people enough “power” to get home. Charging stations are being installed in the parking lots of cinemas, restaurants and shopping centers; places where people will spend at least 2 hours before needing to use their car again.

Electric cars have a long way to go before they can become conventional vehicles; But automakers, politicians, and engineers are doing everything they can to improve its popularity. Once electric cars become cheaper with more efficient batteries, the average consumer may become more interested. It’s true that consumers care about the environment, but ultimately, when it comes to buying something as expensive as a car, the consumer’s wallet is the most important deciding factor.