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The Second Coming of the Electric Car


The electric car is the zombie of transportation: never quite dead but not exactly dancing a hornpipe either. GM took a run at it in the 90’s with the famously-killed EV1, but with the Ed Begley Jr. fan club a limited market and the cheap gas party still going strong, the time wasn’t yet right. However, as new technology enhances the range and performance of electrics, and oil prices close in on a hundred bucks a barrel, all kinds of competitors are jumping into the fray.  Here are some eco-mobiles you might be parking in your driveway in the not too distant future:

If you need to buy right now, consider the Zenn, manufactured right here in my home town of Toronto. It’s kind of cute, but with a maximum speed of 25 mph and a range of 35 miles, it’s pretty much a golf cart on steroids. Still, for trips in the immediate neighborhood, it will do the job with zero emissions.

Much sexier, pricier, and less obtainable is the Tesla roadster. This electric sports car has gotten a lot of press lately, even though not a single production model has rolled off the assembly line. If and when it hits the street, the company claims the vehicle will be able to accelerate to 60mph in 4 seconds, and hum along for about 245 miles without recharging. If you want to sign up for one, it’ll cost you about 100 grand but you can be smug in the knowledge that you’re on the same waiting list as George Clooney. The first Tesla drivers are scheduled to get their vehicles in early 2008.

Of course, as the public mindset gets greener, the big automakers are looking to get back into the game. They have considerable advantages over the new entrepreneurial companies—existing manufacturing facilities, supplier relationships, sales infrastructure, etc.—so it’s quite possible that an existing car company could wind up with the first mass-market electric vehicle. Chevrolet, for example, is presently working on a concept vehicle descriptively called the Volt. According to Chevy, the Volt will be able to run not only on electricity but on gas, biodiesel, or E85, although personally I’d be interested in a coffee-powered version so my car and I could refuel from the same source. Intriguing for sure, but sadly Chevy doesn’t expect this versatile vehicle to be available until 2011 or 2012.

Japanese automaker Nissan is also looking to launch an electric car around 2010, but the company isn’t saying much about it so far.


Comments

Nice analogy, but just because the big car companies can't decide whether or not to go electric doesn't mean they're not being used. Companies are selling electric cars every day in the US with thousands of people making the switch. I work for ZAP, drive a ZAP Xebra and you can too.

Should you really want to know more about the Chevy Volt, check out this site:
http://www.gm-volt.com

Mitsubishi and Subaru will both sell highway-capable electric vehicles (EVs) in 2010.
By then, at least one Canadian company and probably five new US EV makers (aside from Tesla) will be selling full-sized EVs. You can buy a fast Commuter Cars Tango now.

Maybe the Chevy Volt range-extended EV will be available by then as well. GM did crush its EV1s a few years ago, however, despite thousands on waiting lists for an EV that GM never offered for sale and, later, cash offers to buy the last surviving 77.

Well AC, the problem with ZAP is customer service. I loved the idea of purchasing a ZAP, but after several e-mails and no response from your company, I have become quite frusterated, getting any information about your products as far as buying one, registering and insuring it which I just found out is not posible through my ins. company (Allstate). I may just have to wait for a larger company that can handle there customers in a more profesional manner before I will obtain an electric car. So please, I beg you... enlighten me if you see this response.