Saturday, March 3, 2012

Home on the Range: how far can electric power take us?

The first thing I hear when talking to people who have never heard of the Active E before is: what's the range, how far can it go?  Range is king, especially here in California where we all commute a million miles annually (and even more especially in the I.E.-- a largely commuter community).

 Neither the Active E nor any other electric car is going to have a range as yet that rivals gas-powered cars (the Active E's range is about 100 miles).  But range is not as big a deal as most people think it is.  It's more like a security blanket that is so entrenched in our collective minds that its hard to let go.

1.     Most people have 2 or more cars.  The range argument usually starts with people saying "I can't drive it to Vegas."  Well how often are you making long road trips?  Once every three months at most. Most people refuse to take more than two weeks of vacation yearly, so why refuse a good thing because of a very occasional need?  With a second car, or a rental car, that long-range trip can easily be accommodated when needed.

2.    Most people don't drive more than 100 miles daily. And for those who do cross that mark, there's a few options (I used to commute 120 miles daily), like EVSE stations and public transit (don't groan yet when I say public transit).

Charging stations (called an "EVSE" which stands for electric vehicle supply equipment) are being installed throughout metropolitan areas. If you work in L.A. or Orange Counties there is a very good chance that you can plug in either at your work or within a reasonable distance.  And Riverside County has a few EVSE's of its own.

By charging while working you can travel close to 100 miles each way in your commute.  Even if there is no EVSE, you can still charge-up using a regular 110 outlet if you have access to one at your work.  It takes longer to charge, but may be just enough to get you home.

Public transit (insert groan).  California, and Californians, have a love-hate relationship with public transit.  But it has huge advantages in this range discussion because it offers a hassle free way to extend your range in commuting.  Instead of commuting all the way to work, drive to the nearest Metrolink station. Save the time in traffic and cut your car-based commute down considerably.

Obviously, either solution is going to take a change of routine from what we are used to, but taking the time to make that change is what electric vehicles truly embody.  That's the whole point--we need to change how we do things. Imagine if we had been driving electric vehicles for 100 years and somebody came up with the idea of putting flammable gas in your car and requiring you to stop at smelly, dirty, and now expensive gas stations every other day.  We would resist that change just as much as we now resist changing to electric power.

1 comment:

  1. I look forward to a day when the prices are similar as well. They require less maintenance, less fluids, lubricants, have far fewer moving and wearable parts. Electric motor technology has been around a long time, so clearly the biggest expense is the batteries. We should treat LiOn battery manufacture with same level of national interest as we treat gasoline production and oil pipelines!

    Converting old cars to electric isn't terribly hard either. They may not have the same features as a purpose-built electric, but making a 1990 subaru wagon become an econo commuter should be easy. And it would be, if the batteries were available.