Considering an Electric Vehicle?
If you want to drive and have minimal impact on Earth with the least expensive fuel costs, consider an electric vehicle (EV). EVs come in a wide range of types and sizes, from converted 1980s VW Rabbits to sleek new Tesla Roadsters. While an efficient gasoline vehicle may get around 35 miles per gallon, an electric vehicle that is charged by the grid can operate at the gasoline equivalent of about $1.10 per gallon. Conversion kits are available that come with everything except the batteries, which need to be purchased separately. Depending upon the cost of the original “donor car,” a conversion (for example, a VW Rabbit) could cost less than $10,000. These lightweight vehicles typically have a top range of 50 miles and a top speed of 75 mph.
At the other extreme, a new Tesla Roadster costs more than $100,000—way outside of the average person’s budget. But the sports car’s statistics are as impressive: a range of 244 miles, and an electronically limited top speed of 125 mph.
In between the low- and high-end EVs are purpose-built and converted plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs). These cars are similar to, and usually even start out as, standard hybrid-electric vehicles, like the Toyota Prius. But take the basic Prius and add a much larger battery pack, and the car can run solely on its batteries for a few miles. And if you can plug the car into your household electricity between trips, then the engine will not have to do battery recharging, either. New Prius PHEVs are coming out with an electric-only range of about 15 miles. That may not seem like much, and to many it is not enough, but it is within the distance that many commuters travel to work on a daily basis. New to Prius hybrids are add-on batteries that can significantly increase the electric-only range. Enginer sells kits that can give a standard Prius up to 40 miles of battery-only driving, and increase overall fuel economy in the vehicle by 100%.
Production EVs, with the first being the Nissan Leaf, are being followed by models from Ford, Volkswagen, Volvo, and others. The Leaf has a range of about 140 miles and a top speed of 93 mph. As interest in super-high-mileage vehicles heighten, more and more EVs will become available.
Many EVs available fit the description of “neighborhood electric vehicles.” These are generally very small cars, limited in speeds they can reach, often maxed at 35 mph. Many are open-sided vehicles like the Gem, but some others are full-bodied. Other companies are coming out with around-town subcompacts with all-electric drives. These grocery-getters like the Smart fortwo are production-made, but not fast enough for unencumbered freeway speeds.
Finally, there is quite affordable electric transportation for traveling around-town: electric bicycles and other forms of personal transportation options. Costing between $1,000 and $3,000, electric-assist bicycles can get a person down the road quickly without breaking a sweat. For do-it-yourselfers, electric bike conversion kits can be a cheaper alternative. Electric motor scooters and even high-speed electric motorcycles are also available.