I would pick the Nissan Leaf due to a number of factors. Range is within my normal commute plus side trips on average. I would keep our other gasoline powered car for longer trips and errands. I would like to see a non-biased comprehensive comparison between all-electric vehicles and conventional petroleum powered vehicles. Are we also considering the environmental impact of the petroleum infrastructure that directly supports the production of fuel for transportation while we're pointing out that the environmental/economic impact of the generation of electricity? What about the folly of turning grain into ethanol for motor fuel purposes? That is a negative or near zero net energy process. Additionally, it has had an impact on food prices. So we should consider social impacts along with energy and economic impacts.
Florin Toader, a senior engineer in Pittsburgh:
The most important question here is: "What is your reason to go all electric?" People make their decisions based on advertising, guilt and fear, plus a little bit of altruism. Getting to know the real cost of something to you (and the planet, if that plays into your decision) is important in making the right choice... Electric vehicles are political vehicles. That said, I think they should be an option for people who want one. Now to answer the question: I would go Diesel. BMW's 1.9 diesel engine, in a BMW 1 Series hatchback has gas mileage comparable to the Toyota Prius Hybrid, with arguably less impact on the ozone layer due to its lack of batteries.
Peter T. (doesn't give a last name), an EE at NIST:
The economic model for all electric cars like Leaf or the semi all-electric like the Volt is not persuasive. If we are serious about wanting to reduce CO2 emissions, there needs to be a high carbon tax. Not cap and trade, because that will only make money for Wall Street types and generate loopholes. When price of gas was more than $4 per gallon, the trend for better gas mileage was much stronger than it is now. High gas prices happened in the '70's and again a few years ago. We still have not learned from those examples.
Would you buy an electric car, and if so, which one? Please let us know in the comment section below.
For a deeper look at the Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller. In the trip sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is taking the fire-engine-red Volt to innovation hubs across America, interviewing engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students as he blogs his way across the country.
If forced to choose between a Volt or Leaf, I'd definitely take the Volt. Because I make many trips of 300 miles or more (I have kids in college), a Leaf wouldn't work. If I owned a Leaf, I would have to buy an extra car for the longer trips. In truth, though, both scenarios are too costly for me. Either I buy a Volt for approximtely $40K, or I buy a Leaf for $30K and then need to buy another car.
I completely agree with Charles Murray. The Volt would be a perfect fit for me. My daily commute is well within the Volt's electric range. And I can charge it at work all day, so it would reduce my fuel cost to zero. But I do occasionally make longer trips, and the gas backup is the best solution.
The ONLY thing stopping me from buying the Volt right now is the cost. And I don't think the cost is outrageously high, I simply can't afford to spend that much on a car.
re: Jeff Johnston - I think your assumption that a power plant is about as efficient as a gas engine is way off, I'm pretty sure the power plant is much more efficient than the thousands of small gas engines it would be replacing. Especially considering that the plant is always running at its optimum efficiency, whereas all of those gas engines are very rarely running at optimum efficiency. When you're sitting at a traffic light your engine is still burning gas; an electric motor is not consuming energy when it isn't moving.
I am the owner of two Toyota Prii, one of which has over 85,000 miles on it. Neither car has given me a minute of problems, and are probably the most reliable cars I have ever owned. The older one still gives me 48mpg, and the newer one well over 50mpg. Performance is never lacking either. Why on earth would I even consider a Leaf or a Volt?
The Chevy Volt seems to be the most logical choice. If I would exceed the electrical charge limit the gas motor keeps the car running until I could recharge the battery from an outlet. With the Leaf if I exceed the battery limit I walk or wait to recharge the batteries. Most of my daily driving is less than 50 miles so either would do for the majority of the time. There are numerous times a year I would exceed the Leaf's range. If I would buy an electric car the flexibility of the Volt would be a deciding factor. I am about 1-2 years away from making that decision.
Carbon impact, power plant efficiency and incremental vehicle cost are minor issues. If electric cars ever became common then our AC power distribution grid is going to be overwhelmed. The cost of upgrading our power distribution network to support electric cars is going to huge. Virtually every part of the system would need to be upgraded or replaced. Household wiring, pole transformers, substations, transmission lines, everything.
Todays electrical power distribution system counts on a big drop in demand at night to give the transformers a chance to cool off in the summer. If a significant percentage of households have electric cars charging at night then you can expect to see a big uptick in transformer failures (and power outages).
This problem already happens during heat waves due to increased use of air conditioners. Add 10's of millions of car chargers to the grid and this problem is only going to get worse.
Why are we spending effort and money on electric cars when magnesium injection cycle engines make so much more sense.
Your article starts with the premise that range anxiety is the reason a participant in your survey might not want a Volt or Leaf, and then asks if that is not the case????? What kind of survey is that? Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife Yet? 56% say YES.
What if you learned that of people actually DRIVING Lithium powered electric cars, NONE of them have range anxiety AT ALL. Would it bend your world view just a wee bit too far to learn that availability of charging ports is absolutely a non-issue? I guess it would.
Then you'll find it curious that I would own neither a Volt nor a Leaf for an entirely different reason. They aren't a good value proposition. Their purchase price exceeds their utility.
A Nissan Vesa is $17K+ It is the same car as the Nissan Leaf, but in gasoline version. It already gets great mileage.
A Chevy Cruze is similiarly $17K. It is the same car as the Volt but with ICE engine only and it also gets very good mileage.
The OEMs are askign us to PAY DOUBLE for the same car. And both of them are ECONOMY cars at that?
Chevrolet goes further to announce an even MORE downscale full electric in the Spark.
You cannot hide the higher component costs of an electric vehicle in the BOTTOM end of the economy line. Show me an electric Cadillac and I might be tempted. Meanwhile, my Model S depositi is in, and I already have six electric cars I drive now.
I can afford any car I want. I don't want a Leaf or a Volt because I'm not 24 years old looking for an economical basic transportation car. I don't WANT those cars. I wouldn't buy a Cruze on a bet. And so one at twice the price is even less attractive.
But it's not because of "range anxiety" or long tailpipe pipe theories that make utterly no sense at all derived from uninformed luddites.
And my wife is happy, loved, and doing quite well really, thank you.
For now I believe, the cost of purchase, and the replacement cost of batteries makes them a more expensive option for the product features offered. The styling and performance doesn't interest me; unless, you look at a Tesla, and that moves even further out of my price range.
RE: Tim Jones:
Electrical Power Transmission is not my specialty; however, wouldn't the electricity transmission power losses be very significant? Additionally, I believe there would be a need to overhaul our power infrastructure if a large portion of the population opted for electric cars. I also believe that power companies are NOT always running at their peak efficiency, and power is transmitted and lost even when usage is way down. I suspect the electric batteries may have parasitic losses while parked for a time (particularly if plugged-in and trickle charging at maintenance levels) that are greater than the gasoline evaporation.