As energy costs rise and emissions are blamed for global warming the car that was once merely an experiment is becoming not merely popular, but profitable. It won’t be long before one out of every two cars on the road could be a hybrid or electric. “Until recently, most people experienced clean-energy cars at auto shows, in the pages of magazines, or as image advertising- they weren’t tangible. All that’s changed now: You can actually see electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on the street, picking up groceries with early adopters at the wheel, taking the kids to Little League, and-lo and behold-even charging up at public stations” (Motavalli, 6).
In his article, Motavalli (I2012) explains that there are currently four basic types of non-gasoline models either available now or soon on the market: Battery electrics. These cars have electric motors and battery packs, and no other means of propulsion. Next, Plug-in hybrids which act like an electric car for the first 15 to 50 miles, but then can switch to an onboard internal-combustion engine. Hybrids, which either use their electric motors as assists for the gas engine or allow short bursts of electric-only driving. Perhaps the newest and most radical for the near future are Hydrogen fuel-cell cars. The fuel cell, which produces electricity from hydrogen, replaces the battery pack.
There seems to be just one problem many who believe they are not merely driving “green” but saving money from gasoline purchases are sadly mistaken: “In addition to the substantially larger short term costs of alternative energy vehicles, the long-term energy savings of purchasing an electric or hybrid-electric car still do not compensate for the initial price difference between conventional fossil-fuel cars and alternative energy cars to the average US consumer at this time” (Mitchell, 45).
Much as some atmosphere-conscious consumers are thinking about a hybrid or electric car as their next purchase, not only do dollars still matter, but the choices are still severely limited. Only Toyota, at present, has a wide range of models, while most of their competitors, including the Chevrolet Volt, are currently producing only a single model. No choice except a sedan. And, even if there are some tax credits possible, prices of hybrids and the next generation of sustainable cars are high. Given the current shaky economy that means some of these cars are simply out of many families’ price ranges.
Of course, eventual mass-production can reduce costs and pricing, but limited supply, high costs, restrictive model choices are still barriers to the eventuality of a hybrid or the next generation of gasoline-free cars in every garage or driveway.
Motavalli, Jim: “The Road Ahead for Gasoline-Free Cars”
The Futurist 46. 2 (Mar/Apr 2012): 6-7.
Mitchell, Ng: “Short and Long-Term Cost Efficiency Analysis
of Fossil Fuel versus Alternative Energy Vehicles”
Journal of Business Studies Quarterly 3. 2 Dec 2011: 45-56