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Electric cars are still best option for automotive future

Alexandra Snow, Opinion Writer
November 14, 2012
Filed under Opinion

Imagine driving your car, going to and from school almost every day, commuting to your job and going to a dozen other places only your car can get you to. Suddenly, there’s a startling dinging sound, and you look at the dash to see the dreaded low-fuel light glaring at you. So begins the desperate search for the nearest gas station. Some people don’t look for the nearest Kwik Trip or BP station, though — they look for the nearest outlet.

Fully electric cars, like Nissan’s Leaf, and hybrids, like the Chevrolet’s Volt, have become increasingly common around the country.  Many other automakers have started to come out with cars that can be plugged in.

According to Chevrolet’s website, the Volt can run on the battery for the first 25 to 50 miles, after which the car runs on gas.  According to Nissan, the Leaf can go about 100 miles on a charge. Despite the greener mindset in the U.S., there are still some major setbacks electric cars have compared to their traditional gas-guzzling cousins.

The downfall to the Leaf is the dependence drivers have on the few and far between powering stations. According to the U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center, there are only six electric charging stations in Green Bay.

According to CNN, there are about 8,000 public sites across the U.S., compared to the 150,000 gas stations in the country.

The Leaf isn’t a car people would take on a road trip, since they would have to plan their travels around the handful of charging stations in existence.

Also, charging the Leaf isn’t just a quick fill-up.  According to MetroPlugIn, a company that sets up charging stations in commercial and residential areas, the Leaf can take anywhere from 7.3 to 25 hours to charge the battery. At 100 miles per charge, a person would have to stop and spend a night mid-trip to charge the Leaf just to make it from Green Bay to Milwaukee.

The Leaf may be a good idea for people in urban areas who don’t have long commutes and with plenty of access to plug-in stations.  However, it isn’t practical unless there’s a charging station near every place they go.

On the other hand, the Volt seems much more practical. Unlike the Leaf, which relies solely on electric power, the Volt also takes gas as a backup for when the electric energy runs out.

According to Chevrolet’s’s website, the on-board gas tank is a gas generator for the battery when the battery runs low. The 9.3 gallon tank can go as far as 344 miles. This is significantly better than my average of 300 miles on 14 gallons of gas with a 2000 Saturn.

“It is a vicious circle,” said Taylor Saari, UWGB junior human development major.  “I wouldn’t want to buy a car if I couldn’t find places to charge it, but there won’t be more places to charge it unless more people start buying cars.”

The gas backup along with the battery range would be the best alternative until the eclectic cars become mainstream.

However, with the current price ranges of electric and hybrid cars, it may be a while before they hit mainstream. The Volt rings in at $30,000, and the buyer also has to purchase a home charging station that normally costs about $2,000, according to MetroPlugIn.

To help reduce the price and encourage a lowered dependence on foreign oil, the government has offered a $7,500 tax credit to almost anyone who buys a hybrid or electric car.

Even though they may not be for everyone, electric cars are still the best way to drive green for consumers. As technology advances, the price of cars like the Volt will hopefully go down and become more practical for the average buyer.