With gas around $4 per gallon you would expect to hear a lot about alternative fuel automobiles. So it’s no surprise that there are a steady stream of news stories about automobiles that are powered by electricity.
And as the news becomes more frequent, lots more people get excited about the prospect of making the gas pump a memory and driving a truly futuristic automobile. Some fan sites have even started unofficial vehicle wait lists.
Electric Cars Get Noisy
It is clear that we are in a very strong hype cycle with respect to the development of electric cars. Expectations are high and so are the stakes. After all, the company that can perfect a production model electric car probably stands to turn the industry on its head and make tons of money in the process.
But a word of caution needs to be sounded as well. Most of the vehicles making the headlines these days are unlikely to find their way into the driveway of an average person anytime soon.
General Motors is banking on the Chevy Volt to change the game in the auto industry while turning the fortunes of their company. The promise is that the Volt will go forty miles on a full charge and cost between $30,000 and $40,000. The first models are scheduled to roll off the assembly line in late 2010.
GM says the Volt has been designed but the battery pack has not been perfected as of yet. GM engineers have the great challenge of installing a battery pack that can last for at least ten years of use. That’s no easy task. And the proposed price tag (which will likely move higher) is at least $10,000 above what an average person can spend to buy a vehicle.
The Tesla Roadster is a real life production electric car. The Roadster is an all electric, two seat sports car with a price tag over $100,000. The price tag alone makes this vehicle an impractical choice for more than 99% of the American population.
It’s also worth noting that Tesla has very little in the way of track record when it comes to mass producing and servicing automobiles. To date only nine cars have been delivered to owners. If the current production rate continues the 1,000 person wait list of celebrities and millionaires will be filled in about 100 years.
Saturn Sky Conversion
For $25,000 Amp Motorworks will convert a Saturn Sky gasoline powered sports car to an all electric vehicle. First you have to buy the Sky for about $27,000 and then you hand the vehicle over to Amp for the conversion.
So you’re looking at least $52,000 in costs to get an all electric Sky. Once the vehicle is converted it is highly likely that the manufacturer warranty will be null and void. Amp Motorworks is currently taking orders but none of the conversions have been delivered yet.
Gem Electric Cars
Global Electric Motorcars (a division of Chrysler) is marketing a line of “low-speed” electric vehicles. For about $10,000 you can own one of these vehicles which are currently being manufactured and sold. The catch involved with these vehicles is two-fold.
First, the GEM is nothing close to a car, actually resembling a golf cart. Second, the low-speed feature means you will only get up to twenty-five miles per hour. It’s likely that safety related issues will limit this vehicle to gated communities and similarly traffic controlled areas.
A Growing Field of Choices
The number of electric vehicle choices will definitely grow in the coming years. Just about every major auto maker has one at some level of design or development. I also think it is safe to state that we are at least five years away from an electric automobile that can be mass produced while also being economical and practical enough for the average consumer in the U.S. to purchase.