Electric Cars: Should You Take the Risk?

Electric cars sound like a good idea, but are they?

We’ve been hearing about electric cars for years. Guess what? They’re finally here! Nissan releases the Leaf, their version of the electric car in 2011. The question now is, “Are electric cars the answer to our fuel problems? Is the electric car better for the environment? And can electric vehicles cut your expense at the gas pump?”

Good questions. Let’s see if we can find some answers.

Are electric cars the answer to the fuel problem?

All Americans hate being dependent on the Middle East for fuel. What most Americans don’t realize is that the United States’ electric grid is outdated and barely keeps up with the electricity Americans use right now. That’s why the eastern seaboard had a major blackout in 2003.

Currently, the U.S. imports 7% to 9% of our electricity from Canada and Mexico. If everyone starts plugging in electric cars, we have to do one of two things. The U.S. either has to start producing or importing more electricity. Importing more electricity will make us dependent on Canada and Mexico just like we’re dependent on the Middle East now.

Is the electric car better for the environment?

Electric car manufacturers quickly tell you how good the electric car is for the environment because they don’t release any pollutants into to atmosphere. Unfortunately, most of the electricity produced in the U.S. is coal-fired and remains one of the major sources of CO2 in the country. CO2 adds to global warming, something we all want to stop. It doesn’t appear that electric cars will help the environment if looked at from this point of view.

The up side is car manufacturers hope to start using renewable sources of energy, like wind energy, to charge electric cars. Right now, wind energy provides for only 1% of the energy our country needs.

Can electric vehicles cut your gas costs?

Once charging stations are available in public places, you can charge your car when you park to shop and work. Right now, if you buy an electric car, you charge your car at home. Charging your car at home sounds great; no trip to the gas station!

Of course, there aren’t any statistics out yet that tell how much charging an electric car at home is going to raise your utility bill. And once electric cars are common, the “law of supply and demand” will probably kick in. Meaning, once we’re all dependent on electric cars, the cost of electricity will more than likely skyrocket. This is one of those wait and see issues.

2011 Nissan Leaf

Nissan is releasing the Leaf, an electric car, in 2011. This car travels up to 60 miles in stop and go traffic. According to Consumer Reports, the car drives and handles like the cars we’re used to. Currently, there aren’t any public charging stations, but you can charge the car at home.

This car is great for those of us who only have a short daily commute or need a car to run around town. For people who drive long distances, this car won’t work due to lack of charging stations.

The five-passenger sedan starts at $33,000 and you get a $7,500 tax incentive from the government. If you’re in the market for a new car and you’re interested in driving an electric car, now is the time to buy one. Since there are few electric cars on the road, electricity is still reasonable meaning you’ll save money by charging your car at home instead of buying gas.

There are many ‘kinks’ that need to be worked out when it comes to electric cars. The United States needs to update its infrastructure, we need to produce more renewable energy, we need to provide all our fuel needs and stop depending on other countries, and we need to have affordable fuel.

This sounds like a lot of difficulty. The truth is, anytime you have major change, you have to make major adjustments. Even with all the challenges electric cars have, buying and driving electric cars are a step in the right direction.