Ask the EcoGeek: Can I Have My EV Now?

Written by on August 2, 2007

Dear EcoGeek,
Who killed the electric car? Seriously, why can’t I buy one yet and when will I be able to?

Alan Carney
Dallas, Texas

Hey Alan, Much love to the people who made Who Killed the Electric Car, because they got a lot of stuff right. It wasn’t any one person, corporation or technicality that killed the EV1. As with all product failures it was a combination of tons of factors.

The reason major auto companies aren’t making electric vehicles look like this. First, Americans were looking for SUVs, not ultralights. Second, the technology was primitive, the biggest problem being that batteries could only take cars a hundred miles before they needed to spend hours at a charging station. Third, major car companies were too foolish to see that, in the next decade, electric cars could quickly become technologically viable and extremely appealing, so the abandoned their projects completely.

And now, here we are. Electric cars are technologically viable and extremely appealing. But no one’s done the kind of development necessary to introduce a pure electric vehicle to the mass consumer market. But it will happen. It’s just probably going to happen intermittently, by solving all three of the above problems in different ways.

Drivers will have to get used to smaller, lighter, sportier, more aerodynamic vehicles. It’s already starting to happen, and the new Prius body, most folks agree, is a very nice looking car.

Technology to make EVs more viable are being developed constantly. Ten minute recharge times, higher capacities and energy densities, and safer and more environmentally friendly components are all on the way, if not already proven. Of course, there’s a difference between a battery working in the lab, and being able to get it into a car for less than $30,000.

The short answer, for you, is that you can buy an electric car now. But you’ll either have to pay a premium for a Tesla or a Phoenix model (both companies have battery packs that cost more than Honda Civic) or you’ll have to go small, with NICE Cars or the Smart Fortwo. Or you can head to EVFinder, and search through listings for quite a lot of new and used electric vehicles.

But if you wait for mainstream manufacturers to catch on, it might be a while. Plug-in hybrids will soon (though no one has any concrete dates planned) offer an intermittent step which will allow for at least some emissions-free driving. We should see a Prius plug-in and possibly a plug-in from Saturn before 2010. And plug-in series hybrids (which always use the electric engine, but use a gasoline engine to charge the batteries (not to spin the wheels)) will offer another step toward full EVs.

But we’re going to have to wait for the ultra-expensive, high capacity, quick charging batteries to start getting way cheaper before we see any major car company embracing electric vehicles. Because if the EV1 hit the streets again…chances are, we still wouldn’t be able to get it off life support.

Ask the EcoGeek is a syndicated column provided by If you want to ask a question send it to [email protected].


6 Responses to “Ask the EcoGeek: Can I Have My EV Now?”

  1. tchamp says:

    Re: Be careful of what you wish for
    Electricity isn’t going to be a problem. There’s actually an electricity surplus in the overnight hours. Power stations continue to generate electricity in the overnight hours, but for the most part usage is dramatically lower.

    The solution is very easy. Set a timer so you charge your car overnight, say from midnight to 5am, so the next morning, its fully charged for your commute. I drive 100 miles a day for my commute, a range of 100 miles is not out of the question for an electric vehicle.

  2. jfocil says:

    half baked idea:
    how about using Automated Battery Swaping Stations (in place of Gas Stations). You pull up and your whole battery pack is swapped for a fresh one, and you are on your way in 5-10 minutes. Batteries are recharged, and you can pay a small premium or membership fee for the service.

  3. immrlizard says:

    Be careful of what you wish for
    As much as I would like to see electric vehicles, or any alternative fuel vehicles come to the US, I don’t think that the infrastructure can handle it. Look at the problems that we have in the summer with rolling blackouts. The electric grid needs to be substantially upgraded before we could wish for an electric vehicle. You might have to chose between electricity for your lights or to charge the car.

    The only way that is going to happen is if we get the government to do what it should have been doing all along and upgrade it. I was listening to a report on NPR a couple days ago that said that there have been no major improvements in the gird since the 50 and 60s.

    I don’t know if it is true, but if it is, that is a long time in my opinion

  4. Maya says:

    Well, it wouldn’t be the first time the media’s shown us what we need to have.

    My source of.. impending hopelessness, I suppose, would be the likelihood of a majority–hell, even a chunk– of people buying these kinds of cars.

    Cameron Diaz tells me she turns off the water when she shaves her legs, and that’s how she saves the environment. I’m all for lots of people doing little things, but where is the big solution?
    Admitting we are a car culture? Building our roads and neighborhoods and streets to be less car and more pedestrian-friendly?

    I’m glad this website and people like this exist.
    But I still can’t help feeling helpless sometimes.

  5. who needs electricity?
    Here’s a cool video of a human-powered car:

  6. Think says:

    And also…
    Let’s not forget the billion dollar Oil industry!! They just might have the biggest interest in crushing anything but gasoline driven inefficient vehicles, like SUVs(Hummers, Ford Explorer, Escalade…etc), muscle cars.

    Remember how the oil industry partnered up with auto industry and stripped out the LA old transit system. Why? So that it would force people to drive, and driving profits car & oil industry very much.

    All these absolutely wasteful things are still being promoted heavily on TV in this day and age that gasoline is becoming much pricier, and even harder to come by for some. They are trying desperately to entice potential buyers. Think about it. Watch TV and count the ads, it ridiculous. As if EVERYone really absolutely had to have an SUV to live.