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Rising cost of gas spurs interest in electric cars

April 12, 2011
By Justin McIntosh (jmcintosh@mariettatimes.com) , The Marietta Times

Local interest in hybrid or electric cars is only likely to go up, especially as gas prices continue to increase, local car dealers say.

"We've had people interested in them and we've had people call when we get one," said Roger Mason, a salesman at Pioneer Chevrolet on Pike Street in Marietta. "If gas keeps going up the electric and hybrid cars will get real popular."

Electric cars are powered exclusively through an electric motor, instead of a gasoline motor. That differs from a hybrid, which is fueled by gasoline and uses a battery and motor to improve efficiency.

In recent decades, the cars haven't been widely adopted because of limited driving range before a need for recharging, long recharging times and a lack of availability for consumers.

Electric cars were among the first automobiles, however, and enjoyed popularity between the mid-19th century and early 20th century. Advances in internal combustion engine technology and mass production of cheaper gasoline vehicles eventually led to their decline, though. Interest in electric cars were revived in the 1970s and '80s but didn't last long.

The resurgent interest in the vehicles stems mostly from concerns over gas prices and emissions from gas or diesel powered automobiles. Industry experts expect as many as 30 different pure electric cars to be offered by 2015.

Fact Box

Electric vs. Gasoline:

Electric

No tailpipe emissions

100 +/- mile range

Hours to recharge

Two cents per mile

Gasoline

Greenhouse gases/pollution

300 +/- mile range

Minutes to refuel

12 cents+ per mile

Source: hybridcars.com

Roger Hall, of 326 Front St., bought his first hybrid when the Toyota Prius was first released in 2004. He and his wife, Penny, now own two.

"I tell you, to me, it's the best car I ever had," he said. "I bought it in 2004 brand new because of the fuel economy. I didn't think about it being a hybrid or the pollution aspect, and Consumer Reports rated it as one of the best cars around."

Hall said apart from the fuel gauge, anyone driving the car wouldn't be able to tell the difference between it and a standard gas-powered car.

"The Prius really could accelerate with any other car," he said. "When you get in and drive it, you don't think about it being a hybrid."

Some of the criticisms of early electric and hybrid models are changing.

Mason said Chevy's electric car, the Volt, has a total range of 350 miles, making it comparable to its gas-powered counterparts. The 80-horsepower car with a 1.4 dual overhead cam cylinder engine, however, does take four hours to charge, compared to the mere minutes it would take to fill up a gasoline car.

There were also previously concerns about getting electric cars maintenanced, but Mason said Pioneer was required to have technicians trained to work on the car before it could sell them.

Other criticisms against electric or hybrid cars are the speed and power behind them. The Volt is said to be able to reach 100 mph but Mason said it's not known for being fast.

"They're not speed demons, they're just made to save fuel," he said. "They're great for people who run around town to do little things."

Another criticism of hybrid or electric cars involves the price of the vehicles.

A recent study found that 21 percent of those surveyed said they would definitely consider buying an electric vehicle for their next car purchase or lease, while 43 percent said they might consider one. That puts electric vehicles in fourth place overall when it comes to the types of cars consumers might purchase, following gas, hybrid and natural gas, respectively.

Of those who would consider an electric car, 33 percent said they would not pay a premium price for the cars and only five percent said they'd pay up to $10,00 more.

Other manufacturers are also presenting cars with more amenities.

Family Ford in Marietta has a Lincoln hybrid that's the first luxury hybrid available, said Sales Manager Sam Savage. That's in addition to the already popular Escape and Fusion hybrids.

Ford also has an eco-boost motor that it's been putting in its cars that has a really strong torque curve, he said.

"You can do a lot with it," he said. "If you need to pull something very large and get some decent mileage, that's an engine for you."

The eco-boost motor, he said, gets in the mid-20s in gas mileage.

"Out of a big pick-up truck like the F-150 pickup, that's very good," he said.

Savage said he doesn't think demand for alternately powered vehicles is where it could be, though.

"We're catching up to the point where consumers are starting to look for them, but I don't think it's at its peak," he said. "I think it's on its way."

 
 
 

 

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