Will Los Angeles Drivers Ever Switch to Electric Cars?
Electric cars have been driving L.A. roads in large numbers since 2003. The Toyota Prius is a type of electric vehicle (EV), a “hybrid.” Despite a price tag of about $36,000, Toyota says that by December 2009, it had sold over 800,000 Priuses in the U.S. Its engine is powered by both electricity from a battery and by burning gas in its internal combustion engine. The battery is charged whenever the driver puts a foot on the brake. Braking triggers a mechanism that generates electricity and stores it in the car’s battery. In 2009, the Toyota Prius was rated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the most fuel-efficient car on the road, averaging 50 miles per gallon.
The Big Leap Forward – Plug-in Electric Vehicles
A plug-in EV can be plugged into a regular electrical outlet or special charger to charge the battery. It is currently not possible for drivers of a Prius to charge the battery by plugging into anything, only by stepping on the brakes. There is a big change coming this year when the new plug-in electric cars, the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, are fully launched.
The Nissan Leaf, at about $33,000, began deliveries in L.A. in December 2010. The Chevy Volt at about $40,000, will begin deliveries in L.A. early in 2010. While these prices may seem high, they’re effectively lowered by government tax and rebate incentives.
President Obama, in his 2011 State of the Union speech, set an objective of one million EVs on the road in the U.S. by 2015, four years from now. The Administration’s goals, of course, are to reduce our dependence on oil, deal with air pollution and climate change, and create new, green jobs. The federal government gives a tax credit of up to $7,500 to buyers of the Leaf and Volt. The State of California, on a first-come-first-served basis has limited funds available to give EV buyers up to an additional $5,000 as a rebate on purchase. These incentives can lower the effective price of EVs so that they’re competitive with similar gas-burning cars, especially when considering the savings on fuel year in and year out.
The Leaf had a waiting list of 40,000 buyers when it started delivery in L.A. in late December 2010. The Chevy Volt is expected to start delivering vehicles to L.A. buyers early in 2011. Several other car companies are developing EV models. By 2012, there will likely be a dozen different EVs for sale in L.A. including a plug-in version of the Prius.
The actual number of electric vehicles that will be sold in L.A. is hard to predict. A 2009 University of California study determined that even if gas prices rise only slightly, by 2030 about 75% of new car sales will be electric. If gas prices jump, we’ll start hitting 75% of new car sales a lot sooner. The safest thing one can say about plug-in EV sales in Los Angeles is that they’re starting now in a big way and they will be increasing over the years.
We at The Electric Connection install chargers for electric vehicles. Click here for more information on installation of EV chargers.