The cost of convenience in vehicle fuel

Gassing up in the rain

Gassing up in the rain is not pleasant. But is it convenient?

Electric plugin vehicles just got a huge boost from Consumer Reports, which declared the Tesla Model S as the best car it has ever tested. It earned 99 points out of a possible 100. If it were possible to recharge it on the road in three minutes, it would have been given a perfect score.

Anyone who has $70,000 to spend on a car can get one now. Naysayers love to scoff at the price, but everything from electronic calculators to high definition televisions, not to mention computers, has come to market at unaffordably high prices. If the demand exists, the price will come down.

Already, the Tesla probably costs less to own than a gasoline car. Electric motors have fewer moving parts, and therefore less that must be maintained and repaired. Electric cars also save time. There’s no need to wait for repairs, routine maintenance like oil changes or tuneups. or even the time it takes to pull into a gas station. But some see a problem there.

What’s more convenient? Gas or electric?

It takes about six hours to charge the Tesla using a 240 volt outlet. It can to between 208 and 265 miles on a charge. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 97% of all trips in the car are less than 50 miles.

One standard knock on electric vehicles is that the infrastructure for recharging isn’t well enough developed. With gas stations on every corner, gas vehicles seem much more convenient.

Let’s think again. You can recharge an electric car while you sleep. Just pull into the garage and plug it in. In fact, It’s inconvenient to have to stand outside the car in all weather and take time to pump gas. And have you noticed that on some rural Interstate highways you can drive for miles and miles without seeing a gas station?

If you take a trip in an electric car, you have to plan ahead for how and when to recharge it. So? You can get something eat or go to the bathroom or take a shower any time you want to at home. All of those things require some planning on the road.

So why should electric cars have to wait until electric recharging stations become as common as gas stations? People rarely take trips long enough to require recharging anywhere but home.

Sustainable recharging

I have one reservation about electric cars. As long as they’re recharged by plugging them into existing electrical service, they will simply exchange the air pollution caused by burning gasoline or diesel for air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels at power plants.

But help is probably on the way. I notice that a local attraction, the Greensboro Science Center, will soon cover its parking lot with a canopy of solar panels. It’s not the first solar parking lot in the country, and I certainly hope they become commonplace at every mall, grocery store, and other large parking lot in the country.

Solar energy makes cars uncomfortably, even dangerously hot. If we can park in the shade of solar panels, we can use our air conditioners less. And what better use of the energy collected by the panels than to recharge electric cars?  Parking lots could become a profit center, or at least break even instead of an overhead item that’s expensive to maintain.

Between electric plug-in vehicles and hybrids that use biodiesel, we could conceivably stop using gasoline entirely. That combination would be as genuinely convenient as gasoline engines merely seem.

Sources:
Tesla: Consumer Reports’ best car ever tested / CNN
Greensboro Science Center has more projects on tap / News & Record

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by Eric Schmuttenmaer.


Comments

The cost of convenience in vehicle fuel — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Are Electric Cars Inconvenient? Thoughts from All-Purpose Guru | EV News Report

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