Pull the Plug on Electric Car Subsides [paywalled]
Consumer Reports doesn't have good early reviews for Chevrolet's flagship entry into electric vehicles. A top editor from the publication said the Chevy Volt, which has both a plug-in battery and a gasoline engine "isn't particularly efficient as an electric vehicle and it's not particularly good as a gas vehicle either in terms of fuel economy." He concluded that it just "doesn't make an awful lot of sense."
He's right when you consider the cost and performance of PEVs, starting with the batteries, which require major breakthroughs before they will be ready for prime time. A battery for a small vehicle like the Nissan Leaf can cost about $20,000 and still only put out a range of 80 miles on a good day (range is affected by hot and cold weather) before requiring a recharge that takes eight to 10 hours. Even then, those batteries may only last six to eight years, leaving consumers with a vehicle that has little resale value.
Home installation of a recharging unit costs between $900 and $2,100. And don't forget workplace and retail recharging stations, which will be necessary.
Slick TV ads boast PEVs' supposed environmental benefits, but what they don't tell you is that a substantial increase in the numbers of them on the road will require upgrading the nation's electricity infrastructure. Since half of all U.S. electricity is generated by coal, which produces greenhouse emissions, PEVs may not be any better than hybrid electric vehicles that do not need to be plugged in. Meanwhile, new technology for gasoline-powered vehicles has substantially increased miles per gallon, to as much as 35-50 mpg for several smaller vehicles.
If you're looking for a car that makes good economic sense in these tough times, PEVs simply don't make the grade. Unless crude oil prices rise close to $300 per barrel and battery costs fall by 75%, a PEV is more expensive than a gasoline-powered vehicle.