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OKLAHOMA OUTSI DE


Driveway Revolution


By Brian Sloboda and Andrew Cotter Cooperative Research Network


E


lectrifi cation of America’s auto- mobile fleet has been hailed as a great step forward in reducing


pollution and curbing our nation’s dependence on foreign sources oil. When it comes to all-elec- tric vehicles, choices are currently limited to the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf, and a growing number of specialty manufacturers or retrofi t kits. Other auto makers, though, have electric car offerings in the wings.


Comparing Cars


Not all electric vehicles are alike. The Nissan Leaf, for example, boasts a driving range of roughly 100 miles. Once its 16-kWh lithium-ion batteries are drained, you better be at your destination and near a 110-volt power outlet for recharging, or have the phone number for roadside assistance handy. The Chevy Volt offers a gasoline safety net for its pack of 16-kWh lithium-ion batteries. The car will run on a charge for 40 miles. Once the batteries are exhausted, a gasoline-powered generator produces electricity to keep the car rolling—at least until you run out of gas.


The Volt can also be recharged by plugging it in to a traditional 110-volt outlet. This differs from traditional gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius where much smaller 1.3-kWh nickel- 24 OKLAHOMA LIVING


Charging stations provide a dedicated 240-volt circuit, similar to that used for electric clothes dryers. Using this type of a station, the all-electric Nissan Leaf can be charged in four hours while the 2011 Chevy Volt can be ready to hit the highway in as little as three hours. Photo sources: Chevrolet & Nissan


metal hydride batteries are recharged only by the gasoline engine and a regenerative braking system (in hybrids, batteries essentially supplement the gasoline motor). Several electric co-ops are testing plug-in hybrid SUVs and bucket trucks—spin-offs of hybrid technology—that can switch between a gasoline or diesel engine and 9-kWh to 16-kWh lithium-ion batteries.


All-electric vehicles carry higher price tags than comparable conventional gas-fueled versions—typi-


cally $10,000 to $15,000 more, even after federal tax incentives ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 (de- pending on battery capacity) are included. [NOTE: Learn more about electric vehicle tax breaks, avail- able through Jan. 1, 2012, at http://www.irs.gov/ pub/irs-drop/n-09-58.pdf]. Over time, batteries should become cheaper to build, lowering electric vehicle costs.


As a quick comparison, we examined the 2011 Ford Focus (manufacturer’s suggested retail price $16,640) and the Chevy Volt ($32,780 after tax credits). Both are four-door sedans roughly the same size.


Chevy estimates the average Volt driver will spend $1.50 per day for electricity. Meanwhile, the average Focus owner will spend almost $2.90 on gasoline daily. At $3 per gallon for gas, the average Volt driver would save $550 annually—but would need to rack up that amount for 32 years to equal the difference in sticker price.


However, if gas rose to $5 per gallon, a Volt driver would save more than $1,200 annually, lowering the payback window to 13 years. Of course, actual savings depends on the number of miles driven and car options.


Charge!


Electric cars can be recharged using a traditional 110-volt outlet found in homes. Under this meth- od, referred to as Level 1 charging, it takes at least


Continued on page 26


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