Electric cars have made great strides in recent years, with the unveiling of the Nissan Leaf in August 2009 and the announcement of several more to be released in 2012, and have several advantages over their gas powered competition. Unlike traditional gas powered cars, electric cars have no tailpipe emissions. It is true that much of the United State’s electricity is produced by burning coal so the argument could be made that electric cars are only using a different form of fossil fuels and are, therefore, not a solution at all. However, aside from the fact that producing electricity is a lot cheaper and more efficient than the use of fossil fuels in combustion engines, new renewable sources of energy, such as solar or wind energy, are becoming more viable so that electricity will soon be a completely clean energy source.
However, while cars like the Nissan Leaf look promising, they are still a long way from fulfilling their full potential. At the moment electric cars have an estimated range at about 100 miles on a full charge. This would not be a large problem if charging was as simple as filling up at a convenient gas station. Even with a special L2 charger, the Leaf takes about eight hours to fully charge and a simple three pronged outlet will take a full seventeen hours. There is a level 3 “rapid recharge” option, but having the ability to interact with these stations, which takes less than half an hour, costs extra and cannot be installed at the customers home because it requires so much energy. This means that, while useful for most everyday uses, the Leaf is still fairly limited and road trips are essentially out of the question.
Ultimately, electric cars seem to be on the right track to justify the hope of fossil fuel independence, even if they are not quite there yet.