By no means is this an original thought, as I’m certain that others have come to the same conclusion… A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to drive my friend’s electric Mini for a bit around town. The car handled very well, had gobs of torque, and was just plain fun to drive. The problem of course with any fully electric car is that they must be frequently recharged, such is the case with the Nissan Leaf which has an approximate 73 mile range according to the EPA and takes 8 hours to fully charge from 0.
My local Price Chopper has an electric vehicle charging station out front, which isn’t a bad thing if your groceries will fit in your electric car and you are there long enough to leech a significant charge off the grid. Some corporations also have electric charging stations available for those workers who choose to drive on electrons rather than gasoline (yes, I know gasoline has electrons too, everything does).
The problem as I see it is that the electric car in all its glory cannot be used for long road trips – and that’s where the greatest benefit to the US economy would be found. The economy doesn’t benefit as much from simple trips around town as it does from Americans getting out and exploring the open road – something which has declined over the past 10+ years as fuel prices have gone from reasonable to ridiculous.
Here’s my private industry solution to the range issues of electric vehicles – and it has nothing to do with the government… Forget charging stations… What manufacturers such as Nissan need to do is configure their vehicles with easily interchangable battery packs. See, not only is the process of replacing the entire pack, or individual batteries within the pack a cumbersome task, it can only be done at specific Nissan Leaf dealers.
Forget that. Tap into the mind of Preston Tucker here. Engineer the battery pack so that it can be removed and replaced within 10 minutes at any Nissan dealership in the continental US, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Right there, your range goes from 73 miles per trip to… lets drive to Florida and stop every 70 or so miles. That’s 15 stops on an 1100 mile trip from Warwick, NY to Daytona Beach, Florida.
What happens at every stop? An opportunity to explore the local scenery of the localities you are briefly visiting. Take a leak, stretch the legs, see the world. The local and state economies benefit at each stop by the services and products sold to traveling consumers.
Now if every single automotive manufacturer with an EV option did this – the sales and use of EV’s would explode overnight. Would it add some cost to the vehicles? Sure. Picture an option package which includes free swaps for the life of the vehicles powertrain warranty.
Take this one step further – standardized power supplies for EV’s. Stop at any dealer and swap it out. Free at your manufacturer, $15 (approximately 1/6th of the average $90/hr labor rate) at any approved dealer. Utilize the existing network of auto dealers across the nation, pump more cash into local economies, and all it would take is an investment by each dealer (greatly subsidized by government tax breaks for those manufacturers that utilize standardized EV battery packs) to have charging stations capable of keeping an appropriate number of packs on hand. Hell, put efficient solar cells on the roofs of these dealerships and its a completely clean and green setup.
For short trips, use available charging stations. For road trips, use the dealer networks. Mark my words folks – the first manufacturer to implement quick swap battery packs will be the first to completely dominate the EV market and seriously put a boot in the ass of OPEC.
Demand for gasoline will drop, cost per gallon will drop as supply exceeds demand, and those of us who choose to continue on with our traditional gasoline powered vehicles can do so without spending hundreds of dollars per month.
As new and more efficient power sources emerge – they’ll likely be smaller and lighter than the previous generation – make them compatible or adaptable to the previous generations EV’s.
Anyhow… that was my thought. Quick swap / standardized battery packs for EV’s that can be changed at any dealership, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.