Of Volts and LEAFs and Smart ForTwos

by Green Jobs Ready on August 3, 2010

Green Jobs: Paving the future for a robust American EconomyAmericans love their cars ~ always have ~ since the very first mass produced Model Ts rolled off the assembly lines, and there have been many to love between then and now.

The newest entry into this love affair is the EV, short for Electric Vehicle, and unlike it’s cousin, the hybrid, whose reception by the American public has until recently been rather tepid ~ the cars themselves are kind of conservative looking, not sexy enough for the younger crowd, and perceived as too expensive for the gas savings promised ~ this first generation of the EV in the U.S. is strutting her stuff with different makers and models offering something for everyone.

As with every other field of human endeavor, once a good idea catches on ~ once the public has made it known that this is what they want ~ designers and manufacturers are falling all over themselves to see who can be first to roll out the prettiest, sexiest, and most affordable models.

Right now, the Chevy Volt and the Nissan LEAF are leading the pack, just by virtue of the fact that these are the first models under mass production and the earliest entries into the electric car market ~ both promising availability for purchase here in the states later this year.

GM’s Chevy Volt will have a price point of $41,000, which GM hastens to add, will actually be much less with the government tax incentives. It has a nice, sleek design, and will run a total of 340 miles on one battery and a tank of gas, the first 40 miles of which will be gas-and-emissions free, powered by a “16-kWh lithium-ion battery.” After 40 miles, when the battery runs low, the gas generator will take over “seamlessly,” according to a GM press release, generating the electricity that the car will run on.

Not bad. But will the Volt be enough to repair the broken trust of the public in GM and it’s products? Time will tell.

For the present, GM’s main worry should be the Nissan LEAF, which outstrips the Volt in attractive features in several different directions. The LEAF is a sleek yet practical four-door coupe, but it’s design has that sexy car-of-the-future look, especially in front. Nissan expects to release the LEAF for sale in select markets in December, and then nationwide early next year.

But the two main differences in the LEAF’s favor are price and the “all electric” milage. At a much more affordable $33,000 before tax incentives, LEAF will be attractive to a broader customer base, and with a total range of 100 miles (instead of 40) on electricity alone, the LEAF will appeal to short range commuters and soccer mom’s who drive more frequently but shorter distances.

Both the LEAF and the Volt will be rechargeable at home via 120 or 240 volt outlets, and at higher-speed charging stations, the new-age services stations that will eventually replace gas stations, that are springing up all over the country.

Just last month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City demonstrated the simplicity  of recharging at a public car charging station ~ by charging his electric Smart Car at a station installed on a Manhattan parking lot. And that station is just the first of many, with 100 charging stations set to be installed all over the city over the next year.

Smart, the makers of the distinctive ForTwo (which is the next car my husband and I are buying ~ though now we may wait for the electric model) has been test running 100 electric ForTwos in the UK since 2007, and 1000 more have been or are being released in Europe and the US for the same purpose this year, according to the Smart website. The first electric ForTwos for sale to the public are expected to be released in 2012.

Smart has been researching and testing electric cars for some time, but now several other car makers are joining Smart, GM and Nissan, hopping on to the electric car bandwagon, including manufacturers like Toyota (who has partnered with Tesla and Panasonic for this endeavor), and Mitsubishi, to name just two.

As Mayor Bloomberg observed: “The electric vehicle is not just a pipe dream or a scene from the Jetsons . . . It is here and it is here right now.”

And it’s about time ~

See you on the green.


Rebecca Longster is a writer, editor, and lover of words. She believes passionately that people can be healthier, wealthier, and happier living and working in harmony with the earth, and that doing so is a practical as well as a moral imperative. In addition to writing fiction and non-fiction, both for the web and for print publication, she currently teaches writing at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

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