Returning from the dead like Lazarus, electric cars seem poised to return to America's roads.
As gas prices are expected to stay above $4 a gallon, and people wait on 6 month waiting lists to buy a hybrid Prius, demand for low and no gasoline vehicles is huge. (A note for people with large loads to carry: Toyota plans to offer a wagon version of the Prius in 2009 or 2010). Instead of churning out gas guzzlers, innovative companies should find ways to fulfill people's desires for vehicles that will give us the feeling of freedom that Americans associate with our cars, while not polluting our Earth. I'm not sure whether American cultural lust for the automobile is sustainable, but I do know that if we drive electric cars, we need half as much energy to get around (electric engines are twice to three times as efficient as gas engines), and can do it with a lot less noise.
Intending to capitalize on this market, the Norwegian company Think Global is currently selling small electric vehicles in Europe, and is planning to unveil a full size electric sedan, the Ox, in 2011. Unlike previous electric vehicles, the Ox has the advantage of looking like a standard American sedan. About the same size as the Toyota Prius, Business Week reports that the Ox can travel "between 125 and 155 miles before needing a recharge, and zips from zero to 60 miles per hour in about 8.5 seconds." The car's lithium-ion battery can recharge to 80% capacity (that's 100-124 miles of battery) in less than one hour. On board electronics are powered by roof mounted solar panels, and include a GPS and an internet connection. While the Ox hasn't been priced yet, the current vehicles sold by Think Global cost under $25,000.
Let's hope that electric cars catch make our roads quiet places, with clean air. More importantly, let's make sure that the electricity powering those cars comes from clean, renewable sources.