Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Time for Electric vehicles is NOW, more then ever, travels to Paris, etc.

Paris is already set up for Electric cars, with some charging stations in place

As we've all seen lately, the price of gasoline is soaring once again, just as it did in 2008.  And with the conflicts in the Middle East escalating, and with the uncertainty of our relationship with these countries after the opposition parties take over, the time is pressing, more now than ever for us to all obtain at least one electric vehicles or at least one high-mileage hybrid, if one can.

Here we are at the end of February 2011, and the United States still does not have a clear energy policy for the future in place. We have a bunch of companies making Lithium Ion/Polymer batteries for the emerging electric vehicles launches from several mainstream automobile manufacturers - Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, the Tesla Roadster, and some more coming on line this year and next. However the first wave of electric vehicles are hardely what you would call affordable $32,000 - $41,000, or even higher in the case of the Tesla Roadster $108,000+. Sure the manufacturers and dealers all point to the $7,500 Frederal Tax credit, but they fail to point out that this credit applies to the total vehicle price. Some states do not charge sales tax for electric vehicles, but some do. And of course we had to battle this past year to get congress to extend the tax credit through 2011.

Of course another way to go would be to buy a Brammo, or Zero, electric motorcycle, which are much more affordable, say $8,000 - $10,000. Most now have a range of 50 - 100 miles, and for work commutes, and light shopping trips this would be ideal, except there really are no delearships, and these companies don't really advertise on TV or Radio, or much outside focused segment magazines: Cycleworld, Motorcyclist, etc. And then there is the stigma that very few people ride motorcycles in the USA, as most people are told at a young age that they should never ride a motorcycle as they are too dangerous.

So, one hopes that the crush of early-adopters is large enough to bring the price of electric cars into the mid-$20,000 range, and that congress keeps the Federal Tax credit in place for at least 5 years, so we can insentivize the purchase of gen-1 and maybe even gen-2 electic cars. Otherwise this segment will become marginalized and never take off the way one would hope. If it isn't affordable, especially now, people simply will not buy them.

Paris was a real eye opener. Most cars one saw on the streets of Paris were in the sub-compact segment: Smart, Mini Cooper, Renaults, Citroens, etc. Even in the 20 degree Christmas-time weather [maybe zero with wind chill] many hardy younger Parisians were riding their Yamaha 250 - 500cc TMax scooters or their various 500cc+ motorcycles. The reason for this? How about, if right now, in the USA, you were paying $7.13 for a gallon of gasoline. That's what people pay in Paris, as of December 2010. Not sure of the octane rating, but let's assume that is for "regular". Add another $0.20 - $0.30 a gallon for Premium, which my Audi requires, and I would be paying for my 14 gallon tank $102.62 for a fill-up. Assume that I would need 3 tanks per month and I would be paying about $310 per month to commute to work and back, or $3,720 per year. No wonder they ride bicycles, or scooters or motocycles everywhere. And thank God for the Metro [Subway], as you could go just about anywhere in Paris, one way for about $1.35 [if you bought a booklet of 10 at a time, more if purchased individually], but of course we never built subway in most large US cities [THANKS for NOT thinking ahead Seattle], and even shot down obvious choices like extending the Monorail, until recently, with the beginning of light-rail to the airport. However, by the time it extends out far enough to the suburbs to become available or worthwhile to use, I will either have moved away or be deceased! We never had to think about this before, but now we sure do.

I urge you to do whatever it takes to get a strong new National Energy Bill approved, get these new industries expanded, providing new Green Economy jobs to hundreds of thousands, and help to ensure our energy future. Gasoline prices and energy prices effect everything we buy and everything we want to do, as it all gets caculated into the price of food, the price of travel, etc.  Contact your State and Federal Congressmen and Congresswomen often. Push them to build and fund this sector, and make plans to do it rapidly. Our very existence as a leading country and economy depend on it. We need to leave a world that will be viable, and more than just viable, will be able to thrive because of the actions we decide to take in the next 5 - 10 years !

Another great idea that is startinig to emerge here in the United States, is already thriving in Paris. This is the "rent-a-bicycle" concept. Is this system, you sign up, then swipe your RFID micro-chip embedded membership card at the station you want to take a bicycle from and off you go. Here's the one we saw in Paris: Velib'. If you use Google Chrome browser, it will offer to translate the website into English for you ! A USA-based company trying to spread the rent-a-cycle concept is BCycle. Just like renting an Apartment, you don't have to worry about the maintenance of the bicycle - just rent and go, then put it into the rack when you reach your destination !


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