Plug Me In

For those of you who have been wondering about what became of my years-long quest for an electric car, here's an update: I still don't ...
January 14, 2008
 

For those of you who have been wondering about what became of my years-long quest for an electric car, here's an update: I still don't have one.

No hybrid for me. I still want a car that runs only on electricity supplied by our friendly regional nuclear plant, and it needs to be reasonably practical: some hauling capacity, decent range, basic creature comforts (no glorified golf carts, please), and fast enough to keep up with city street traffic.

Some of the big automakers are working on cars that run mainly on electricity, and there are well funded ventures such as Tesla's effort to build an expensive, high-performance electric sports car. But there's also a lot going on at the other end of the auto industry, where smaller-time entrepreneurs and engineer/tinkerers are--excuse the expression--plugging away.

Zenn_2 Just last week, for example, the Canadian manufacturer of the ZENN "neighborhood electric vehicle" (pictured at right) was licensed to sell its micro-cars (top speed: 25 mph) in Wisconsin, and a Milwaukee alderman says he'll introduce legislation soon to make it legal to drive them on city streets. The $12,700 ZENN (an acronym for "zero emissions, no noise") looks like a real car and reportedly can go 35 miles on a full charge. There are lots of other companies trying to get into the NEV game, including one funded by Lee Iacocca and companies working on quasi-cars in Russia, China and other countries.

Apterra Meanwhile, a California company is developing a vehicle that looks something like an airplane without wings (judge for yourself from the picture at left). According to the specifications for the $30,000 Aptera, it can go 190 miles between charges at highway speeds. Its developers are aiming it at people who want to fly solo in the state's car-pool lanes, which is why it has only three wheels--technically, it's a motorcycle.

Littletikes I don't see myself in the cockpit of an Aptera, but maybe a lot of Californians, tired of creeping along in the slow lanes, will be strapping themselves in and going through their pre-launch checklists before making the jump to lightspeed. May the Force be with them.

I could see myself in something like the ZENN, though I admit that some of the cars of its ilk remind me of my older son's first car, the energy-efficient number pictured at right. (These days, he drives a gasoline-powered Camry.)

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