With the auto industries' renewed interested in electric vehicles, owning a rechargeable vehicle is becoming more practical, especially if the majority of your daily driving is within the range of the battery in 100% EV mode. Although car companies have tried and failed to introduce electric vehicles to the motoring public several times already (see GM EV1), I believe that we are now are now entering the age of the electric vehicle (EV).  (See Electric Vehicles are Here to Stay.) What is different now is the impetus to address climate change and many countries are actively promoting EVs along with renewable energy.  In the past, EVs failed to take hold for a variety of reasons including high cost and low range.  With the help of government incentive programs, EV prices are decreasing at a remarkable pace.


Chevrolet Volt


Until technological advancements further drive down the cost of batteries, the lower initial-cost option at this time is the Plug-in Hybrid with a range-extending on-board generator.  Cars like the Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt, and Honda Clarity have batteries that can operate in 100% EV mode for a limited distance, which ideally should be at least the round-trip of your commute or the one-way distance to work if your employer has provided EV chargers.  Even with Ontario's spectacularly high electric rates, it is still much cheaper to run on electricity than on gasoline.  However, the premium for a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) compared to the cost of the non-EV version of a similar car is several thousands of dollars (even with a very substantial government subsidy), with a payback of several years to a decade just on fuel savings.

Another cost that must also be considered is the 240V home charging station, which can run a few thousand dollars for installation.  Although EVs can be recharged from an ordinary 120V wall outlet, recharging time can be cut by a half or more with a 240V plug.  Although it is likely that the charger can be used indefinitely, its cost should factored into the first EV.

For those of you commuting on highways with HOV Lanes & HOT Lanes, vehicles with Green License Plates often get a free pass to use this lane just like having the requisite numbers of passengers.  This alone should make the PHEV and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) worth consideration.  However, as the number of Green License Plate vehicles increases, it is very possible that the government will revoke free access to the HOV/HOT lanes.

EVs driven very moderately have been reported to have achieved much higher electric-only ranges than the EPA ratings.  In the Volt's case, some people have gotten as much as 110 km or more from a charge instead of the 85 km EPA rating as reported on the GM Volt forum.  Cold weather adversely affects a battery's capacity so YMMV.

As battery technology evolves, buying an electric car will eventually become a no-brainer.  Until then, buying a conventional, fuel-efficient compact car seems to be the better option for now.