Who can save the electric car?

When Neil Young set out last year to transform his 1959 Lincoln convertible into an electric car, he had a dream in sight: to make electric cars the norm, traversing highways from coast to coast. Teaming up with Wichita mechanic Johnathan Goodwin, the duo created the car as a model for a mass-produced electric-powered automobile. The electric car is definitely becoming the standard in cool eco-conscious circles. From a converted classic Lincoln to the sporty Tesla, move over Hybrids.

The documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? theorized that big business and oil industry lobbyists squashed the idea of the electric car, which otherwise might be something as common as a bicycle. But with rising oil prices, fleets of un-sold SUVS, and government programs for greater technology funding, the electric car is reemerging as an American dream once again. This year's auto show in Detroit presented a wealth of plug-in cars, and nine car companies have vowed to release an electric car on the marketplace by 2013.

The benefits of electric cars are vast: cleaner, quieter vehicles on the street. Electric energy is cheaper than gas, and also renewable. Unfortunately less pollution is hardly a motive for the average car consumer. But the real hurdle remains: expensive batteries. A study released today by the University of California, Berkeley, says that sales of electric cars could jump to 86% in 2030 -- if consumers don't have to buy the batteries themselves.

A new company called Better Place will offer pay-per-mile miles, much like a cell phone plan. While a consumer would buy the car, Better Place would own the battery, present charging stations, and swap out batteries as necessary. The cost of these charging stations would topple $320 billion, but according to economist Thomas Becker, health-related savings from less pollution could be $210 billion.

With the Better Place model, the goal is presenting electric cars that would sell equal to or less than gasoline cars, and charging the car would be much less than paying for gas in the long run. Renault-Nisson is the first manufacturer teaming up with Better Place for role-out models. Neil Young, your dream of streets full of electric cars is a lot closer than you'd think.

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