What Would It Take to Get You Behind the Wheel of an Electric Car?

Nissan Leaf five-door hatchback electric car, Winchester, UK, 28 04 2011

Everybody knows that electric cars make sense. They consume fewer resources, produce fewer emissions, and often have excellent acceleration. They're quiet, getting cheaper to buy, and -- given current gas prices -- cost less to use. At the risk of making hard-to-substantiate predictions, it looks like they could very easily be the wave of the future.

So why aren't you driving one?

Sure, there's the range issue. Depending on where you live, it can be a long drive between charging stations. For example, California has 1,413 stations, Florida has 395, and Idaho has only five. So if you don't live in California, you might be doing a lot of math as you calculate the distances that you'll need to travel between recharges.

Then there's the emissions issue: As I wrote recently, depending on where power plants in your state get their fuel, electric cars may not be as green as you thought. Still, even in the worst states, an electric car has about the same emissions as a Honda.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%But the biggie might be price -- which really comes down to a battery issue. Forget that $100 Sears Die Hard: electric cars' battery arrays routinely cost $12,000 or more, which makes them a huge factor in determining the overall price of the car. On the bright side, analysts predict that their price will drop by half within the next seven years or so. On the down side, we're not there yet.

Bottom line, as Lydia DePillis seemed to suggest in The Washington Post's Wonkblog earlier this week, there needs to be a concentrated, sustained push for electric cars. Right now, their growth is largely dependent upon fluctuating factors, like the rise and fall of gas prices, or the periodic surges and declines in government incentives to the alternative energy industries. Consistent support for infrastructure and development could cut electric car prices, increase their useability, and generally speed up their adoption by the general public.

Who knows? Maybe it could even put you behind the wheel of one.

Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings editor. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.