This post, part of a series we're running all about electric cars, was written by Nathan Chandler from HowStuffWorks.com.
Electric vehicles (also known as EVs) have a long history of ups and downs in the United States. Since their debut in the late 1800s, EV's have been glorified and vilified by consumers and big industry alike, and more recently have been proclaimed as saviors of the Earth's environment.
As with all emerging industries, there are a lot of popular misconceptions about electric cars. A few of these half-truths have basis in fact, while others are totally false. The reality is that major car manufacturers have invested unprecedented levels of research and capital in finally making EVs a real force in the automotive world. Regardless of your transportation needs, there likely is (or will be) an EV that fits the bill.
That doesn't stop people from spreading the wrong ideas about EVs. Some of the most enduring myths about EVs are that their range is just too short, recharging times are just too long and battery costs are too high. On that last matter, the EV skeptics have a good point.
EV batteries make up the single biggest portion of the cost. Lithium-ion battery packs are very expensive. The Nissan LEAF's battery, for example, will cost just short of $20,000.
That's a huge chunk of change when you consider that even top-quality rechargeable batteries have a limited lifespan. However, Nissan has a lot of confidence in its battery technology. Its warranty covers the battery for eight years or 100,000 miles (160,934 kilometers). Ford, another manufacturer that's getting into the EV game, is addressing battery fears by using cooled-battery technology to extend cell life.
Limited range is another concern for most potential EV buyers. Most Americans drive fewer than 40 miles (64.4 kilometers) per day, but experts say most people would worry about spending $30,000 on a car with only a 40-mile range. That's a fair statement, but many EVs have far better range.
The first batch of mass-produced electric cars will have a range of about 100 miles (160.9 kilometers) on a single charge and usually require at least a few hours to charge. But if you have the cash, you can invest in an EV that's on par or better than a gas-powered car with regard to size, safety features, dependability overall quality.
There are, in fact, some superstar EVs that will satisfy even power-hungry road warriors. The Tesla Roadster, for example, is a two-seat sports car that can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour (0 to 96.6 kilometers per hour) in right around 3.7 seconds. It costs about $110,000, and its range on one charge is well over 200 miles (321.9 kilometers).
You don't have spend that much to get decent performance, though. Nissan's LEAF, for example, provides almost 110 horsepower, a top speed of around 90 miles per hour (144.8 kilometers per hour), and zippy acceleration -- it goes from 0 to 60 in about 10 seconds. Yet the maximum range of the LEAF is around 100 miles. That range is just fine for daily commuting for most Americans, however, it doesn't exactly suffice for long-distance road trips.
To that end, you may need to hold on to your old fossil-fuel burning gas car or truck. Many families have two or three vehicles already, so it's not unfeasible that millions of people may keep a gas vehicle for special trips, using their EV for everyday transportation.