host John Davis, it's already begun - the revolution that will entirely change both the way we drive and the way we look at automobiles. That revolution is electrification. Davis was kind enough to
on the future of automotive technology for the
. And he had a lot to say about that future.
And it really is inevitable. We only have a finite amount of gasoline, so we have to come up with something else. Corn-based fuels just aren't a good idea because we need that arable land for, you know, food. Hydrogen might be a great fuel, but it comes with its own host of problems that prevent adoption. And so we are left with basic electricity. In my opinion, this is the best option, because we can make electricity in any number of ways, and how we do won't matter once we fill the battery. Yes, there are concerns right now about generating electricity for the grid using fossil fuels, but that is a much larger, sometimes politically charged issue, so let's just avoid it.
Davis showed us several cars, including a Prius hybrid, but in my opinion, there were two cars there that demonstrated the two different directions we need to go in our future: The
. Gimmicky names aside, each car is an exemplar of a different school of thought for electrified car.
Let's take the
first. It is a pure electric car, which means no gasoline ever. The only way to refuel is to plug it into the wall or the ground somewhere. As a habitual early adopter, I can tell you that there are always problems with the first few versions of a new technology, and the earliest adopters of the technology have to be patient enough to help work out the kinks. So it is with pure electricity.
There are two massive problems with owning a Leaf at present, especially if you intend for it to be your only car: Range and refueling. With a range of, at most, about 140 miles, this obviously isn't a road-trip kind of car. It would easily drive you around Carroll, and get you to Owings Mills to hop on the metro, but you aren't going much farther. I have occasion to drive down to southwest Virginia on a fairly regular basis, and so obviously, this car is a no-go for me. I think most of us have occasion to drive somewhere relatively far away, or at least want to have the option available to us.
The second major problem is refueling. You can install a charger in your home, if you own one, for about $2,000. Nothing to sneeze at, but doable, and remember you will be saving a great deal of cash in the long term by not buying gas. And there are a few other places to refuel. Safeway in Westminster, for one. But there aren't many others. And there aren't electricity stations at almost every exit as you go down the highway. If you run out of juice and you're not where you want to be, and you're not in a place to juice up, you are SOL. Yes, sometimes people run out of gas, but this would be a much bigger problem. And don't forget, that right now, even with a 220 current, it is going to take around eight hours to charge yourself back up. These are serious problems, but only if you want to go far. If you are just driving from Westminster to Mount Airy every day, or something, or into Baltimore, you aren't going to have a single problem. It is when those unexpected things happen and you have to go outside your normal range that it could cause an issue, and then you are pretty well trapped. If you are a member of a two-car family, this would be a great choice, even now, however, and you would save great big bucket of cash you can take right to the bank, over time.
Now, let's look at the
. This is also really an electric car, in that electricity is what makes your wheels turn. But you put gas in it, and you can keep refueling it to have a range of forever, like any car you would be used to. It uses the gas to power the electric motor, but because you can do this, it is functionally a very advanced hybrid. You have a pure-electric range of, at most, less than 40 miles, but that would do for most people most days for the daily commute, and they would only have to get gas very infrequently. This makes your life much easier, because you'll get gas a lot less, but you can still go a long distance should the need arise. That's a very good compromise in my opinion.
Both are good ideas, but the technology is very new, and with adopting any technology early, there are problems. But the technology is changing, and for the better. With electricity, we have a much more versatile way to generating power for our cars, and can continue to improve it. Gasoline won't be around forever, and with the advances in electricity, these types of cars have the potential to revolutionize how we think about driving.