Volt, Leaf just first wave of electric age
These are heady times for technology-oriented car consumers. Whether
today's buyer is in the market for an innovative new vehicle or
interested in what's to come, there is plenty of action in store over
the coming 12-18 months.
After years of talk and false starts hampered by technological problems,
a new generation of electric cars will soon be in showrooms.
Much of the attention is focusing on two prime contenders, the Chevrolet
Volt and the Nissan Leaf, which go on sale shortly, but there are other
electric contenders — a Ford Focus EV and a battery-powered Toyota RAV4,
for example — on the way.
The current stock of hybrid vehicles will also expand with the arrival
of plug-in variants and more sophisticated drive systems. And related
technologies, such as fuel-saving engine stop-start systems, will spread
through the market.
Though General Motors has taken flak from some in the media over the
debatable issue of whether the Volt is a true electric car or a type of
hybrid vehicle, the public won't care. The reality is that consumers are
genuinely excited by the prospect of such an energy-efficient and
sophisticated car coming from a Detroit automaker.
Unlike the Volt, which has a gasoline engine that can act as a generator
to extend the range of the battery pack, the Nissan Leaf is a pure
electric, with only its stored voltage to propel it down the road.
Though the technologies in the Volt and Leaf are quite different,
comparisons are sure to be made, and it will be fascinating to see how
the buying public evaluates these groundbreaking vehicles.
For the techno-savvy buyers who become early adopters of electric cars,
there is actually much more than just the car to consider.
As plug-in vehicles, the Volt and Leaf will lead owners to break a
long-held habit, the weekly visit to the gas station (Volt drivers will
still fuel up, but much less frequently, if at all, depending on their
Instead, these vehicles' drivers will be thinking about where to plug
in, whether it is at home or the office or at the shopping mall parking lot.
A new crowd of "charge and go" consumers will be created, a group whose
concerns will focus on what kind of chargers they have installed at
home. The cocktail party discussions will be about voltage and charging
times rather than gas prices and miles per gallon.
Electric car owners will also enter a new world where being 'connected'
with your vehicle at all times will be the norm. Both Chevrolet and
Nissan are providing electric car buyers with computer or smartphone
apps that allow owners to check remotely on the state of charge of their
vehicle, to schedule charging times when the rates are low and to enjoy
a host of other interactive features.
Volt or Leaf owners will be able to sit in the office and determine from
their smartphone how far their car's battery charge will take them and
where the nearest charging stations are and even share usage experience
with others through Facebook and Twitter channels set up by the automakers.
A brave new world for car buyers is approaching, one that will start on
a relatively small scale but which will have widespread impact,
accelerating the introduction of technologies by all automakers.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face
is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs
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