Texas Energy Services from DynowattEver since World War II and the development of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, the automobile has shaped the face of the United States. With greater mobility and an increasing number of cars, an increasingly urban country grew from city centers, leading to the creation of the suburban American dream. A couple generations ago, miles per gallon (mpg) ratings were not even something that a prospective car buyer would think about. Why would they, when gas was only 29 cents a gallon? Unfortunately, the age of easy to extract and cheap petroleum is over. Plug-in electric cars are on the way, and you’ll soon see them on Texas roads, alongside powerful sixteen-wheelers and loaded-down pickup trucks.
Ironically, electric cars predate those with internal combustion engines. In fact, the PBS program NOW points out that the first electric taxis hit the road in New York City in 1897, and in 1900, one-third of the 4,200 cars produced in America were powered by electricity instead of gas. So why did the gasoline-powered car win out? There are many reasons. When Henry Ford introduced the durable and relatively cheap Model T in 1908, a much larger sector of the market was able to afford their first car. Instead of purchasing an electric model, they simply went to their Ford dealer. Further, gasoline is a very powerful fuel and an internal combustion engine was (and is) easier to use on a large manufacturing scale.
In the late 1990s, in response to new requirements from the California Legislature, car companies were forced to develop viable electric vehicles. This was a reaction to the thick smog that enveloped many cities in the Golden State. General Motors responded with the EV1, a plug-in, battery-powered car that became very popular with its drivers. (Unfortunately, in 2003, GM discontinued the car and disallowed interested people from renewing their leases.)
In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the concern over maintaining a stable supply of petroleum really gathered steam. Electric cars seemed like even more of a necessity when gas prices skyrocketed in the summer of 2008. (The yearly spikes that occur in the peak summer driving season are also a big concern, as well.) A stop gap measure between the internal combustion engine and the fully electric car was the hybrid. Cars such as the Toyota Prius feature lots of powerful batteries that are charged, when necessary, by a small gas-powered motor.
In 2007, General Motors decided to get back into the electric car business, announcing plans for the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid that will have a range of forty miles. Many people with a reasonable commute won’t use any gasoline at all. Instead, they will simply plug their cars into an outlet in their garage in the evening.
Sure, petroleum may be important to the Texas economy. However, as Bob Cox notes in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Lone Star Staters will soon have the power to choose from two mass-market plug-in electric cars. In late 2010, the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf will hit showroom floors. The Volt will have a small gasoline powered backup generator, while the Leaf will only be electric, but will have a 100-mile range.
There’s another thing to think about; your new electric car will need 220-volt juice instead of the usual 110-volt stuff. Many high-consumption appliances, such as electric dryers and particularly large flat-screen television sets, need this higher-voltage of electricity, and the Volt and Leaf will be no different. While the Volt doesn’t require you to have a hard-wired 220-volt charging station, having one is still a very good idea because your car will charge that much more quickly.
Additionally, there’s one more stumbling block to getting people to cruise around Fort Worth in an electric car: the price. The extremely advanced lithium-ion batteries are as expensive as they are powerful. While the price will decrease in time, the government is incentivizing the adoption of electric cars by offering some hefty tax credits. When you purchase an electric car, you will receive a tax credit up to $7,500. If you have to add a charging station to your home, you could qualify for an additional $2,500.
Fueling your electric car will not be free of cost; you will still have to pay for the Texas electricity you receive from your utility. Even with a modest increase in your monthly utility bill, however, you will still likely save money because you’re not purchasing any gasoline. Even better, using an electric Texas energy source, you’re reducing the carbon dioxide-caused stress humanity is putting on the world. Electric cars have the potential to be a game changer, allowing you to save money while reducing the effects of climate change
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