Because electric plug-ins are powered without any liquid fuel, they produce no emissions. Critics have argued that the calculations done to determine fuel efficiency are based on the notion that power plants are operating with total efficiency, and are therefore inaccurate. But a 2012 study cited by Congress’s bipartisan Environmental and Energy Study Institute found that “even plug-in vehicles running on electricity from the ‘dirtiest coal-powered electric grids … produce far less greenhouse gas emissions than the average gasoline-powered vehicle.”
So while it is a safe bet that the electric car is the cleanest, why is it still the least popular?
“It’s in its infancy,” said Lomby Perez, vice president and general manager at Metro Ford. “Customers have to learn about the production.
And there have to be trendsetters, people like Frey, who know the technology and get into it.”
Ford is proceeding cautiously and ramping up slowly in phases, he said. Sales started in California, Washington, D.C., and the Northeast where green drivers are more numerous in May, he said. Florida came next with electrics slated to reach the middle of the country last.
“We’re getting about one a month,” he said. Still, interest is keen. The second car Metro received for its dealership inventory sold in just three days.
“I don’t think electric vehicles are for everybody, for individuals who are on the road all day. But if you have short commutes, like 50 or 60 miles, this vehicle will do it and gas free.”
Indeed, while Edmonds gave the Focus rave reviews for cutting charging times in half, extending mileage and handling and feeling like a fuel car, it conceded, “The Focus EV remains a home-bound runabout because the reality of range cannot be ignored.”
That “reality of range,” is what electric car drivers call range anxiety.
And that may be the biggest impediment to the growth of all-electric vehicles. With little infrastructure in place to charge cars, most drivers charge at home and have to calculate how far they can go. Stop-and-go city driving works well for electrics, which have breaks that recharge the battery. But highway driving can sap it faster than you can say where’s the next exit. And cold weather can decrease mileage even more.
Electric cars can plug into an ordinary 110-volt outlet and recharge in eight to 14 hours. But most buyers opt to install a 240-volt charging station (designed specifically for the car. To charge as quickly as it does, the Focus must be connected to a 40-amp service.
California, on the forward edge, has more than 100 charging stations registered with the Car Charging Group within 50 miles of Los Angeles.
But in South Florida, the group lists only 16 between Miami and West Palm Beach. And ChargePoint.com, another mapping site, lists only six.
Nationwide, there are only 12,000 public charging stations, according to J.D. Power. By comparison, there are an estimated 105,000 gas stations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
To remedy that problem, most electric car makers have created Apps to update drivers on their car’s charge. (The same Apps can be used to find charging stations.) Frey set his App to sound an alarm every night to remind him to plug in his car. Ford also included a portable charger in the trunk for emergencies.