It’s a bit cliché, but there are few possessions with which I identify more closely than my car. An unscientific poll of the Tricycle parking lot confirms this feeling is fairly widespread. Early on at work I learned never to criticize anything made by Audi within a certain Tryker’s earshot.
In the decade since hybrid (gas/electric) automobiles made their mainstream American debut we’ve learned a lot about what American drivers expect out of our cars and what changes we’re willing to make to be more environmentally friendly. The government pitched in to help people overcome hybrid-reluctance with tax breaks and HOV lane access. Celebrities made green cars cool and manufacturers did their part to ease the transition with better styling and a drive feel closer to conventional vehicles. Still, though sales of hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles have increased every year since 2004, they still only make up two and a-half percent of the U.S. market.
One of the criticisms has been the lack of real choices but in the next year, automakers are poised to launch several new entries in the green-automobile line-up. Toyota’s venerable Prius will get plug-in capability while it debuts an all-electric vehicle at about the same time as Nissan’s Leaf and the long-awaited Chevy Volt arrive at local dealerships.
Driving an electric car on a daily basis will mean some adjustments, some that probably haven’t been considered. A senior editor at Autoweek magazine, Mark Vaughn, set out to spend three months with a 2010 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, a zero-emission, all-electric car. He’s about half-way through his long-term test drive and has had some interesting experiences. Read Mark's musings about what the future electric charging infrastructure might look like and his successful (and unsuccessful) trip planning around the car’s limited driving range.