Dear EarthTalk: With plug-in hybrid and electric cars due to hit the roads sometime soon, will there be places to plug them in besides at home? And if so, how much will it cost to re-charge?
—Nicole Koslowsky, Pompano Beach, FL
Gasoline-electric hybrids, like the Toyota Prius, are all the rage due to their fuel efficiency, and consumers have been clamoring for carmakers to up the ante and give these vehicles a plug. This way the batteries can be charged at home and not just by the gas engine and other on-board features, thus greatly reducing the need for gas except for long trips. And purely electric cars, like the Tesla Roadster already on the market, will be making more appearances on the streets as greater production brings the costs down.
So what’s an electric or plug-in hybrid driver to do when they need a charge and they’re nowhere near home? Plug-ins are expected to reach up to 60 miles on a charge (great for a commute but not for a longer trip); and though the Tesla reportedly went 241 miles on a charge in a recent European road rally, its everyday stop-and-go efficiency will likely be less and drivers will need "pit stops" far from home.
A few forward-thinking large companies have installed electric outlets accessible to employee parking, but most plug-in hybrid and electric car drivers will be looking for help well beyond the scope of their commutes. In the U.S., several cities in California, as well as Seattle, Chicago, Phoenix and others are now setting up recharging infrastructures. Paris, where Toyota is testing plug-in hybrids, already has over 80 recharging stations throughout the city and suburbs. Across the channel, London is working with the nonprofit Environmental Defense to install upwards of 40 electric recharging stations around town.