Last week, USA Today reported Daimler, maker of Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen would launch long-range electric cars. As such, what is the likelihood of electric cars being the first and only car your grandchildren will know?
One consideration is defining the use of the term “long range.” Until recently, many electric cars had a range 40 to 100 miles per charge and they required hours to recharge. For commuters with short round-trip drives, limited-range electric cars are satisfactory. But for drivers whose daily driving habits including additional mile for errands and other activities, short-range electric vehicle are problematic.
Electric-gas hybrid vehicles allow drivers to travel farther. But if you’re only driving 40 miles and then switching to fuel, does the higher cost of the vehicle make it worthwhile when the fuel savings are minimal?
Longer-range vehicles, with estimates of 310 to 370 miles per charge, will be more convenient and appealing to average-use drivers.
Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen entering the long-range electric vehicle market is imperative because of pending regulations. In recent months France, England, Germany, and most recently China, announced they would ban the sale of new gas-fueled vehicles. The timeline for long-range electric vehicles is from 2030 to 2050, Germany says it wants to see gas-powered vehicles banned throughout Europe.
As Germany’s largest auto manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen must respond. It’s not only to serve local regulations but because vehicle consumers like China, the world’s largest car-selling nation, are also demanding the same future regulations. In 2013, China became the first country to sell more than 20 million cars in one year.
Electric vehicles are currently more expensive than their corresponding gas-power model counterparts. But that may change as demand and technology improve. The cost for gas for should be reduced, depending on driving distances.
But what about other maintenance costs? One article suggests overall maintenance costs of an electric vehicle will eventually be significantly less. In the short term, however, most service will need to be done at a dealership because neighborhood mechanics may not yet have the expertise to service electric vehicles.
The article suggests an electric car’s battery will lose its ability to hold a charge. Replacement batteries are expensive, with the average price 2014 statistics, $5,000.
Still, considering the maintenance fees from gas-only vehicles, $5,000 may prove reasonable. Likewise, considering a car may have 100,000 miles on its battery, want to invest that in a used car? And if they don’t, will dealers invest the money to be able to resell them?
As noted, it may take mechanics who aren’t at the dealership awhile before demand dictates they need to learn how and built experience service electric vehicles. Other electric service providers may have similar issues.
While I don’t use a towing service often, I’ve had to call on my local Five Star Towing because I’d left lights on or a door ajar, and the battery was drained. Once, visiting friends, I had to call a towing service because my battery wouldn’t turn over after extremely cold night.
The point: just like my local mechanic, the average tow company will need time to train and educate its drivers and this likely won’t occur until there’s demand. Even then, it may take a few calls to find a company equipped to serve you. It’s not something you want to worry about when you’re stuck.
I expect electric cars will be the wave of the future. Do I expect electric cars will be the first-and-only cars my, my unborn grand kids will drive? The jury is still out.
Text: Daniel Flalko