Time to get an electric car?

January 28, 2009 5:08:01 PM PST
There have been several attempts to build electric cars that can run at higher speeds and for several hours. Some have been more successful than others. Last year's record high oil prices boosted demand for the vehicles. And now, there are electric cars available, with limitations.

The Chrysler Eco-Voyager and the Chevy Volt are two examples at the Houston car show. By next year, the Volt will be released. It's a world apart from the muscle cars and hundreds of horsepower we've known and it may take some getting used to.

"I think it's an interesting concept, but we're not there yet," said Houston Car Show visitor Jerry Duvall.

And yet for Maria Borrego, the age of the electric car is already up and running...very quietly. Her electric car is made by Zen. It travels about 40 miles on a single charge. It gets her to and from her home and University of Houston downtown twice before she has to plug it in.

The downside is that its top speed restricts it only to side streets. It can't travel on freeways or highways.

"It doesn't go as fast as a regular car," said Borrego. "It goes only 25 miles an hour, which makes it difficult to take to some areas, but other than that, it's a really nice car."

It's an oddity for the moment, but there's a car dealer who aims to change that.

At Houston Electric Cars, there's not a gas guzzler on the lot. There is the Zen with a price range of $15,000 to $19,000. Then there are the Skyes, which resemble a golf cart. Those are $8,000 to $10,000. The Benjy sports car is on the way, all charged from a 110 outlet.

"Whatever you spend on fuel expense, you won't spend it with an electric car, but the real reason is to be able to travel and avoid making carbon gas emissions," said Rick Ehrlich with Houston Electric Cars.

There's that green. And then there's the green consumers see that are combining to create the electric car of the present, and the future with higher speed and longer range...perhaps by next year's Houston Car Show.

Two highly anticipated cars now in production are the Chevy Volt, which actually would use a gas motor to recharge the car's batteries and could get more than 100 miles to the gallon and the Tesla Roadster, which will be 100 percent electric and can go from zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds. By the way, that's faster than the BMW M-5, and the Mercedes E series.

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