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Gas-Powered Loaners: A Cure for EV Range Anxiety?

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday April 24th, 2013 | 0 Comments

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASay you’re planning a good old-fashioned road trip in the U.S. of A. You’ll get your kicks on Route 66. Or something. But there’s one niggling problem– you’re into the small carbon footprint lifestyle and you drive an electric vehicle.

Suddenly you contract a severe case of range anxiety.

That malady, along with base price, is also a barrier for many considering the EV jump.

Fiat and BMW feel your pain and have come up with a solution of sorts that might boost their EV sales: They will give customers free access to conventional gas-powered cars when they need them for long trips.

A news report from SustainableBusiness.com notes that automakers offer a variety of incentives to help nudge into an EV cockpit, such as free auto insurance, cheap leases, basic price cuts and rebates. In addition to a $7,500 federal tax credit and state incentives up to $2,500, the price becomes fairly attractive, especially when fuel cost savings of about 40 percent are factored in by driving an EV.

But until electric charging stations are as ubiquitous as gas stations across this great land, range anxiety is a real worry and can be a deal-breaker.Even though driving range is rarely a practical problem because, on average, people drive just 13 miles a day, it does get in the way for those few long trips, about 10 percent of all travel,” the article says.

BMW’s i3 electric car is entering the U.S. market this year, and will come with a free loaner conventional car for trips that exceed its 80- to 100-mile range. Customers also will have the option of adding a gasoline generator to the i3 for about $4,000, which would double its range. The retail price for the i3 is estimated at $42,000 to $48,000.

And Fiat is offering a free rental car through Enterprise for 12 days a year with the purchase of its 500e electric car. Production launch in the U.S. of the zero emission 500e began in 2012.

After just three months of driving EVs, SustainableBusiness says, people have much less “range anxiety,” but “despite having to make few changes to their daily driving habits, they still want increased range.”

They may not need it, like they may not need 450-horsepower engines, four bathrooms or 40 pairs of shoes, but it’s still comforting to know the extra goodies are there. Isn’t extreme consumption and excess the American Way?

Still, there’s something disconcerting about the loaner program: doesn’t it undercut the entire idea of the EV—as in zero emissions and freedom from fossil fuels?

Why not instead build that network of EV charging stations, or develop affordable, long-range EVs? No need to answer, it won’t be on the test.

[Image: MyFiat by Bill DiBenedetto]


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