Electric and plug-in hybrid cars
A Chinese car company recently began selling a plug-in hybrid electric car, but expect to wait two years before it's available in the U.S.
BYD is making a big splash at this year's Detroit Auto Show. The Chinese car company is showcasing its plug-in electric hybrid that it sells domestically in China. BYD – which stands for Build Your Dream - hopes to soon sell the cars in Europe and the United States where you still can't buy a plug- in hybrid.
"Living on Earth" talks to Paul Scott a board member of Plug In America, a non-profit group that's keeping the electric car dream alive in the United States.
Scott explains why Americans shouldn't expect to see cars from BYD in the U.S. anytime soon: "a lot of it has to do with the carmakers passed laws years ago to make it difficult for foreign companies to come in to the United States. It's good in that the cars sold in the United States are very, very safe. But it does present a barrier to coming in and selling here. So the BYD people are selling their vehicle in China right now, but in order to pass all of our regulations, they're gonna have to rebuild it a little bit, make it stronger and so forth, so it can withstand the crash testing."
The price range of the Chinese BYD is $22,000. The Chevy Volt is expected to go for $40,000 when it hits the market, and there's the Tesla at $100,000.
What to expect from other manufacturers, according to Scot: "It'll range. For pure electric cars, for instance a City Car, which is a small maybe smart sized car, pure battery electric version of that with a 100-mile range, should sell for around 25 or 30. That's a very reasonable price when you consider the cost of operation is very, very low. Now you have no tune-ups, no maintenance whatsoever on these vehicles, and the price of electricity nationally is about 10.4 cents per kilowatt hour. So that's about equivalent to buy gas at about 75 or 80 cents a gallon."
As far as whether there is capacity in America to power the cars: "The capacity is pretty substantial. You know, we have to build electric load capacity to meet peak loads during the day, and so there's all this excess capacity at night that goes unused. And there's enough there to recharge 73% of the American fleet, which is something north of 180 million vehicles. And that we could do today without adding any capacity to the grid."
Other car companies Scott is keeping his eyes on: "I would say Toyota is certainly the one to watch on the plug-in hybrid side, along with the Chevy Volt from GM. There are others, certainly Mitsubishi, Nissan and Volvo. A lot of the German car makers are starting to get into plug-in hybrids as well, Volkswagon certainly. So I think you're gonna see a whole lot of them in two to three years. But in the next year, probably no plug-in hybrids in the U.S. I think it's gonna be at least two years before we see them here."
Read entire transcript.
Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More "Living on Earth.