Who’s Saving the Electric Car?

The United States government is working to make electric cars more mainstream. Much controversy has centered around this technology and why it has failed to thrive in the market (and that controversy culminated with the popular documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?"). Some blame flaws with the technology, some blame car manufacturers, some blame the government, and some blame oil companies. But an article in Government Technology reveals the electric car is far from dead:

President Barack Obama has called on the U.S. to put 1 million electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015. But the country won’t get anywhere close to that number until drivers are confident they can find places to recharging stations.

How best to deploy a network of charging stations and jump-start the market for EVs are questions at the heart of the EV Project, a two-year study in five states that will put drivers in thousands of all-electric cars starting late this year. The U.S. Department of Energy announced a $99.8 million grant to the project in August 2009.

While an efficient gas-powered car can run 350 miles or more on a 12-gallon fill up, a battery charge will take an all-electric vehicle only 100 to 200 miles. Most electric car drivers will recharge them at home or at work, but if they want to use their vehicles for more than just local trips, they will need to plug them in while out and about.

Fear of getting stranded if they drive too far makes many people leery of electric cars. "People already have ‘range anxiety,’" said Colleen Crowninshield, manager of the Clean Cities Program at the Pima Association of Governments (PAG), in Tucson, Ariz., one of more than 40 partners in the EV Project.

Electric Transportation Engineering Corp. (eTec), a Phoenix-based developer of vehicle charging stations that heads the project consortium, will install 4,700 chargers in the homes and businesses of drivers who participate in the study, as well as 6,510 chargers in commercial and public locations. 

What do you think? Is this the right approach?