I wanted to go all-electric, but had to settle for a hybrid

At some point years ago, after watching the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?, I vowed to make my next vehicle a zero-emissions one. I didn’t want to give money to Big Oil anymore and I was willing to pay a little more to a car company to make that happen.

I figured that day would come a few years from now, when there were plenty of affordable and practical Earth-friendly models on the market. But my ride died last month—much sooner than expected. The price tag to fix it? More than the old SUV was worth.

So, my research began. I settled on a Prius Plug-in. The model is a hybrid so it can travel long distances, but it can also run on electricity alone for about 11 miles—enough for me to do my daily driving. I was excited about the prospect of rarely filling the tank. And Toyota happened to be offering a $4,000 rebate.

I was sold. All I had to do was go to the dealer and hammer out the details. First, though, I needed to take a test drive. I did and the ride was great. Then my husband took it for a spin. Big problem: He’s too tall. Or, rather, the car is too small for his 6-foot-4-inch frame. His knees very nearly touched the steering wheel with the seat pushed all the way back. It was a deal breaker. We took a few other Toyotas for a spin and settled on a regular hybrid, but a larger, wagon-like model that gets 40-plus miles per gallon.

We’re very happy with it, but I sure wish Toyota offered an all-electric or even a plug-in hybrid version of the model we purchased. Years ago, I talked to a Chico man who owns a 2002 Toyota RAV4-EV—one of just a few hundred all-electric models the manufacturer had ever sold. Toyota brought back an all-electric RAV4 in 2012, but its price tag, this year starting at $49,800, is steep. And other, more affordable models I’ve researched don’t have the distance of the RAV, which can travel about 100 miles per charge.

We need more options in this market and that’s not going to happen until zero-emissions vehicles are reasonably priced.

Elon Musk, CEO of electric-car manufacturer Tesla Motors, announced a decision last week that’s going to aid that effort. The billionaire entrepreneur opened the company’s patents up for use by competitors. In a statement, Musk says he wants to advance electronic technology, and that Tesla alone cannot address the carbon crisis. Musk’s right. He also stands to gain financially, as he also is planning to build a so-called “gigafactory” to produce batteries—the most expensive component of an electric car. Once that plant is up and running and other car manufacturers are using Tesla’s technology, Musk can sell them the batteries.

I don’t care where his motivations lie. I just want to see more affordable electric options on car lots.

Melissa Daugherty, CN&R’s editor, was called for jury duty this week. She’ll be back next week with a new Second & Flume. A version of this column originally appeared in June 2014.