A look at electric vehicles

Most of us know that electric cars are coming, sooner rather than later. Most of us don’t know they’re already here. Sure, this is just the first wave, and the selection is a bit limited, but you’ll find the current crop of electrics at Keith’s Kars, 9490 S. Virginia Street. He’s got three models of fully street legal, plug-in vehicles for sale. These models aren’t for everybody. For example, folks who live in Fernley, Stead or Verdi. The range isn’t quite large enough for these vehicles to be practical for people in outlying areas. But for those who live in Reno and Sparks, with daily one-way work commutes of 10 miles or less, these units are legitimate transportational options right now.

The manufacturer is Zap, of Santa Rosa, and we start with the only city-class electric vehicle currently in production, the Xebra. This is a three-wheeled car (one front, two back) that has a range of 25 miles on a full charge and can go 40 miles an hour. So no, you’re not riding this to the lake. But, that said, it’s a pretty nice little get-around. And as a green vehicle, it’s impressive. The cost to drive it is from 1 to 3 cents a mile. Even counting emissions from the power plants that provide your electricity, you’ll cut down on your particulate, poison, and pollutant output by about 90-95 percent compared to your current gas-processing vehicle. List price is $12,000, plus the bonus of a $1,200 tax credit you’ll get for buying electric.

Then there’s the Xebra electric truck, a zippy little unit with a load capacity of 500 pounds (making it barely suitable for Costco runs), and sporting the same range and speed specs as the Xebra. It also sells for around $12,000, and offers the same $1,200 tax credit. There’s also a very attractive $1,500 option for these Xebras—solar panels that make it possible to re-charge the batteries directly from the sun.

But as a guy who lives in Spanish Springs, I can’t seriously consider buying a Xebra. It’s 20 miles one way from my house to downtown Reno, so I need more range. As it turns out, that’s coming. Sometime in 2010, Zap plans to introduce the Alias. This one will have the range and muscle that will take electric cars to another level; 100 miles on a full charge, with speeds up to 100 mph. Now, we’re talkin’—a “real” car that you plug in and charge every night for cheap. For the Alias, expect a price tag in the neighborhood of 35 grand, accompanied by a tax credit of $7,000 (by the way, the much more talked about Chevy Volt, also expected in 2010, will also be priced somewhere in the mid-30s).

Things aren’t about to get interesting. They ARE interesting. More info? Go to zapworld.com. Also available at Keith’s are electric scooters (30 mile range, 30 mph, $3k) and electric bikes ($1,300). So, you ready to turn on, plug in, and kiss off? As in, kiss off gas stations forever?