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Will 'Electric Highways' boost electric car sales?

Posting in Cities

The New York Times recently reported that electric car sales have been "disappointing."

"There will be, for a long time to come, no alternative to the internal combustion engine," Martin Winterkorn, the chief executive of Volkswagen, told the Times.

It's definitely a bleak outlook for electric vehicles. But it's hardly a surprise. Electric cars are expensive and unlike gas-powered cars, with gas stations on seemingly every other block, EV infrastructure is a novelty. But improved technology that at least begins to help electric cars compete with gas-powered cars is being rolled out.

One place where infrastructure is lacking is along interstates. Why would anyone buy a $40,000 electric car when it can't be used to drive long distances? A carsharing membership is much cheaper if you're only going to use an electric car to get around the city.

Nissan is the latest company to take up the challenge. They've installed a handful of super-fast charging stations along Ecotricity's Electric Highway -- which opened its first phase last year --  in Britain. These new chargers will take about 30 minutes to charge an EV from empty to 80 percent and are powered by 100 percent renewable energy. The previous fastest charging station took two hours to fully charge an EV. The standard charging stations take a painstakingly slow 8-10 hours to charge (they are being phased out).

“Many drivers would love to experience the convenience and cost saving benefits of a 100% electric vehicle such as the Nissan LEAF," said Jim Wright, Managing Director of Nissan Motor. "But some still worry about the occasional journey which may be beyond the 109 mile range. By introducing fast charging infrastructure at strategic motorway service stations, Nissan and Ecotricity are removing that worry and making EVs practical to a whole new selection of buyers.”

Tesla recently unveiled similar ultra-fast charging stations throughout California.

There are compelling reasons to own an all-electric car, including never needing to fill up a car with gas again and keeping your neighborhood's air cleaner. But until these positive efforts to improve consumer confidence in EVs -- like these from Nissan and Tesla -- are scaled up significantly to compete with gas-powered cars and hybrids, companies won't see the sales they're looking for.

[Via Treehugger]

— By on October 2, 2012, 7:01 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure