Are Electric Cars Really the Future of Fleet Vehicles?

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As more electric car options are made available to consumers and fleet vehicle operators, several things are becoming clear. First, the cost of these automobiles (though often offset by government subsidies) is still higher than the cost of gas powered vehicles. Second, the electric cars may not be as beneficial to the environment as portrayed by environmentalists. Third, the electric car is not about to take over as the fleet vehicle of choice. What do fleet operators need to know about the future of electric cars?

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Electric Car Production is More Harmful to the Environment

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Building electric cars, especially the batteries, requires the mining, transportation, and processing of a number of rare earth elements. Lithium used in the batteries, as well as other components, emit more pollutants into the air, because high-tech batteries are more toxic by nature than ordinary car batteries.

While 99 percent of all car batteries from gas-powered vehicles are recycled, there is not yet an effective means for recycling the batteries of electric cars. This means more waste, which is more toxic waste to begin with. Though a few of the electric car batteries can be reused in power plants, this is not adequate for large numbers of lithium batteries, which only last for a few years and cost thousands of dollars to replace when exhausted.

Electric Car Ownership is More Harmful to the Environment

Electric cars are not just more harmful during the manufacturing process, the actual ownership of the vehicles may be more harmful to the environment than gas-powered vehicles. Except for the emissions of greenhouse gasses, electric cars are more polluting because they depend on a large amount of coal power plant generation to operate. This depletes natural resources and contributes to pollution at a greater rate than gas-powered vehicles. The only exception is in regions which depend mostly on renewable power sources, such as in Washington state, where wind turbines and other renewable resources offset dependence on coal power generation.

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Electric Cars are More Expensive to Buy

The price of any technology usually starts off high and gradually falls as the developers of the product recoup their investment in developing the technology. However, the speed at which this happens depends on how many people buy the product at the initial higher price. If few people make this investment, it takes longer for developers to recoup their investment, and prices for the technology remain high. In the case of the electric car, prices are still considerably higher, even with all of the federal and state incentives and rebates offered.

Electric Cars are Less Expensive to Maintain

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For fleet operators, the real benefits of an electric fleet is in the maintenance time and costs. Gas powered vehicles require oil changes, filter changes, tune ups, belts and hoses, and other regular maintenance and repair work. Comparatively, the electric fleet needs little more than tire rotations and new windshield wipers. When combined with government incentives, the labor costs saved in mechanics can tip the scales toward electric vehicles.

While consumers and fleet operators are slow to embrace the electric car, new options in hybrid and electric vehicles continue to impress reviewers. Will it eventually be the mainstay of fleet operations? That remains to be seen. [/show_to]

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