U.S. electric car traveling up a long economic hill

U.S. car company General Motors has made some tough business decisions regarding its electric-powered Chevrolet Volt. Some analysts are wondering what this means for the future of electric cars in America.

Volt owner Frederico Goodsaid can practically sneak up behind people. He says he likes the “sheer silence” of his electric car.

Goodsaid also enjoys driving by these. “I pass over 50 gas stations as I’m coming to work,” he said. “Yes.”

The Volt’s battery runs for 75 kilometers (45-50 miles). Then it can switch over to a gasoline-powered generator for another 550 kilometers (340-350 miles).

Goodsaid recharges his car in a regular outlet at home, or he can check his smartphone for battery charging locations near his office.

Neil Kopit is with a Maryland car dealership. He says his Volts are not idling on his lot. “My guys are out looking for two truckloads of them right now because I don’t have enough to sell to the people who want them,” he explained.

That’s the kind of excitement President Barack Obama hoped for when he visited a Volt manufacturing plant after the government bailed General Motors out of bankruptcy with billions of dollars in loans. “You’re producing the cars of the future,” he told automakers.

But Volt didn’t hit sales targets for 2011 and saw slow sales in January and February. So General Motors will temporarily stop production for five weeks. That has some questioning the future of electric cars in the U.S.

Lacey Plache is with Edmunds.com, a car information Web site that gets 14 million hits a month. “The basic problem is that these vehicles are so much more expensive than their gasoline-powered counterparts,” Ms. Plache stated.

Ms. Plache says gasoline would need to double in price ($8-10) before drivers would see a benefit. But at the same time, she says, automakers are building cars with better fuel economy. “That provides very strong competition to electric vehicles and plug-ins,” she said.

Another issue is the lack of public electrical outlets. They are not special — just regular plugs. But without them, drivers worry about taking the car too far from home. Despite the slowdown in Volt production, other American car makers are not putting on the brakes.

Mark Vaughn writes for Autoweek Magazine. “Within two years, we will have in the United States car market 20 electric vehicles available and as word gets out that they work,” he said. “I think this market in the United States will really grow.”

Back in his Volt, Goodsaid says a few years is nothing. “When I got my driver’s license I was driving my mom’s car, which was a 1967 Peugeot, so, times have changed,” he noted.

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