Friday, 15 August 2008

Electric cars

I have seen the future . . . and it's a clown car.

With oil still trading far above the $100 per barrel mark, electric cars are all the rage. While petrol fuelled hybrids like the Toyota Prius get most of the attention, there are also a few models available that just run on electricity. These cars have some major drawbacks: they are very small, they have a limited range (under 50 miles), and they must be plugged in for several hours to recharge the batteries. However, those factors are perfectly tolerable in a city car that is designed for short trips around town.

These little 2-seaters may look a bit clownish, but they're quite practical for a short commute or shopping trips in central London.

Some local councils in London are promoting the use of these cars by offering free on-street parking. Electric cars are also exempt from the 8 quid a day Congestion Charge. An article in this week's Economist notes the popularity of these cars, and the efforts by local governments to encourage their use, although it comments that many of these benefits are now being cut back.

The best perk I've seen is on Berkeley Square. The City of Westminster has installed several charging points that are free to use for drivers of electric cars; drivers just pay a nominal annual fee for a key to turn on the juice. With petrol prices at record highs, I can't think of anything better than having the local government pay to power your car.

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