Our man drives an electric car

Our man drives an electric car
The makers of the Think electric car let our reporter drive it around — in a bubble to prove that there’s no exhaust.
Community Newspaper Group / Andy Campbell

Is the electric car the future of transportation as we know it — or just a new form of snake oil, albeit with a green hue?

I had a chance to consider this question first hand last Thursday when I hopped behind the wheel of a sweet little no-emission ride called the THINK City super car — an all-electric car that can go about a 100 miles, yet cost just two cents in fuel. The manufacturers gave the press test drives on Pier 7 at the foot of Atlantic Avenue as part of a roll-out campaign timed to the New York Auto Show in the city.

This is no putt-putt golf cart. This is a real car with real pickup (35 green horses under the hood, baby) and more space than its miniature predecessor, the Smart Car. The makers even put the car inside a plastic bubble so that we could see that it creates no emissions (I’ll admit, I was not the first volunteer inside the bubble).

But here’s the catch: There’s no pricetag, yet. The goal right now is to convince local governments, like the East Coast’s biggest car buyer, New York City, to toss away those Chevys and Priuses and switch over to an all-electric fleet.

That would jumpstart the market, which would encourage entrepreneurs to set up charging stations.

The Department of Transportation is already on board — to a point.

“We’re very supportive because electric drive could play a significant role in the city fleet in terms of cost saving and emissions,” said Mark Simon, spokesman for the agency’s alternative fuels wing. “We’re definitely looking at making it available and seeing where it fits with all city agencies.”

THINK officials said they’re looking at 2012 or 2013 to put the cars — already a hit in European countries where gas prices reach $8 per gallon or more — on the New York market, but there are still some huge hurdles to tackle.

First, there’s the battery. Barry Carr, spokesman for THINK, said it’ll cost $15,000 for a replacement after the 12-year warranty is up. That’s like buying a whole new car every decade — though the company is talking about some sort of recycling-rebate program.

Next comes an even bigger problem: where to plug in when you’ve parked two blocks from your house and the longest extension cord you have is 12 feet.

THINK is working with Clean Cities — a city group dedicated to lowering greenhouse gas emissions through alternative fuel sources — to come up with easy-to-install power sources in parking garages, hotels and parking stalls citywide. Eventually, charging stations will be everywhere, we’re told.

Maybe, but it’s 2010. Weren’t we all supposed to be driving electric cars — that fly! — by now?

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