Self-driving, gesture-controlled cars may be all the rage at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, but in reality those advances are still years away. A fully automated vehicle will probably not be produced or sold in the next decade. So what’s REALLY the big news story in car tech? Electric. The electric car is finally here, and it’s all grown up and ready for prime time.
It all started with the Tesla. Well, it started before then with the Prius and Volt hybrids, but the Tesla Model S is what really got people’s imaginations going. Here was a car that was 100% plug-in electric, that could be charged to near full in only a few hours, that looked good, drove great, and actually had a useable range.
Since the first Model S debuted a few years ago, high-end auto manufacturers like BMW and Mercedes have been playing catch-up, and putting out some great cars like the i3 and i8. The only problem? Most people can’t afford to pay $40k plus for a glorified toy that doesn’t fit all of their car needs perfectly.
Finally, though, it looks like plug-ins and hybrids have finally hit the mainstream with almost every manufacturer putting out either a full electric or a hybrid across multiple platforms. Even Hyundai, long seen as a “budget-brand” car, is planning on releasing a full-electric plug-in vehicle by 2016. It looks like the electric car is finally ready and finally here to stay.
The big driver for more electric vehicles has been, to no one’s surprise, high gas prices. It’s almost hard to remember now with a gallon selling for under $2 in much of the country, but only two short months ago prices were over $3 per gallon. This made a plug-in or hybrid vehicle very attractive to fuel-conscious consumers. Add in the dropping prices for many electric cars, and it seemed like a no-brainer.
In the next few years, however, the big push will be range. Currently, most plug-ins have a range of only 80-100 miles. That’s enough for the average daily drive, but not nearly enough for those rare times you have to drive all over town or take a road-trip to visit a far-away relative. New technologies, however, are advancing rapidly, and some analysts claim that the electric car will have a range of 200+ miles on one charge within 5-10 years.
In the meantime, as long as these unusually low gas prices don’t scare consumers off, we can look forward to hybrids and all-electrics continuing to show up on more and more lots, and in more and more driveways.