Plug-in cars move from dreamland to almost here

Plug-in cars — and energy independence — are just around the corner, er, make that just around the calendar.
General Motors says its Chevy Volt will be in showrooms in 2011. It will have an EPA mileage rating of 250 miles per gallon. Nissan said last week its Leaf, an all-electric, will be produced and sold late next year. It will have an even more staggering EPA rating of 367 MPG.
What do those numbers mean? The Volt can travel 40 miles in big city traffic using only electricity for fuel. When the battery runs down, a small gasoline engine kicks in and recharges it. It also will be rechargeable from a household outlet overnight. Charging a car’s batteries will cost a fraction of the cost of a tank of gas; pennies instead of dollars.
About 80 percent of those who commute to work drive fewer than 40 miles a day. They could recharge their batteries in their garage overnight and, theoretically, use no gasoline at all.
Several rivals, including Chrysler and Ford, are planning plug-ins and electric cars; Toyota is developing a plug-in version of its gas-electric hybrid, the Prius, according to a New York Times story.
As the U.S. automobile fleet changes from all gasoline to, say, 50 percent electricity, oil imports will plummet. For all practical purposes, the energy independence goal will have been achieved.
While this transportation revolution is occurring, the nation — and the rest of the industrialized world — also will be over the hump in constructing wind farms, solar energy centers and other alternative energy providers that employ renewable or inexhaustible sources of power.
All of these revolutionary changes can and should be speeded along by proactive government policymaking. Becoming less dependent on im-ported oil is clearly in our best interest for a long, long list of reasons, with our national security and our material well-being at the very top.
Reducing the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is a collateral benefit that plug-in cars and trucks would help the world achieve.
Congress should continue to help manufacturers and consumers make the shift with tax credits, depreciation benefits and outright subsidies with the assurance that the dividends will be far greater than the investment will cost.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.

N.B. I “commute” about 3 miles a day and that includes an occasional stop at the grocery store and gas station. Any of the plug-ins in the experimental stage or on the drawing board could reduce my gasoline consumption for Iola travel to zero. Annually. That glimpse into the future prospect should keep a lot of folks in Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Canada, Mexico and Iran awake nights.