Electric Cars: Will They Ever Be Ready To Drive?


The e-mail jumped off the screen at me. It came in earlier this week when I asked you why we have not seen a "game changing" car, truck, or SUV in a while.

Ray wrote of his interest in Chevy's electric/gas hybrid Volt currently in development. He ended his e-mail saying: "Why isn't this (the Volt) being promoted more and also why isn't GM advertising this car more and educating the public on the economics? Am I wrong in thinking this is truly the car of the future?"

I e-mailed back to him that GM is walking a fine line between touting the potential of the Volt and not over-promising a car that still faces numerous technological hurdles. But this e-mail has me realizing that we are on the cusp of the electric or battery driven car getting broader recognition. Are we ready? Are the automakers ready?

The second question is easy to answer. In limited numbers, electric vehicles are ready to roll. Look at the Tesla Roadster. The $98,000 electric car will soon be out on the street. For the wealthy who can afford a Tesla, this is a great time.

But for the rest of us, it is likely going to still be years until we see a Tesla type vehicle. The Volt may not be here by the target date of 2010, and the various other models being tested around the world are still far from ready. The primary issue is establishing battery packs that provide the type of performance we expect in our car.

For many people that's disappointing news. They are ready to drive a zero or very low emissions car. They have seen enough of the Volt and Tesla to wet their appetites. And yet, they remain behind the wheel of standard gas powered models.

And for you conspiracy theorists, there is not a plot to keep these cars from taking off. Much as I enjoy a good conspiracy theory, this notion of automakers, big oil, and Washington working to keep electric cars from being developed is absurd.

Stay tuned. The electric car may be a ways from rolling in mass numbers, but that part of the industry (and auto fans) are ready for a jolt.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com