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Why the people who could most use electric cars will probably get them last

Friends scoffing at David's choice for a replacement car as too wasteful got him to thinking about electric cars:

Exactly where and how would I charge an electric car when I live five stories up and park on the street? Even if I could reliably park near my building, I'd need at least 50 feet of extension cord from my window just to reach the ground. I somehow doubt that the even the People's Republic of Cambridge would grant me the right to monopolize a chunk of curb space right in front of the building for this purpose.

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Imagine a 2-for-1 smash hit. Zipcar just needs to get electric cars.

Zipcar has regular parking spots that it would only need to power as part of its arrangement with the landlord...AND he could give up his personal car needs by choosing to car-share in the city instead.

It'd kill two birds with one plug. Also, it only takes 10 long hours if you plug into 120V. If you can rig up a 240V (like a dryer outlet) for the car, it takes 4 hours for a full recharge on the Chevy Volt. Others may be even better than that at taking a charge and most Zipcars won't need a full charge.

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If Zip Car paid the premium for Chevy Volts, they'd never make a profit and go out of business. Chevy Volts are for yuppies with money to burn.

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ZipCar already pays a premium for the Toyota Prius and other hybrids. Why wouldn't they pay for the Volt? They'll stock what the customer demands, and if enough customers want to try out a Volt, why not stock them at charge-friendly locations? As for the assertion that a city mouse needs an electric car most, it's suburban "yuppies with money to burn" (aka early adopters) who burn the most fuel on a daily basis, so why shouldn't they get first crack at the Volt? That would be a more effective use of the vehicle than catering to the couple-of-blocks city driver.

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But you're wrong. Using the $7500 plug-in car tax credit, the Volt will be priced lower than a comparable Prius Hybrid (non-plug version). Zipcar has a ton of Priuses for hourly rental because they quickly make up the price difference in lower gas costs. The Volt's gas cost for a 1-2 hour rental going less than 40 miles in the city: $0. Their hourly rental rate would go entirely to insurance, depreciation, and profit...with a few pennies left over for the electricity to recharge the battery.

In the past 6 months, I've used a Zipcar once to go over 40 miles. So, for your average, say, 25 mile Zipcar rental, you're either going to burn about a gallon of gas in a normal car ($2.50) or use about 4-5 KWH (currently about $0.08/KWH...so $0.40 tops). AND remember, they only have to make up the difference in price between buying the Volt vs buying any other car instead...not the entire price of the Volt.

If you can't see how they could quickly make up the difference in price between a Volt and a Prius or a Volt and any of the other cars in their fleet just in the energy prices alone by multiple short rentals (like the hourly-only hybrids in their fleet), then I can't help you.

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This wouldn't help that guy, but there's a row of spaces with outlets in the Alewife garage, reserved for electric cars.

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If David lives in the city, why does he need a car?

He's been "freed" with the ability to use the T or a bike + zipcar and cabs. Something the burbs have limited access to.

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