"It's engineered like a BMW," says Aitken, who leases the car and drives it around the San Francisco Bay area. Used by UCS to advertise the potential of clean cars, it is charged at the UCS office and Aitken's home, which both buy 100% renewables electricity from Green Mountain Power's "Wind for the Future 2.0" program (Windpower Monthly, April 1999). About a quarter of the power in the program is to be from new wind projects.
Aitken says the car accelerates from zero to 60 in six seconds and handles like a sports car-not bad for a vehicle that some are still dismissing as a useless fad. Especially disdainful are what EV aficionados call ICERs, or drivers who use internal combustion engines, rather than bicyclists or pedestrians. The EV1's range is about 50 miles in the city and 80 miles on the California freeways, and it can be charged in two or two and a half hours.
Even with America's low gas prices, it is still cheaper to run than a conventional vehicle. Aitken, who specialises in renewable energy in the electric system, estimates that its mileage costs are about one-quarter of those of a traditional car. Ultra low emission fuel cell hybrids are expected on the market by 2004, or sooner, says Aitken. Ultimately the designers are heading for a zero-emission pure fuel cell vehicle, charged, of course, by renewables. UCS estimates that conventional vehicles may cost Americans as much as $50 billion to $230 billion annually in pollution and global warming impacts.