Don’t worry. He’s housebroken.

Electric cars, while a smart choice for a lot of people, aren’t going to be a practical transportation solution for everyone, at least at the moment. If you live in an apartment, for instance, and park on the street, you probably won’t have a place to charge up. Or perhaps you’re a one-car family that needs to be able to travel long distances once in a while.

Sure, the Chevy Volt and other plug-in hybrids address those concerns, but until battery technology dramatically improves and charging stations proliferate, purely electric vehicles are going to have limited application.

There are, however, situations where an electric car makes a lot more sense than one powered by gasoline. Car-sharing, for example.

Services like Hourcar in the Twin Cities, I-GO and Zipcar in Chicago, and Community Car in Madison are popping up all over the country. Chicago’s car-sharing services are playing a major role in that city’s effort to expand electric car infrastructure.

Car-sharing eliminates the logistical problems that may come with private ownership of an EV. Since the cars need to be kept at specific locations, they can always be stored near a charger. The services are designed for short trips, eliminating “range anxiety.” And EVs don’t have to be filled with gas or taken to the shop for regular oil changes.

Adam Aston, writing for OnEarth Magazine, discovered another advantage. EVs used for car sharing can also be small and relatively spartan, requiring fewer batteries and smaller motors. They’re typically used by a single driver in a big city, making a tiny car like a Smart ForTwo ideal. Aston also found the electric ForTwo a better performer in traffic than its gasoline counterpart, as well as being more spacious.

Smart’s dimensions will never offer the tank-like comforts of an SUV, but as I dart through holes in traffic that no other car could fit and nimbly dodge potholes, even on slushy roads, I’m grinning. The ED may be pint sized, but it’s got great self-confidence, a plus for any newcomer to New York.

And perhaps more importantly, the EVs used by car-sharing services will provide an incentive for public-private partnerships to install charging stations, making private ownership of electric cars more practical.

Photo by harry_nl via Creative Commons

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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