News / USA

Americans Rev Up for Cleaner, More Efficient Cars

Obama calls on US automakers to produce more electric-powered alternatives

Lawyer Jeff Parmet, behind the wheel of his Volt, says he hasn't pumped gas since buying the electric car in December.
Lawyer Jeff Parmet, behind the wheel of his Volt, says he hasn't pumped gas since buying the electric car in December.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

Americans are in the market for more energy-efficient and cleaner-running cars. In his State of the Union address to Congress last month President Obama challenged the U.S. automotive industry produce more electric-powered alternatives.

"With more research and incentives we can break our dependence on oil with bio-fuels and become the first country to have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015," he said.

That message echoed through the cavernous exhibition halls of the 2011 Washington Auto Show, held recently in the nation’s capital, where 700 domestic and imported vehicles were on public display, including new, environmentally friendly, or "green" cars.  

Green Car Journal editor Ron Cogan awarded the magazine’s Green Vision Award to Ford for redesigning its best-selling Focus line of gas powered cars into the Ford Focus Battery Electric model. "This is a pretty amazing car.  The technology is first rate," he said.

Another crowd pleaser at the show was the all-electric 2011 Chevy Volt, which General Motors introduced as a concept car in 2007 and is on sale in U.S. showrooms.

Cogan says the sleek, aerodynamic four-seater is a milestone in automotive engineering.  "It offers the essence of what an electric vehicle should be, with the ability to have an on-board internal combustion engine generator that also creates electricity so you can just continue driving."

High performance

That’s been the experience of Jeff Parmet, a lawyer who works from his home in Potomac, Maryland.  He says he hasn’t pumped a drop of gas into his car since he bought it in December.  "Ideally I never want to put gas in it.  That’s the goal."

Jeff Parmet starts his Volt inside on a cold day using an application on his mobile phone.
Jeff Parmet starts his Volt inside on a cold day using an application on his mobile phone.

The Volt goes about 65 kilometers on a single charge. When the onboard gas generator kicks in to recharge the battery, the car can go up to 480 kilometers between plug-ins.

Parmet says the Volt more than meets his needs. "A lot of people thought it would be like driving a glorified golf cart. That's not the case. This is an engineering marvel. It’s a performance car. It really accelerates fast. It handles great. It corners great. My hat is off to Chevy for what they did with this car. I’m just delighted with it."

General Motors hopes to manufacture 10,000 Chevy Volts this year and another 45,000 in 2012.  

On a cold day like this one, Parmet sits at his kitchen table and warms up the Volt by tapping into an application on his mobile phone. A few minutes later in the garage he unplugs the long electric charging cable from the car and stores it in his home power station, a box on the wall about the size and shape of a large bathroom scale.

Volt owner Jeff Parmet disconnects the power cord from his new electric car.
Volt owner Jeff Parmet disconnects the power cord from his new electric car.

Next he gets in and pushes a power button to start the car. The car responds in silence.  An electronic sound effect confirms that the motor has started. The only noise when he drives is from the wind outside.  

Parmet gazes down at his glowing instrument panel. There’s a digital speedometer, a satellite navigation system and buttons to control the radio and the cabin temperature. He also monitors a rear-view camera and a computer screen that calculates battery range, a display with settings for recharging, and a gauge that gives continuous feedback on driver efficiency.

Assessing costs and benefits

Parmet admits that the Volt is expensive. He says while it costs about twice that of a similar-sized car with a gasoline engine, it’s a price he’s willing to pay.

Animation on a screen in the dashboard in Volt tells the driver the status of the battery charge.
Animation on a screen in the dashboard in Volt tells the driver the status of the battery charge.

"I bought this car because I strongly believe that we need to move off an oil petroleum-based transportation economy. And I want to make a statement. So I felt that this was an opportunity to do more than just talk the talk."

Parmet sees a bright future for electric cars. He says tighter air pollution controls and higher fuel economy standards have resulted in more efficient gas-powered cars, but he thinks Americans are ready for alternative cars that can achieve much higher energy efficiencies.  As more and more electric re-charging stations are installed in public places around the country and as prices begin to come down, Parmet is confident he'll be seeing more and more electric cars joining his on America's highways.

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid