Traffic can be pretty noisy, but one component of the nation’s traffic is growing quietly. The component is the electric car. Sold by Chevrolet, Nissan, Tesla and other makers, Nissan alone has sold a quarter-million electric vehicles since 2011. Mac Martin, who sells the electric Leaf model by Nissan, says it’s so quiet the manufacturer actually installed a speaker to project artificial speed-up and slow-down noises so that pedestrians will be aware of their presence.
Martin lists some advantages of electric cars: no costs for gas, oil or any maintenance save tire rotation. Another big plus, adds USC business Professor Tamara Sheldon, is the reduction in greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, and the resulting reduction in local air pollution. The only real drawback, Sheldon and Martin say, is the limited range – an electric car typically can go around 100 miles before needing a battery recharge. However, new models have improved ranges to around 150 miles, and future ranges should exceed that, according to Martin.
South Carolina needs more public charging stations to help sales grow, he adds, but he believes the electric car is the wave of the future. Sheldon sees the demand for EVs increasing for two reasons: as more are sold, costs will come down, and the variety of vehicles, which thus far has been limited to small hatchbacks, will increase each year, which will offer more options to potential buyers (already, small electric SUVs are coming onto the market, she says). Both Sheldon and Martin see opportunities for American manufacturers in the fast-growing market for electric vehicles in Europe and China.