BOSTON — The best that electric vehicles have to offer took center stage on Beacon Hill Wednesday.
State officials and industry representatives were on hand at the state capital to show off a small fleet of the cars equipped with advancements in technology that have improved mileage, charging time, affordability and design.
Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose, I-Amherst, sponsored the event at which Statehouse staff could test drive some of the vehicles, which can range in cost from around $20,000 to more than $80,000. Before the test drive, however, industry representatives described some of the challenges to making these vehicles the norm.
Plug-in electric vehicles require infrastructure to allow drivers to charge their cars while they are away from home. The panelists said that uncertainty about the availability of a charging station deters some buyers, but that battery efficiency is getting better with more mileage per charge and faster charging.
Other cars, like the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell at the event, run on hydrogen fuel. It makes for a familiar experience to those who have been driving a vehicle with an internal combustion engine — the car needs to be filled up with fuel at a station. But the exhaust of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is water, so it gets a zero-emissions rating. The biggest downside of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is the lack of fuel at gas stations, according to Chris Koczela, who represented Honda North America at the event.
Despite limited infrastructure, electric vehicles may have their benefits, the panelists noted, describing the widely touted quieter and more environmentally friendly engines of electric vehicles. But they also noted alternate uses and stylishness of the vehicles.
“These are pretty cool cars … We don’t have to necessarily market them as just (electric vehicles) but actually because they’re really cool, fast cars,” said Alli Gold Roberts of Ceres.
Karsten Barde of National Grid explained that electric companies have to factor in the electric vehicle market in its planning. He noted the potential of electric vehicles to be used as emergency electricity sources for homes during a power outage.
Christine Lytwynec writes for the Gazette from the Boston University Statehouse Program.