Green talk: Electric cars for the real world

While electric vehicles have proved fairly popular they may become even more attractive — to consumers and manufacturers — with tough new standards recently announced by President Obama. The corporate average fuel economy standards — known as CAFE — will boost the average gas mileage of new cars and trucks by nearly double over the next 13 years. A manufacturer's fleet of new cars and trucks will have to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, compared to 28.6 mpg at the end of last year.

It's a "very steep" incline for auto makers, said automobile journalist and blogger Jim Motavalli, "and they will have to start working pretty hard to get towards that goal. An electric car is good for the ratings." An electric car can have a miles per gallon equivalent (mpge) rating of 115.

Mr. Motavalli will discuss electric vehicles, the electric vehicle industry and his book, High Voltage: The Fast Track to Plug in the Auto Industry, when he visits Wilton on Sunday, Sept. 9, from 4:30 to 6 at Wilton Library. He will be the first guest in the new WGG/WLA Green Speaker Series co-sponsored by Wilton Go Green and the library.

"One of our objectives is to educate Wilton on ways to live sustainably," said Jana Bertkau, president of Wilton Go Green. "We look constantly for ways of doing this. One of the ideas that came up was a speaker series.

"Jim was very timely," she said of the decision to ask Mr. Motavalli to lead off the series. "We have a charging station at the library now. We would love to get some more — at the train station, maybe town hall. With the new CAFE regulations, there may be more of an interest in driving electric vehicles. We want Wilton to be ahead of the curve," she said.

A second speaker, Doug Mcdonald, has been confirmed for Nov. 18. Mr. McDonald has retrofitted a home in Westport using German sustainability techniques. "His bills for power usage are just minimal," Ms. Bertkau said, adding Mr. Mcdonald is an engaging speaker and "any ordinary layman can go and get really excited."

A third program is in the works with a date yet to be set.

At the program Sunday, copies of Mr. Motavalli's book will be for sale and there will be a reception following the talk. To register, visit and click on Events or call 203-762-3950, ext. 213.

Mr. Motavalli

Mr. Motavalli, who lives in Fairfield, said he was unaware the library has a charging station. "That's very innovative," he said. "I never heard of a library that had a charging station. It's really commendable."

But with the advances being made in electric cars vast numbers of public charging stations may not be necessary as most charging will be done at home, he predicted.

While the Chevy Volt has a range of 50 miles per charge — it does have gasoline backup with a range of 300 miles — the Tesla Model S has a range of 160 to 300 miles, depending on the type of battery purchased.

With a PowerPoint presentation at the library, Mr. Motavalli will discuss electric cars in general and their history. He will also talk about how the vehicles are practical for "regular folks" and what subsidies are available when purchasing.

Mr. Motavalli discusses Tesla, Chevrolet and many other cars and car manufacturers in his book, which was published in November.

"It's a look at the electric cars now being made, as the industry is being launched," he said. It traces the emergence of the industry through both mainstream companies like Chevrolet, Toyota and Nissan and startups like Tesla and Fisker. Fisker makes a "glamorous plug-in" called the Karma, "very sexy looking," Mr. Motavalli said, that retails for about $100,000.

"I also look at tiny startups like Wheego in Atlanta, with five employees that built a car on $5 million," a minuscule amount for a new car. "It's a tiny thing like the smart car called LiFe."

Building an electric car is not as complicated as building a gas-powered car, so startup companies can get in on the game, but it is still expensive. A number of small companies have gone out of business even after raising $30 million to $40 million.

"They put a lot of faith in getting a federal loan," he said,