Volvo switching to all electric, hybrid vehicles; Is N.O. ready?

Swedish car maker Volvo announced it's phasing out gas-only cars. The company says all of its new cars will be either electric or hybrid starting in two years.

Swedish car maker Volvo announced it's phasing out gas-only cars. The company says all of its new cars will be either electric or hybrid starting in two years.

Volvo described their decision as "one of the most significant moves by any car marker."

But is the New Orleans area ready the move to electric cars?

The answer is no -- at least not yet. New Orleans is behind many other cities when it comes to accomodating electric and hybrid vehicles, but behind the scenes there are people working to make policy changes that could happen in the near future to get the area ready.

In a city that runs its world famous street cars on electricity, car owners have not embraced the same source of power. One expert says it's just like the chicken and the egg.

"If you're looking to buy a vehicle, but you don't see fueling stations, then it makes you reluctant to buy the vehicle. And if you're a business and you're saying, 'Well what if I want to put up a charging station, but there's no vehicles?' Then you don't necessarily want to put up that charging station," said Jeff Cantin, who is on the Environmental Advisory Committee that will make recommendations to the New Orleans City Council of how to change policies slowing the move to electric cars.

"The city said, 'Well, we're going to make the first move and get out in front of this and pass some of these initiatives to help pull the obstacles out of the way, but also do a little bit of education and encouragement to help this market develop,'" Cantin said.

One problem is that, as a historic city, many homes don't have driveways where people can plug in the cars. So the committee will recommend curbside chargers.

There are only 19 charging stations now in the metro area and businesses lose money putting them up. It costs a business money to install a charging station, but they can't charge customers to use it because only the utility company is allowed to sell electricity.

"The Council's aware of this in New Orleans and even the utility's aware of this," Cantin explained. "Everybody understands that this is a good thing for everyone ... So there isn't so much resistance to that as it just has to get done," 

Bill Thomas, Sales Manager at Bergeron Volvo in Metairie, thinks the transition to electric and hybrid vehicles will be a slow revolution.

"I think as they see a neighbor get a hybrid and they are satisfied with it, you're going to see more and more people," Thomas said.

He thinks New Orleans is a perfect city for a hybrid of gas and plug-in electric, or all electric, because everything is so close. On average, drivers only go 12 miles a day. And he says the money saved on gas and low maintenance with the small motor will help peoples' budgets.

"It doesn't use nearly the amount of electricity as an air conditioner, or even an electric oven or microwave," Thomas explained.

Other recommendations that will be made to the City Council Friday morning include waving permit fees for putting in a charger, making it easier for new construction and letting the cars drive in the HOV lane since they cut greenhouse emissions in half.

There will also be recommendations to help low-income people afford the typically more expensive vehicles.

Used hybrids can be found on line for around $6,000 and the new cars can plug right in to a 110 volt home socket for overnight charging. It typically takes two hours at a charging station to get a full charge in the vehicle.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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