I've been looking to make my first personal sighting of an electric car, but I've seen nothing so far by a major manufacturer despite a quick trip to see my latest grandkid in the eco-friendly Seattle/Puget Sound area.
The first delivery in the United States popped up earlier this month in California going to Olivier Chalouhi of Redwood City, reported John Voelcker, senior editor of greencarreports.com. It was a black 2011 Nissan Leaf SL from a dealership in Petaluma.
Now Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates has received one of 10 Leafs delivered to his government, the first, according to officials, in Europe. The Nissan electric procurement is meant to publicize Portugal's MOBI.E Program, which offers a charging network for the vehicles and is working with other automobile manufacturers to develop a system that will promote greater use of the cars.
Portugal's Prime Minister José Socrates is one of 10 recipients and will reportedly now travel exclusively by Electric Car for his official travels around Lisbon.
Socrates said he's proud of the distinction and called his fledgling charging network "a leading example to the world of how to roll out electric cars." He said in a statement that "Portugal is the first country in the world to have a nation-wide smart grid for electric vehicles."
Portugal gives the rest of us at least two things in the EV roll out to watch. The first is whether consumers will accept the Portuguese government's efforts to provide recharging stations. And the second is whether electric cars can overcome concerns and prejudices of multiple generations used to the freedom and security of internal combustion.
Portugal's not taking chances by sweetening the pot. Private customers buying one of the first 5,000 electric cars will be entitled to a 5,000-euro incentive and don't have to pay registration or a "single circulation" tax. Another 1,500 euro rebate is available to those who replace cars ready to croak.
Americans have incentives as well, but generally electric cars come with a premium. I noted in a past post how Honda was working to get its Insight hybrid priced for the masses to boost sales, pushing the base cost to about $18,200.
But electrics have a way to go with a cost of between $30,000 and $40,000. I went online over the holidays looking at the VW TDI Golf, which I priced well appointed for about $23,600. The diesel gets phenomenal mileage (reportedly 42 mpg highway) and is another option for the eco-minded.
So there's stiff competition. Maybe by the time I travel again to Bellingham, Wash. to see little Cyrus in six months, we'll see a Leaf or Volt or something else electric cruising the tree-studded streets.
I did see a glorified street legal golf cart-looking rig in Seattle's U District on Thursday. I wonder what the automotive landscape will look like when Cyrus turns 5?
Photo: Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates and his Leaf.