Electric cars might be the best transportation choice for the future. Their main drawback is the battery pack
- this is usually quite expensive, doesn't hold enough energy for decent range, and often uses environmentally-hostile lead. However, technology marches on, and the NiMH
(Nickel Metal Hydride
used in the newer electric vehicles are 100% recyclable and contain no harmful lead or lithium. They are expensive, but have never been produced in quantities where economies of scale
would take effect.
Fuel cells are promising, but there are problems with hydrogen fuel cells. There is no infrastructure for distributing hydrogen, whereas there is already an established infrastructure for distributing electricity and gasoline. Hydrogen is difficult to create and store, and it requires electricity to create - the same electricity that could have been used to charge an electric car. Fuel cells can be equipped with reformers, so they can be fueled with gasoline or natural gas - stripping the hydrogen from these fuels to use in the fuel cell - however, this brings us back to fossil fuel dependency and emissions problems.
Current hybrid-electric cars (Honda Insight, Toyota Prius) are really glorified gasoline cars that are more efficient. They receive all their input power from gasoline, so there is really no electric power component to them. What might be ideal is what is called a pluggable hybrid - a hybrid-electric car that has large enough batteries to travel 20-40 miles on pure electric power, and can plug into the wall to charge the batteries. Most people don't drive more than 20-40 miles a day, so they would be able to use pure electric power 97% of the time, and the 3% of the time they need to go on long trips, they would use the gasoline engine.
Range: EVs don't have the range of gasoline cars, or hybrids, or fuel cell vehicles. However, most people do not drive more than 20-40 miles a day, and very rarely go on long-distance trips. Personally, I plug in my car in the evening, and in the morning it is fully charged. I drive around during the day, then plug in at night. I never have to go to the gas station.
Emissions: studies have shown that, even taking upstream emissions into account (i.e. power generation emissions), EVs reduce emissions by 97% over normal gasoline cars. And this doesn't even take into account the upstream emissions of gasoline (i.e. oil and gasoline spills, shipping the oil around the world, electric energy used in refining, etc.)
Also note that electric vehicles get cleaner as our electric power supply gets cleaner, unlike gasoline cars which get dirtier as their emissions systems age. Also, many people remove their emissions systems to improve performance on their gasoline car - electric vehicles are inherently clean and have no need for emissions systems. And the best part is, you can install solar panels on your roof and use them to charge your car with 100% renewable energy. Also, if you live in an area where you can choose your electricity provider, you can sign up for 100% renewable energy and achieve the same goal.
EVs are fun to drive and tend to have large amounts of torque in the low RPM range compared to a gasoline engine. My EV1 can blow anyone away off the line. There is no transmission, so acceleration is glass smooth.
There is also no radiator, fuel pump, motor oil, or catalytic converter - it is a very simple car! Note that there is much pollution that stems from these additional devices - 180 million gallons of motor oil are sent to our landfills and are poured down drains every year - the equivalent of 16 Exxon Valdez spills.
Regarding simplicity of the electric vehicle: the motors in modern cars have hundreds of moving parts, whereas the motor of an EV has one moving part. Combine this with the simplicity of the car, and you would have much less need to go to the service station.
To summarize - electric vehicles are fun to drive, easy to maintain, and reduce pollution.