Electric vehicles catching on in China; Smart cars coming to U.S.

All the talk these days is about hybrid and hydrogen cars, but in China, where air pollution is an ongoing crisis, they haven’t given up on electric vehicles. Improvements in battery technology are making electric cars, scooters, and buses a viable option, with shorter charging times and traveling ranges that rival those of gasoline-powered vehicles. Electric scooters are already popular in crowded cities, and Beijing and Shanghai plan to deploy hundreds of electric buses in coming years. As Lee Schipper of the World Resources Institute points out, “Such cars still do not represent ‘zero emission vehicles,’ only ‘elsewhere emission vehicles,'” as the power to charge them has to come from somewhere, but he still sees small electric vehicles as a positive development. In other greenish vehicle news, the unbearably cute Smart micro-car — a two-seater that gets 60 miles to the gallon, sold in Europe since 1998 — just received final U.S. EPA clearance and should debut on American roads in early 2005.