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Earth Sense: Take care of car now, then go electric
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Modern electric cars have changed from fairly unattractive designs to very nice automobiles.

Unfortunately, the generous $5,000 tax credit that Georgia offered for many years expired in 2015, and sales declined. A bill proposing lower tag fees for “green” vehicles is still working its way through the legislature. Gasoline prices are lower than they were 10 years ago, so it makes sense to hold on to the fuel-burning car for now.

But the electric motor is the automotive force of the future. It has fewer moving parts than a gasoline engine.

Injection sensors, throttle bodies, pistons, transmissions, alternators, exhaust mufflers — all these items and their costly repair bills will go away eventually.

An electric motor is remarkably simple. The main difficulty is battery output, which has been improving, but more progress is needed before you can drive an electric car across the country without encountering challenges.

During my working stay in Anhui, China, this year, I was amazed by the number of electric scooters, silently zooming through traffic. Battery capacity is an issue there, too, witnessed by the fact that many electric vehicles are seen driving without lights at night to conserve power.

The most frugal approach to the problem is to keep the gas-powered car in good shape until you’re ready to go electric. All the articles about long-lived automobiles reaching 1 million or even 2 million miles show a common thread: oil.

Changing the engine oil every 3,000 miles, without exceptions, virtually guarantees that the engine will not wear out. Modern oils are of the highest quality ever. Replacing the oil and filter is an easy job for moderately talented home mechanics, and of course there are plenty of local places offering the service.

Used oil must never be discarded in the trash or poured on the ground. Most auto parts stores will let you return the old oil for free, to be recycled.

Brakes will continue to be a wear-out item. Since this is a safety consideration, finding a good local brake service is a must for all car owners, unless one has enough experience to install new parts safely at home. Keeping the radiator coolant at the recommended fluid level is another easy but important task, and so is maintaining proper tire pressure.

These few maintenance chores go a long way toward keeping the vehicle running safely until the day you purchase that dream electric car.

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.

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