Few options for electric cars in central Indiana

Hoosiers are looking for relief from high gas prices.

Indianapolis - With gas prices nearing $4 a gallon, buying an electric car is sounding more and more attractive. But is it a practical option in central Indiana?

Lew Middleton is test driving the Think electric car and says he loves it.

"You can wave as you're driving past the gas station saying I don't have to pay $3.85 gas right now," he said.

He says at these prices, his commute in his regular gas-powered car would cost him about $8.50 per day. In the electric car it's more like $2 - the equivalent of less than one gallon of gas.

Instead of filling up, you plug it in to charge the battery. It sounds easy enough. The problem is finding a charging station. The closest public charging station is near Purdue University so most electric car owners are limited to charging at home.

"The battery life only allows you to go about 70 to 90 miles on one charge so you're really limited to traveling in a radius that's pretty close to home," said Middleton.

The good news is if you're nowhere near a charging station there is a plan B. A level one charger plugs into a standard wall outlet. It will take you about 16 hours to charge from empty to full - double the time that it would take a charging station.

That's part of the reason why electric cars are not available at dealerships in central Indiana. Without readily available power, they're not exactly easy to sell. If you want to buy an electric car without leaving the state, the two-seater Think car is your only option. You can order it online and have it delivered.

Project Plug-in, an initiative in Indianapolis to encourage electric car use, will cover the cost of a home charging station if you're an IPL or Duke Energy customer, and they also offer a rebate on the car. With that and a federal tax credit this car will cost you just under $20,000.

Indianapolis Power and Light, a Project Plug-in partner, says public charging stations will be installed in two parking garages downtown by May 2011, offering rates of about $2.50 per charging session.

Major car makers like Nissan say they plan to distribute their electric cars to dealerships in central Indiana by 2012.