2011 Nissan Leaf

We've already seen the panic here in the U.S. as activists and analysts question our nuclear infrastructure, and Congress considers a re-examination of our existing facilities. These new fears about nuclear power have everything to do with the events unfolding at Japan's Fukushima power plant, and Automotive News wonders if that trepidation could dampen the prospects of electric vehicles as well.

Plans in Europe call for about 1 million EVs on the road by 2020, and a lot that push centers around increasing the number of nuclear power plants to feed these vehicles. Let's face it, an EV that's charged via electricity generated at an oil or coal-burning plant doesn't do much to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, so nuclear makes a lot of sense. And as costly and time-consuming as it is to erect a nuclear facility, it's likely easier and less expensive than relying on solar, wind or hydro-electric energy sources.

So what does all this have to do with electric vehicles? If the events unfolding in Japan lead governments to question the safety and viability of nuclear power, then new plants will be slow to come online. If car buyers know that their EV is likely burning the same CO2-emitting fossil fuels as their neighbor's internal combustion engine, what's the point of paying more for something that's just as dirty, more expensive and not as easy to fuel up?

Right now the situation at the Fukushima power plant is dire, but if the situation gets worse, the future of nuclear power, and possibly even EVs, could be just as bleak.

[Source: Automotive News sub. req.]