mdp said:Sorry guys, a bit out of place here, but believe me...if you can keep your blood pressure down, it's a program definately worth watching! We're all about mpg's here. Anyone see it on Directv?
Who Killed the Electric Car?
By Ralph Kinney Bennett : 29 Jun 2006Upon hearing the word 'electricity,' I paid closer attention to the vehicle which was going by me at that precise moment and it was easy for me to notice that, in fact, the 'soul' of the movement was indeed electricity.
-- Abbe Moigne encounters an electric vehicle on the streets of Paris, April 8, 1881.
Who killed the electric car?
Don't be ridiculous. You can't kill the electric car.
It's been around for well over a century.
It's the Frankenstein's monster of automobiledom. No, no, it's the Orphan Annie of automobiledom -- eternally singing "Tomorrow! Tomorrow!"
And tomorrow is only a battery away.
An odd (at first glance) amalgam of greenies, electric vehicle worshipers, energy independence conservatives and La-la Land liberals are all excited about Who Killed the Electric Car? (See the Sony Pictures trailer here) the "documentary mystery" film premiering this week which alleges the "murder" of the EV1, General Motors' electric car that cost the corporation billions and was leased to less than a thousand select customers between 1996 and 2003.
Hate to ruin the plot for you, but, yes folks, according to this film, the sleek little EV1 met the same fate as that myth-shrouded carburetor that could deliver more than 100 miles per gallon (and fueled millions of bull sessions for the past half century or so). It was done in by Big Oil and the Big Auto Makers and the whole gang of muffler shops, service stations, oil change stops, auto parts retailers, shade tree mechanics, engine rebuilders -- the evil spawn of the "infernal combustion engine."
According to the movie, this cabal does not want you to drive around in a silent, clean, cute and responsible vehicle like an electric car. So when a "viable" electric car came along -- brought to you by General Motors no less -- it had to die.
And, oh yes, before I forget, aiding and abetting this crime was, of course, the Bush Administration and particularly its slippery Richelieu, the Vice President. Indeed, this conspiracy is so big and dark that the Smithsonian Institution has removed the EV1 from display at the museum. It now rests in a warehouse somewhere in the Maryland suburbs.
Electric automobiles have been pronounced dead many times over the past century. Automotive history in the U.S. and Europe is littered with their names: Morris & Salom Electrobat, American Electric, Bushberry Electric Dog Cart, Jeantaud, Krieger, Woods, Baker, Detroit, Columbia, Riker, Foster, Rauch & Lang, Flanders, Studebaker, Waverly, Van Wagoner, Standard Electrique, to name a few.
Like strange, silent techno-zombies EVs keep rolling back into the public eye, earnestly appealing to us to ignore basic economics and fall under the sway of their swift, silent, non-polluting mobility. But despite the most ardent labor of various entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers; despite some of the most ingenious inventions, adaptations, modifications and applications of all sorts of technology, EVs have not been able to become the car the public wants them to be.
They have succeeded as purpose-built vehicles -- fork lifts, golf carts, "city cars," airport shuttles and the like. But they have never become the car for the open road, the let's-drive-over-to-the-shore-for-the-weekend car.
Let's go over this one more time, class: Range. Range is the problem. Electric cars do not have sufficient range to be the practical, versatile, every day car most people want.
They don't have range because they operate on batteries -- those mysterious sealed devices that convert chemicals into stored electrical energy. And batteries can't store enough energy to keep an EV going more than 50 or 60 miles, or in rare cases (with experienced drivers and the latest and very expensive nickel-metal-hydride battery packs) 150 miles, before they have to be recharged.
Put it this way. I can drive my wife's big Lexus 55 miles on two gallons (about 16 pounds) of gasoline that cost me six bucks. An electric car like the one featured here could travel the same distance by exhausting its 1000-pound battery pack (lead-acid, costing $2000) which would then have to be recharged. The recharging would take about four hours. I could replace the two gallons of gasoline in about 30 seconds, but I wouldn't have to because my wife's car can easily go another 450 highway cruising miles on a tank of gas.
I have always been fascinated by electric cars. And I appreciate the enthusiasm of EV partisans. But, frankly, I'm a little tired of hearing people brag about heroic 120 or 200 mile trips in their EVs. And how they only had to wait three or four hours before their batteries were charged up enough to go another 100 miles, provided they kept a feather foot on the accelerator.
And I am weary of how impressively fast EVs are. Of course they're fast. The direct power to the wheels is impressive. But at what cost? A huge drain on the batteries and dramatic decrease in cruising range.
Look, I drove the EV1, and I liked it -- for what it was. But it seemed like an awful lot of technological fuss -- super hard, low rolling-resistance tires, epoxy body construction, plastic panels, magnesium seat frames, advanced electronics -- at, according to one estimate, about $80,000 per car -- just to deliver a driving experience I could pretty much replicate and easily eclipse in a Miata or a Scion or a Honda S2000.
No matter what high hopes one may have for them, electric cars are cars of low expectations. They are, at their best, "only" cars -- cars for people who expect to drive only a few miles, only on generally flat roads, with only themselves or perhaps one passenger, with only light cargo, and only in moderate weather.
In the "urban environment" so cherished by enlightened folks, EVs are adequate to the task. Electric propulsion is wonderful in a closed and somewhat predictable environment like, say Catalina Island. You just silently glide along, accelerate instantly, and have a general feeling of well being. But, alas, we can't all live on Catalina Island.
(I write this fully aware of that handful of dedicated devotees who soldier on with electric cars in freezing temperatures, haul their families in converted electric sedans or vans, and manage fairly long trips.)
I do like the idea of electric cars. And I am always hoping that the latest enthusiasm about a revolutionary battery will in fact be true. But I have also found that too many EV enthusiasts seem to be a little bit contemptuous of ordinary folk who want to pack everyone in the van and go to the gymnastics competition a couple hundred miles away, or throw their dirt bikes into the back of the truck and head for the mountains.
These votaries of the EV religion get real heartburn when they see people barreling around in SUVs and pick up trucks that appear to be empty most of the time. They don't seem to grasp the fact that millions of motorists do not see their cars as spare and ascetic tools to get them from point A to point B. Like it or not, American motorists see their cars as full of potentialities and possibilities, some of which may seldom or never be fulfilled.
Yes, some of them may only make short trips from their townhouse to the organic food store or that global warming seminar at the university. But many, many more of them will more likely pick up a load of drywall at Home Depot or take the guys to a football game with all the impedimenta for a tailgate party piled in the back. They will drive 300 or so miles searching for an antique or a quaint place to eat. They will revel in the freedom of the road and the ineffable "feel" of a big sedan or a rugged truck.
I believe in technology and I believe in markets. If the EV1 was such a great car, its demise, for whatever reason, has merely opened the way for some competitor to build its equivalent or its superior. There are people trying. EV people are always busy, busy, busy with the next big thing. Maybe it will be Tesla Motors, the "new American car company" forming out in the Silicon Valley of California and promising "a performance-oriented electric vehicle with remarkable range, zero emissions, and spectacular mileage."
Maybe it will be Ian Wright, an entrepreneur from New Zealand (and former Tesla employee) who has built a prototype electric car he calls the X1. It is impressively fast. Wright has won some drag races with Porsches and Ferraris and he envisions a high-end ($100,000 a pop) electric roadster. Maybe Commuter Cars, a Spokane, Washington based firm, will hit with its Tango EV. Or there's the little ZENN (zero emissions, no noise) a 25 mile-per-hour top speed "neighborhood car" being built in Canada.
But if any of these builders aspire to the mass driving market they face a formidable barrier. Thus far, the subtle nudging of physics, the endless exploration of exotic materials and fabrication techniques -- the modern day alchemy -- to produce an affordable, quickly rechargeable and robust battery has not borne the hoped for fruit. It has resulted in wonderful advances in, for example, batteries for hand tools and small machines. But in the case of the electric car, the irreverently wise observation still holds:
It's the battery stupid!
It's the battery that prevents EVs from being real players. It's the battery that keeps EVs tantalizingly close to the technological curve but well behind the market's stern curve.
People who go around grousing and moaning about who killed the electric car are people with a schooled ignorance about markets and the realities of physics -- and an intellectual arrogance -- not only about what you and I should drive, but about how we should live.
Ralph Kinney Bennett is a TCS contributing editor.
Drive the TDI on the highway, and use the electric for around town... they both haul ass...No matter what high hopes one may have for them, electric cars are cars of low expectations. They are, at their best, "only" cars -- cars for people who expect to drive only a few miles, only on generally flat roads, with only themselves or perhaps one passenger, with only light cargo, and only in moderate weather.
I'm not trying to change anything about the way "we" live... The American culture is around innovation, and cars that haul ass... French Fries, Burgers... Immitation Italian, Chineese, and French Food...People who go around grousing and moaning about who killed the electric car are people with a schooled ignorance about markets and the realities of physics -- and an intellectual arrogance -- not only about what you and I should drive, but about how we should live.
That's the news I've been waiting for. Can't see paying 60K yet alone 80. 40K maybe. Mass production will bring those prices down.alphaseinor said:Tesla is coming out with a sedan in about a year or two at $60,000 - $80,000 and should be about the size of a BMW 3 series.
Now there's a great idea I can't afford. Go buy two cars instead of having just one that could do the job of both just as good. That way I get to pay two insurance premiums instead of one, buy 8 tires instead of 4, buy a whole lot more batteries every 5 years instead of just one battery, twice as many tie rod ends, shocks, struts, wheel bearings, gear oil, etc, etc, etc. Let's all go buy an electric car so we can have two cars instead of one, that would be amazingly economical (not to mention "great" for the environment) .... end sarcasm.alphaseinor said:The author of this article doesn't seem to own more than one car...
I'm not sure how old you are, but it's pretty clear you dont understand the workings of corporate America. If you think for 1 minute, the oil companies havent "interfered" with the flow of things in regard to the success of the EV, then you live life with blinders on.cbass94 said:Like has been said before, electric cars are great, in theory, but what killed them was not some huge "dark side of the universe" but rather their lack of a useable range. My wife and I get by just fine on one car along with a little planning and mass transportation.
I didn't say they didn't interfere, but they definitely were not what "killed" it. What killed it was it's own shortcomings. As soon as those are remedied (and they are finallly being addressed currently) I have no doubt that it will be fantastic and will succeed.mdp said:I'm not sure how old you are, but it's pretty clear you dont understand the workings of corperate America. If you think for 1 minute, the oil companies havent "interfered" with the flow of things in regard to the success of the EV, then you live life with blinders on.
Thats what Im saying. It's success or failure is not only in its own hands. Here is another example of extended range just over the horizon. A vehicle currently being built. http://www.phoenixmotorcars.com/index.htmlcbass94 said:I didn't say they didn't interfere, but they definitely were not what "killed" it. What killed it was it's own shortcomings. As soon as those are remedied (and they are finallly being addressed currently) I have no doubt that it will be fantastic and will succeed.
I guess I didn't make myself clear that there are other variables to it's success or failure, we agree on that. I merely meant to say that the biggest "killer" (by far) is the car's range, IMO.mdp said:
And thus pay two insurance premiums, two parking spaces, two license tags, two monthly payments, etc. In many or most cases this is not in the cards, I need one single four wheeled vehicle that does everything I need to do.alphaseinor said:Drive the TDI on the highway, and use the electric for around town... they both haul ass...
Geez! LOL You must be a single man. The large majority of family households today, do all of the above. You cant go through life owning just one vehicle at a time. Just wont happen.GoFaster said:And thus pay two insurance premiums, two parking spaces, two license tags, two monthly payments, etc. In many or most cases this is not in the cards, I need one single four wheeled vehicle that does everything I need to do.
So you're saying both vehicles will go beyond the 250 miles per charge per day? (Batteries are now breaking the 250 mile barrier). I think you're talking about a VERY small cross section of America my friend.GoFaster said:Yes, and often BOTH vehicles in that 2-income family have to go beyond the bounds of normal electric-only vehicles on a daily basis. Which means the electric would have to be a *third* vehicle.
Even if there is one the price is so high that it would be totally impractical.GoFaster said:Show me that electric vehicle with the supposed 250 mile range in the real world. I have yet to see it. More like a third to half of that.
That's already been talked about a few posts up. There is no real world data on how far you can go on a charge in that car. For example, here in Utah it's -15C right now and every day would include a few thousand feet of elevation gain while driving. I can guarantee you in this real world, that car would not go anywhere near 250 miles on a charge. If real world data proves that it does though, then that is fantastic!! I just like to question things... I'm inquisitive.mdp said:
And the great thing is that if you ever find yourself needing that big truck more and more, it's a really simple matter to put a diesel in it. Not a lot of wires, no immobilizer, no fancy computers, just a fairly straightforward engine swap.soberups said:I have a 76 Chevy 3/4 ton 4x4 with 129,000 original miles on it. Paid $3000 for it 7 years ago. Runs great for the 1000 miles per year that I drive it. It costs me 28 bucks a month for liability insurance, another $55 every two years for tags. Other than that, and the annual oil change and occasional battery or fuel filter, I'm not dumping $$ into it. When I NEED a full sized truck its there; when I dont, the money I would have spent on a new one got invested into a new Jetta TDI.
Well, the flaw with that train of thought is that a lot of people don't necessarily like to deal with any problems that come up with older vehicles. Whether it's a good direction or not, the average Joe no longer has a garage full of all the tools needed to overhaul and engine or affect medium-scale repairs. I've got a 19 year old pickup truck as one of my vehicles, and I can tell you that it's a pain in the butt to have around sometimes. Compared to newer (fuel injected) vehicles, it's hard to keep running in good tune, and needs more frequent repairs.soberups said:For that kind of money, a guy could pay cash for a 10 or 15 year old model, so some serious repair work to it, and park it. Only drive it when an SUV is truly needed. With the leftover $$, you could buy a brand new, fuel efficient car for commuting, grocery getting etc.
I have a 76 Chevy 3/4 ton 4x4 with 129,000 original miles on it. Paid $3000 for it 7 years ago. Runs great for the 1000 miles per year that I drive it. It costs me 28 bucks a month for liability insurance, another $55 every two years for tags. Other than that, and the annual oil change and occasional battery or fuel filter, I'm not dumping $$ into it. When I NEED a full sized truck its there; when I dont, the money I would have spent on a new one got invested into a new Jetta TDI.