Monday, July 21, 2008

Electric Cars and "Alternative" Energy

By Joseph Kellard

The New York Times on Saturday (7/19/08) published an honest report, "Costly Toys, or a New Era for Drivers?" by Joe Nocera, on the state of electric car technology. A discerning, objectively-informed reader can see in the article a microcosm of the "alternative" energy industry. That is, electric cars are still years away from being a viable competitor to gas-run vehicles, just as other so-called green technologies, including wind and solar energy, still fail to possess the capabilities to be mass-productive and send oil into obsolescence.

Here are a few key excerpts:

"In the documentary ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’ – about the EV1, an all-electric car General Motors began making in 1996 and killed once and for all in 2003 – the filmmakers posit the theory that the vehicle was done in by a grand conspiracy involving the oil industry, the Bush administration and the car industry. But that's not what happened. Gas was cheap when the EV1 was on the market; auto buyers preferred S.U.V.'s. And the technology didn't exist to allow the EV1 to become a viable mass-market automobile. Among its flaws, the EV1 used a nickel metal hydride battery that couldn't get more than 75 miles before needing a charge."

"[E]ven though the range of an electric car can extend to 200 miles or more, that is still not enough for people to abandon internal combustion engines. Surveys have repeatedly shown that the vast majority of people drive 50 miles or less a day - and the nascent electric car industry takes great comfort in those numbers. But what happens when you want to take a longer drive?"

"A plug-in hybrid would drive completely on electricity until the battery runs down - after about 40 miles or so - and only then would the car switch to internal combustion. Such a solution has the potential to cut the nation's gasoline bill in half."

Read the whole article at:

Joseph Kellard is a journalist and columnist living in New York.

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