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July 03, 2006

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» Who's Reviving the Electric Car? from Futurelab's Blog
by: Joel Makower Who killed the electric car? Who cares? It's history!... [Read More]

Comments

Lara

Joel - thanks for your POV. I haven't seen the movie yet, though want to, but I have to say the very same thing went through my mind when I heard about this movie coming out. I will be interested to see what the movie really has to say, as I'm not sure yet whether the content itself actually ends up on point while the movie title is not, or if it's all off - target for where the market is naturally moving of its own accord. The market wouldn't let an idea like this die. It's too compelling and interesting, and of course, people are, as always, curious - myself included. Happy 4th!

Lance Funston

Excellent article Joel. The electric car is making a quiet comeback and the new technology is actually very exciting (even to mainstream automotive enthusiasts). If you've ever driven an electric car, or been creeping quietly home at 2am in a Prius in electric mode, it's hard to get how superior the driving experience is.

To help reinforce your already clearly made point, may I suggest the video of the Wrightspeed leaving 2 gas-guzzling supercars in the dust on (playing the home page 3 videos down at www.URTH.tv).


Tom King

Its wonderful to see tiny car companies rushing in to fill the void left by a vanquished GM. But we need to honestly acknowledge that GM's actions have helped to delay a mainstream electric car by at least a decade. The cars we should've had by 2000 probably won't be around until 2010-2020. GM's decision to offer no leadership in the 1990's means that all of us have to suffer with inferior overpriced transportation today.
From this perspective, I see no harm in reflecting upon what has been lost. Healthy decision making demands that we confront our failures in order to learn from them. I'm just as curious of who killed the electric car as I am of who plans to revive it.

Bob Willis

None of the vehicles listed in this article match the price/performance minimums of an average car that people will buy.
Kelly Blue Book shows the MSRP of a new Toyota Corolla S model at $16,530. When an electric car is available at that price, with equivalent performance, it will sell in droves. Otherwise, these BEVs are simply too expensive and/or underpowered.
Some companies out there need to step up to the plate and get into mass production so the prices can go down.

Steven Lough

The first two lines of your atricle, almost had me ignoring it. But as I read on... it is a very good article. A couple of corrections. The TANGO from Commuter Cars, is out of Spokane WA not Seattle... And most all these electric cars Were mentioned at the End of the film, as a hopeful future of EVs

Steve Lough
Pres. Seattle EV Association

Esther Sutter

All of this is well and good. But, not being an engineer and all, I have been led to believe by following the doings of TEV (Tilley Electric Vehicle) on their website:
www.tilleyfoundation.com that their vehicle(s) are everything a person would want and then some in an all electric vehicle. I have been told by Dave with Valley. Quote: --- Village Energy wrote:
"Esther, I read through much of the new info at Tilley. I remain unconvinced of his claims. The technology still remains to be proven under strict independent analysis. Without much scientific evidence to substantiate the claims, it places the weight of proof once again on Tilley to give evidence of his claims. Perhaps the documentary will make him rich and famous, (as their site states amid numerous 'typos' of the unprofessional kind, 'if it works, or not .. will be of great interest to many, ..a sales lead, I-m pretty sure.
Take care if you are thinking of investing money, Esther. Something is seriously lacking, and it may be integrity. Be careful. -Dave" Please investigate the site and later this summer there should be a documentary released. Sincerely, Esther
Sutter

Morgan Daly

With articles like this one and one from sometime ago:
http://makower.typepad.com/joel_makower/2006/04/renewus_a_clima.html

...you are not just suggesting a new dialogue you are just using it. You are asking the questions seldom asked, and to me you are saying something like "Ok, I am convinced... now what?" It is most refreshing to hear. It is a similar line that I have been taking with my observations of the peace/anti-war movement.

I wish I could explain myself as well as you write but I really want you to know that your weblog/writtings are amazing. Please keep up the great work and continue to be fearless in your observations. The way you frame things is very valuable to me and while many don't know it yet, you are speaking a language everyone will all have to learn, if we are to turn this planet around.

Thank You

Tony Maine

So none of the vehicles match the price performance ratio of current production cars - of course not, they are being handcrafted. Go to GM and ask for a quote for ONE electric vehicle. . . . if you have a spare billion.
EVs are not going to be direct replacements for fossil fuelled vehicles - they fill a somewhat different niche and any attempt to sell them in direct competition will fail. A much more innovative marketing and financing approach is needed and that can only be realised by full grid connection - or V2G. Now the vehicle becomes an energy storage and distribution system as well as a passenger storage and distribution system, and the added value, plus innovative financing, will make the price to the end user attractive and the cost to the community and environment priceless.

reden

im not sure about lithium batteries, but once the hydrogen fuel cells get off the ground and on to the roads, things should get zooming for electric cars!

Scott Matthews

For those of you saying you arent interested in these cars due to price-performance ratios (which as an economist I completely agree with you..), realize that we did some research in 2001 on the then-new US Prius saying the same thing. And guess what, people lined up to buy them.

My whole point is that some people will rush to spend a buck regardless of whether it is even worth the money.

Funny retrospective on original Prius... Comparing it to a 2001 Corolla, it cost like $6000 more, and would save you $2000 in gas over 10 years. Not a good investment!

David Biddle

Dude, the Prius (even the original) is not a Corolla. I have no idea why this comparison continues to be made.

Kirsten Flynn

I have not seen the film, but watched with interest and disgust the political machinations that led to the death of the electric car. Basically the California Air Resources Board mandated Zero Emissions Vehicles, the auto industry whined and sued for years, and the CARB caved under political pressure. I felt hugely angry and betrayed, and told them so, but they are appointed rather than elected. It is interesting I think that the CARB both promoted the development of the electric car tremendously by having the mandates at all, but in a sense also killed it. I hope that this process of EV development is more market driven, and therefore less subject to Auto industry pressure to slow or stop it.

The payback period question is spurnious. I work as an interior designer specializing in green products, and no one ever asks "what is the payback period of Granite versus Corian countertops?" They will spend $60,000 on cabitnety, yet they will say that they will not invest in solar panels, because it will take 8 years to pay for itself at current utiltiy rates. Why, because people buy what appeals to their sense of identity, The granite makes them feel a certain way that the solar panels do not. I doubt that the driver of the Ford Extrusion asks about it's price performance, the car makes them feel good about themselves. I think people mostly make purchasing descisions based on consumer identitiy, and then find reasons why their choice is good. (I am not even going to start with why we are turning to consumer goods for a sense of self.)

I sincerely hope that I will be in the position to buy a new car in the near future (the first in my life!), and I hope that there is an electric car with 5 comfortable seats available to me at that time. When I make that purchase I will be aware that I am spending both transportation dollars and discresionary dollars on a car. And I sure hope that car makes me feel good about myself!!!!

Sean McDonald

We are building and selling lithium powered sandrails for use as NEV or for driving offroad. We also are working on an electric Rhino type vehicle. We successfully built an electric sandrail that had a top speed of 40mph and it would last for up to four hours of driving off-road. All of our vehicles currently weight less than 1,100lbs. Please contact if you are interested in an Lithium powered sandrail. We are building a Lithium powered sandrail for entry in the Baja 250 next year. This sandrail features a two speed air shift transmission. We are currently running 4.5 kilwatts system at 56.8 volts. Our Baja LT-2 will have a 30-40 kilowatt system. Our version of a car similiar to a Wrightspeed will sell for less than $25,000.00 and will be sold as a kit car. The frame will be made from Chromoly 4130.

Will Workman

This article entirely misses the point of the documentary. That point is that we already had a workable electric car that consumers wanted and that, at full production levels, would have cost less than an internal combustion car.

Joel, you are falling for the same line the auto industry has been feeding us for two decades: talking about electric cars as a sci-fi dream that will be realized about the same time as anti-gravity boots and matter transporters. The technology we need to save our planet is already 15 years old!

And the "market forces" game is rigged too. Automakers talk about consumer demand as though it's entirely outside their control, when in fact, they do a lot to create it. Was their a petition drive for GM to build the Hummer? No. If an electric car were offered for under $20K, it would sell like hotcakes.

Jim Baerg

I'm intrigued, when reading discussions of this type, about the enthusiasm for new technology and the lack of a genuine environmental/financial analysis. Here are a couple of questions that never seem to be included: 1) What does the electricity cost, both at the plug and also environmentally? If 10% of our vehicular stock converted, where would the electricty come from? Strip mines and coal fired plants probably. When electric cars are coupled with residential PV systems we will truely have an environmentally benign transportation alternative. 2) Even suppose we could successfully convert to electric vehicles on a large scale, what are the ramifications of maintaining the rest of the transportation infrastructure? We still have freeways, subburbs and hectic, disjointed lifestyles. Perhaps it would be better if we just ran out of gas.

Willy Mason ( Hybrid Cars )

Fantastic article. Just found it now..a bit late. Over the next year or 2 I think you will see a dramatic rise in hybrid cars. The growth rate in the US is already rapidly rising

Jason C. Conley

Hi, my name is Jason Conley. I'm writing you to let you know how much I enjoyed and appreciate the work your doing in keeping with all of the technology we, the people, posses, but sometimes do not have access to. I have, what I feel like, is perhaps revolutionary or fresh ideas for electric vehicles and how to make them even more efficient. Please if you can... write soon and I would like to run some ideas past you or your staff and just see what you think.
Again, I thank you very much for all of you and your staff members hard work.

Sincerely,
Jason C. Conley

Juno888

..I've been tracking several threads of this story. Here's a snapshot of what's going on.

Dave Tice

Thinking out of the box it is possible to go across the country in an electric powered vehicle. How? If the batteries were installed in an easily removed/installed tray, gas stations could have a number of these charged up and you could switch them out. I don't think you could get the auto manufactures to cooperate enough to standerdize the battery pack.

Why is there no series hybrids on the market.
That is where the gas/diesel generator supplies power to electric motors to drive the car.

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