“Here, have a bloated SUV, they say. Sorry about all your dead kids in Iraq”

August 3, 2006 | By | 10 Replies More

If you’re wondering why we “can’t” buy electric cars (especially since 80% of Americans drive 50 miles or less per day), check out this review of an electric sports car.  The title deserves a special award of some sort:  “Lick My Silent Sports Car; How much has Big Auto lied? Take a drive in this four-wheel electric orgasm, and find out.”

Here’s an excerpt from the review of the new Tesla Roadster:

This car, it has a top speed of 130 mph. It has a range of 250 miles. It also has GPS navigation and air-conditioning and air bags and it surely will come with a very badass sound system. It has heated seats and (I presume) iPod integration and Bluetooth. You know, just like a real car.

Oh, and by the way, this car? It’s completely silent. It is 100-percent emissions-free. Doesn’t even have a tailpipe. Because it has no internal combustion engine of any kind.

Here’s the website for this car.  According an article in Wired, Tesla’s $50,000 sedan is due out in 2008.  Maybe you’re thinking “But this might be all hype.  What would it really be like to drive an electric car?”  For one account, click here

And for a tale of intrigue about the lack of electric cars for sale, check out the trailer for the movie “Who Killed the Electric Car.”

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Category: American Culture, Consumerism, Energy, Environment, global warming

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (10)

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  1. Heather says:

    I saw the director of "Who killed the Electric Car" on the Jon Stewart show last night. He said that he took his electric car in for routine maintenance to General Motors, and they basically just refused to give the car back to him. If that doesn't scream conspiracy, then I don't know what does.

    Just a note, I remember when I was in the forth grade, my local power company brought an electric car to our school. I thought it was the most amazing thing at the time, and haven't heard a thing about them since, pretty much.

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    Actually, GM's electric car — known as the EV1 — was only leased to customers, never sold, so there probably was no conspiracy involved in refusing to give the guy's car back. Most likely, the lease had simply run out, so GM took the car back. All perfectly legal and above-board…and very clear to everyone involved. GM chose not to sell the car outright, because they didn't want the expense of long-term maintenance support, and also because their engineers and marketing folks wanted to examine the returned cars to see what worked and what didn't. Also, GM only made 800 units available to the public — again, to limit their financial exposure from what was primarily an engineering and marketing research exercise, not a product roll-out. You can read all about it from the GM website: http://www.gm.com/company/onlygm/fastlane_Blog_2…..

    As regards "who killed the electric car," it appears the assassin was simply a lack of market demand. GM spent a billion dollars developing the EV1 and made next to nothing off the 800 units they leased out, so you can bet if they thought they could have made money on it, they'd have done so.

    Unfortunately, GM has gotten a lot of negative press about their handling of the EV1, mostly from over-zealous environmentalists with their own agendas who want electric cars to be a reality, no matter what. Also, many EV1 customers (many of whom were also zealous environmentalists) desperately wanted to own their cars because they liked it so much, and so were mad at GM from the start for not letting them buy it outright and keep it. Needless to say, they groused a lot more when their leases ran out. The guy who was on Jon Stewart's show appears to be one such customer. He knew perfectly well that his car was leased and would someday go back to GM — GM made this VERY clear to everyone who got one and also to the news media — so he's merely trying to push his own agenda now by twisting the facts to suit his own political and financial objectives. If there is any "conspiracy," it is the one he is apparently trying to create against the truth.

  3. Jason Rayl says:

    The thing that bothers me most about the whole electric car thing is a simple fact of physics. It requires X amount of BTUs (heat) to move X pounds of mass. In other words, you have to burn something. Internal combustion engines burn it "on site" as it were. Electric cars will have to be recharged, which means something has to be burned "off site", namely at the power plant in or near the city you live.

    To date, I have heard no enthusiast for the electric car address this in any meaningful way. At the end of the day, all we'll end up doing is shifting the source of pollution. Ninety million electric cars will require an equivalent amount of burned fuel to power as ninetymillion gasoline powered cars.

    But with electricity, the air in our immediate vicinity will be cleaner. For a while. The likelihood that this is any kind of longterm solution is ludicrous. In fact, there is a concommitant loss of efficiency, since we will burn (coal, oil, uranium) to make electricity, then send that current down power grids to the end users. There is a loss of energy in this just by the act of transmission–heat loss, inherent inefficiencies in conductive materials, etc. Then we drive out cars until the batteries can't take a charge anymore–which happens with all batteries.

    Now, imagine a landfill receiving a couple million three hundred pound battery carcasses a year…

    Back in 1960, Scientific America publish a study on the feasibility of the electric car. Technology has improved since then, but not by much. Nevertheless, the conclusion was then that this could be done and it could be a net benefit, even with the added stress on the power grid, because by the time we start mass producing these things we would be 80% nuclear.

    My my. So much for the predictive capacity of technologists.

  4. Erika Price says:

    I think the "death of the electric car" hype seems over exaggerated, but I wouldn't look at that as an expressly negative thing. Investigative documentary hype has proven its mettle to enrage and motivate consumers, sparking a few changes in their subjects as a result. Fast Food Nation and Supersize Me frightened McDonalds and the like enough to lead to the removal of faux healthy foods such as the "Salad shaker" in favor of the occasional real salad, and made nutritional information much more accessible. Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price scared big box retailers into revising some of their policies. For better or worse, it seems to take a bang of media coverage to result in a whimper of change.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    I agree with Jason, that having a car run on electricity does not address how one would actually generate the electricity. In this post peak oil era, it would less and less be with oil. Coal presents huge environmental issues. It takes massive amount of energy to make oil out of corn. We're getting boxed in. I suspect that we're going to see more nuclear plants popping up soon. Such is the American thirst for energy. We'll also see a lot more coal, global warming be damned. And we'll see steady growth of renewables (wind and solar panels). And with this ever-more expensive power, we're going to start looking for smaller cars. Thank goodness they can get a LOT smaller than the ubiquitous SUV's that now litter the road.

    It's nice to know that at least SOME people are thinking about powering future fleets of cars with something other than petroleum, given the rapidly rising price of petroleum.

  6. Erika Price says:

    I heard this story on NPR about the practicality of ethanol as an alternative fuel. Evidently, filling up the tank of the average SUV requires ethanol from enough corn to feed one person for a year. Also taking into account the cost and environmental damage involved in farming all of this corn, and ethanol no longer seems practical.

  7. Jason Rayl says:

    Ethanol is the god child of the Corn Lobby. There are more efficient sources of this type of fuel-substitute. Corn is very high maintenance, so to speak, and once more we have a feel good supposedly progressive policy being pushed in lieu of something that makes sense because the bottom line–and I don't wish to make that seem unimportant–is setting the terms.

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    Discover published an article on ethanol in its August 2006 edition. Here's an excerpt:

    David Pimentel, a professor of ecology and agricultural sciences at Cornell University, and Tad Patzek, a professor of geoengineering from the University of California at Berkeley who started the UC Oil Consortium, an industry-sponsored research group. In their latest studies they conclude that ethanol's balance is negative. The researchers, who found that ethanol requires 29 percent more fossil energy than it provides, question the morality of using grain to fuel cars in the face of world hunger. "Expanding ethanol production," they write, "could entail diverting valuable cropland from producing corn needed to feed people to producing corn for ethanol factories."

    Nothing is simple, it seems.  The author also points out that "By definition, petroleum's fossil energy balance is negative. Making a gallon requires 23 percent more energy than it contains." The question, then, is whether ethanol is better or worse than gasoline. The answer depends on what you take into account and how you calculate. The answers range from awful to decent, or at least promising.  I would place the link in this post, but Discover articles are only available for free to subscribers.  Discover's site is http://www.discover.com/

  9. grumpypilgrim says:

    Ethanol has been a hot topic here in Wisconsin, where corn is a major crop. I don't have a website to support this, but I saw a news blurb about ethanol several months ago and this is what I remember from it:

    1) Producing ethanol consumes more petroleum than it offsets.

    2) Ethanol is 20% cheaper at the pump than gasoline, but it contains 20% less energy density, so vehicles fueled with ethanol get 20% worse gas mileage, which means cars consume 20% more of it — thus, there is no net cost reduction.

    3) Ethanol exhaust has worse health consequences than gasoline exhaust…I don't remember if it is more toxic to the environment or more toxic to humans, but it is not a clean fuel.

    As I recall, there were two or three other negatives to ethanol, but I don't remember what they were. Mostly, as Jason says, ethanol is the god child of the corn lobby. They are salivating over hopes that the feds will mandate ethanol fuels, thus driving up demand for corn, and thus the price. Even more lucrative would be direct subsidies or tax credits to corn farmers. It's government pork, pure and simple, and yes, indeed, the corn farmers in Wisconsin are lobbying hard for the WI state legislature to mandate it here.

  10. Jason Rayl says:

    Making a gallon of petroleum or a gallon of gasoline? Sounds like he's indulging in some voodoo math there.

    If gasoline, he would be technically correct–to make one gallon of it from refined crude requires more energy than the gallon will ultimately yield back. However, the gasoline is not the only thing that is derived from the crude, and when you add in the products made from the "rest" of the oil, the energy balance gets closer to par. (Back when oil was first being refined in this country, the main product was kerosene and lubricants–gasoline was a "byproduct" that was usually thrown away.)

    The thing with ethanol is, once you've have distilled the sugar from the corn to make it, there's nothing else to be derived, therefore the energy balance to which he refers is pretty much a negative 29.

    But you can make ethanol-type fuel substitutes from switch grass, soy, alfalfa–items that have less food-related use, especially the switch grass, without cutting into current food agriculture supplies, and the conversion process for these is more efficient.

    This is one reason environmentalists and industry engineers lose patience with each other so much–it's complex and more often than not the answer is No.

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