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Ford Pulls The Plug on Electric Cars 457

Posted by Hemos
from the yanking-the-power dept.
Cytos writes "Apparently Ford has called it quits on their EV program Th!nk Mobility, stating "... we don't believe that this is the future of environmental transport for the mass market." Ford had purchased Think in 1990 and did a short run of advertisments in California for it's lease trial, even involving Hertz in helping out. I was really hoping to see this pan out, I guess our only hope for an EV now is the Toyota Rav4 EV." From the sound of it, most companies are looking at hybrid cars.
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Ford Pulls The Plug on Electric Cars

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  • by rosewood (99925) <.rosewood. .at. .chat.ru.> on Saturday August 31, 2002 @12:31PM (#4176556) Homepage Journal
    I know that I would never buy an electric car for a multitude of reasons...

    1: How am i going to charge it in my parking lot at work? at my dorm?

    2: It just wont get me very far here in Kansas

    3: Lack of speed. When I need to merge, I need to get up and GO damn it.

    4: Small. I like big cars, or better yet Trucks. You cant have an electric Truck - it just makes no sense unless you haul barbie furniture
    • Where I live on Long Island,NY, the transit authority has a joint venture with the power company to supply these cars to Long Island Railroad commuters (about 200 are in the program so far, IIRC).

      How am i going to charge it in my parking lot at work? at my dorm?
      Under a pilot program like the one I described, the lessee of the Think car gets a reserved space at his or her Long Island Railroad (LIRR) station with a charger available. There is also a home charger for use on overnights.

      Lack of speed. When I need to merge, I need to get up and GO damn it.
      Granted, I would never take one of these on the highways either. For short trips around town to run errands, just to go to the railroad station, etc., these will fill that niche. Save the gas car for longer trips.

      While the Think car is impractical for long haul trips or any sort of aggressive driving, frequent, local stops that guzzle gas would be eliminated.
      • Save the gas car for longer trips.

        The thing about purely electric cars that you plug in to recharge is that instead of burning gas you are burning coal, since that's what most power plants burn to generate electricity for our cities. You just force the power plant to contaminate instead of you personally. You might have a nice fuzzy feeling, but you haven't really cleaned up the environment.

        Plus when you burn gas, your inefficiency is just that of converting the gas to power. When you use an electric car you have the inefficiency of converting coal to power, the inefficiency due to power loss in transmission to your house, and then the inefficiency of storing the electricity in a battery (i.e., heats up as you store it).

        I know gas is supposed to be the mother of all evils, but last time I checked it was cleaner than burning coal and when you consider all the inefficiences above I think gas is much cleaner than electric cars.

        Let's talk about hydrogen cells and we'll be on to something, although I still think you need to contaminate in order to drive the process to create the hydrogen in the first place, don't you?

    • Those are the same reasons why I never went with a GM EV1 even though they had plenty of recharging stations in Silicon Valley. They even had four recharging stations in front of Fry's Electronics, right up as close as you could park to the front doors of the store! It was always amusing to see big SUV's ignore the 'Electric Car Only' signs in those spaces and park there anyway.

      The only hybrid that's really useable right now is the Honda Civic hybrid; the Prius is too bare-bones to be an enjoyable car. But even the Civic has really terrible pickup.

      I'm in the market for a new car, and I want something geek-approved. By this I mean I'm not looking for the latest Honda Accord clone or a big fat engine or airbags on every exposed surface. I want something a little further away from mainstream. I want a hybrid engine with more horsepower. I want plastic sidepanels that don't dent. I want a car radio that loads new mp3's from my home computer over wireless every time I park in the garage. I want to be able to talk with my car like KITT. I want a car with high tail lights and a snub nose and aggressive curves like something out of Ridge Racer.

      But most of the cars out there on the road are still big hulks of metal that are trying to look just like each other so they can avoid being unpopular, and they still think a CD changer is primo technology, and they're still using engine technology from forty years ago. Le sigh.

      • by dattaway (3088)
        I'm curious why you say the Prius is "too bare-bones" to be an enjoyable car. We have one in the family and it is a great full featured car. It has a high output heater/AC, stock entertainment system is very nice, power everything...what is it missing for your needs?
    • Lack of speed. When I need to merge, I need to get up and GO damn it.

      In all fairness, this isn't a problem - electric motors beat gas as far as torque is concerned.

    • 1. It's often not hard to find a place to plug in if you ask around...

      2. I suggest you actually track your daily mileage. I think you'll find an EV is a lot more practical than you expect. They aren't for everyone, but how often do you actually go more than 50 miles at a shot? Or even a day?

      3. The Think was definitely under-designed, but that's not inherent in the species. Check out http://www.commutercars.com/.

      4. Actually, though I don't want a BIG truck, an electric truck makes perfect sense except for towing: usually when you haul a load, it's relatively short distance. I plan on converting a small pickup for a variety of reasons, but one of them is trips to Home Depot. Even so, I know one guy who used to tow EV drag racer to the races with his EV pickup (he's since sold the pickup to work on other EVs).
  • I hope you don't think this decision was reached without considerable input from the oil industry and its captains and advisers (one of whom happens to be a high ranking republican in a high seat...)

    Eventually, we're going to be at a point where we deal with electric or bio-fuel whether we like it or not. There is just not an infinte supply of petroleum.

    The hell of it is, if we were to start *now* working on getting all the kinks and problems worked out of things like bio-fuel or solar-panels with the same energy and resources that the auto industry spends on developing new models every year, when the time comes that petroleum is so rare as to inspire strife, war, and conflict, we will be far enough ahead of the curve not to be affected.

    While hybrid cars may be a step in the right direction, they're only postponing the inevitable.

    Luckily, I rather like bicycling.
    • I hope you don't think this decision was reached without considerable input from the oil industry and its captains and advisers (one of whom happens to be a high ranking republican in a high seat...)

      Normally I let crap like this go by, but this time I'm calling you out. Prove it. JUST PROVE IT. And no, cynicism is not proof (aka "I just know and you would too if you weren't so naive").

      Of course, it CAN'T be that the electric car TOTALLY F'ING SUCKS. It can't be that battery technology is not even close to being ready (6.5 hour charging time, 100 mile range?).

      It can't be that every car manufacture has invested 100s of millions, if not billions (GM) in electric cars, and have TOTALLY FAILED.

      Of course, we JUST KNOW that oil companies will "buy off" car companies. Never mind that car companies MAKE CARS and the first one that really makes a practical electric car will make a ton of money. Never mind that car companies DON'T PRODUCE OIL and do give a shit about how cars are powered, as long as they sell cars.

      And by the way...

      There is just not an infinte supply of petroleum.

      Sorry, but yes, there IS AN INFINITE SUPPLY OF PETROLEUM. Yes, I said infinite. WE WILL NEVER RUN OUT OF PETROLEUM. Never. Ever. You know why?

      Very simple. Because as the reserves get lower, it simply gets more expensive to pull out of the ground. Eventually, the price is higher than alternatives, and we start using alternatives. WE WILL NEVER RUN OUT OF OIL. EVER.

      And even if we could, please explain to me exactly why it would be a bad thing if we ran out of oil in the ground. Big deal. We use something else.

      //end rant.

      • Very simple. Because as the reserves get lower, it simply gets more expensive to pull out of the ground. Eventually, the price is higher than alternatives, and we start using alternatives. WE WILL NEVER RUN OUT OF OIL. EVER.

        WOW! You are quite a genius.

        You completely converted me with your wisdom. It's not like we shouldn't stop using it now because it is terribly dirty. It just makes sense that we should definately destroy any pristine nature environments where oil is just to get down to last drops in pursuit of keeping prices down....While are at it, lets have a few more wars over it....generally have a great time running down every last bit until pure capitalism makes it impossible. Then come up with alternatives...WHAT A GREAT, FORWARD THINKING PLAN! We've definately seen that capitalism does great things for the planet...I don't see why I used to think it didn't...The almighty dollar will save us!

        THANK YOU SIR! I feel blessed to have my whole mind on the issue changed by Slashdot!

        By the way. You are an idiot.

        • by Elladan (17598) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @01:23PM (#4176798)
          It is true that oil is dirty. However, it's also true that we're not going to run out.

          The alternatives the previous poster mentioned are already being worked on.

          Basically, what's going to happen is that as oil reserves are depleted, the price will increase. Eventually, it will rise above the price of alternative sources of oil.

          What are these alternative sources? Well, for starters, it's possible to refine oil from coal. This process is more expensive than just pumping it out of the ground, so we don't do it right now. When the price of oil rises enough, it will make more sense to use coal.

          There's a lot of coal in the world.

          When the coal runs down, after a few thousand years, the price will again start to rise a bit, at which point a second alternative will be attractive, if it isn't already: oil shale.

          When the oil shale runs out, after many more millennia, we'll either find a new energy-rich source, or we'll go full synthetic. Of course, full synthetic production will run at an energy loss, so it will need a real power source such as solar or nuclear power to drive it.

          Synthetic oil production will be viable for more or less the lifetime of the universe.

          One example of a form of "synthetic" oil production here is refined vegetable oil, by the way. Solar powered crops can be replanted every year, and thus won't run out.

          Of course, actual oil from the ground won't run out either. It's just that new reserves won't form at nearly the rate we like to use it, so it'll always be insufficient to fill demand after the current fields are depleted.

          So, no, we'll never "run out" of oil.

          We will, on the other hand, want to stop using it because it's dirty long before we reach synthetic production. When we actually do stop using it, who can say?
        • It's not like we shouldn't stop using it now because it is terribly dirty.

          And getting cleaner all the time due to better technology. Taken a look at car emissions lately?

          It just makes sense that we should definately destroy any pristine nature environments where oil is just to get down to last drops in pursuit of keeping prices down

          Name the last "pristin nature environment" that was destroyed through normal excavation of oil, other than accidents (and even the accidents aren't that bad).

          While are at it, lets have a few more wars over it....

          I'm always amused by this line of thinking. There is nothing intrinsically immoral about buying oil. That wars are caused by this is the fault of the countries that make war, not the countries that buy oil. It's always amazing when people shift the blame away from the people who actually make the wars.

          We've definately seen that capitalism does great things for the planet

          Well, yes, we have. Considering that Capitalism has been the greatest force for raising people's standard of living than any other force. It's kind of funny how the more capitalism a country has, the better the people live. Or haven't you noticed that direct relation? Ah, you're probably right. We should all live in the paradises like the old Soviet Union.

          The almighty dollar will save us!

          Actually, it would save the middle east countries if their politics weren't so screwed up. If they had freedom and capitalism, the money that poured in from their natural resources would transform them into modern countries. But again, it's not our fault that they continue to screw themselves and their people.

          THANK YOU SIR! I feel blessed to have my whole mind on the issue changed by Slashdot!

          We can only hope that people like you overcome your herd mentality.

          • Name the last "pristin nature environment" that was destroyed through normal excavation of oil, other than accidents (and even the accidents aren't that bad).

            Well, I was more looking at how as our friends in the middle east run down, we'll have to cave in and drill alaska, and other places, like our leader says. And I hardly think "aren't that bad" is a good discription of oil spills. But I guess they probably aren't that bad for humans...which is what counts, after all.

            There is nothing intrinsically immoral about buying oil.

            Using the governments line of reasoning about Drugs supporting terror, one can also assume buying oil supports terror. And no, we wouldn't have wars over it if people would give it to us they way we want it, at the price we want it...so I guess you're right. It's not our fault. We don't even contribute. We're Amerika! We had God on our side!

            Well, yes, we have. Considering that Capitalism has been the greatest force for raising people's standard of living than any other force.

            In America. The list of coutries who have suffered from our capitalism grows by the day. Look at Central America. Many capitalist nations...all not doing so great. You strike me as the kind of person that think we instilled "democracy & freedom" in places like Nicaragua. But keep that blindfold on buddy. It feels much safer for sure.

            We should all live in the paradises like the old Soviet Union.

            WHY? Because Stalinism is obviously the only alternative to Multi-National Corporate Run capitalist government.

            We can only hope that people like you overcome your herd mentality.

            Hehehee...yeah. Herd mentality...right. I would hardly classify those supporting alternative energies as "the herd." But maybe herd has been re-defined.

            • Hehehee...yeah. Herd mentality...right. I would hardly classify those supporting alternative energies as "the herd." But maybe herd has been re-defined.

              Nope, same definition as always. One who doesn't do any of his own thinking, but just follows the herd. Your herd just happens to be smaller than a lot of other herds. Of course, people like you think that the farther out of the fringe you go, you must be getting closer to the truth.

              What you want is magic technology. And if the magic doesn't exist, then it must be a conspiracy of someone to keep the magic away from the masses.

              WHY? Because Stalinism is obviously the only alternative to Multi-National Corporate Run capitalist government.

              OK, if the failure of electric cars is just a big capitalist conspiracy, then why aren't your non-capitalistic paradises producing them? Only stupid people live there and have no engineers? Come on, if it's just a big conspiracy, then I'm sure one of your oh-so-moral countries will start producing them tomorrow and gloriously fill the world with non-polluting, electric vehicles that recharge in 5 minutes and run for 1000 miles. And of course, all produced by a non-profit entity.

              So please, tell us all. What country is it, and when will the utopia begin? We're all anxious to hear about it./p

          • Well, yes, we have. Considering that Capitalism has been the greatest force for raising people's standard of living than any other force. It's kind of funny how the more capitalism a country has, the better the people live. Or haven't you noticed that direct relation? Ah, you're probably right. We should all live in the paradises like the old Soviet Union.
            I always find this one a hoot too... Look around for non capitalist countries, and you'll almost invariably find it's also a list of countries hell bent on destroying their environment.

            If capitalism is so bad for the environment, why is it that almost every capitalist nation has the equivalent of the EPA?
      • it wouldn't be bad to run out of oil. it will be bad to be running out of oil. the usa is hugely dependant on oil and it would take a long time to remove that dependance. what will the usa do to protect its national security as the number of cheap oil sources get lower and lower?

        considering the lengths the current us administration is willing to go to defend national security - advocating pre-emptive military action for instance - then what happens when oil reserves are low?

        for instance iirc there are large oil reserves in northern european waters. lets say 50 years from now oil sources are low; europe's green elements have managed to convert most european industries up to non-oil sources; and those same parties have severely restricted oil drilling in those regions around europe. as oil prices go up in that scenario i suspect the us gov't would justify a lot of actions to lower oil prices.

        obviously that's all just a guess, but have you considered how global politics might work as one of the most widely used energy sources becomes scarce? in particular, how will the largest consumer of that resource handle its depletion?

      • By your logic, it's likely true that we will never run out of oil. But does that mean it's ethical for us to continue to try?

        We can make plastic out of hemp or corn (apparently), and alternative means of fueling vehicles are being created. Oil means drilling into the planet to bring up a substance which is unfriendly to most things in nature. If we continue to burn up oil as quickly as we can, people like Bush will continue to press for drilling into areas like the beautiful Alaskan countryside. So isn't it a good idea to look into alternatives before it's absolutely necessary?

        • If we continue to burn up oil as quickly as we can, people like Bush will continue to press for drilling into areas like the beautiful Alaskan countryside.

          This is something else I don't understand. Why is it such a big deal that thousands of square miles be completely untouched? I'm sorry, but a couple acre processing plant is not going to turn the countryside into black, sludge filled hell-hole.


          • No, as long as it operates properly and doesn't catch fire/explode, it will probably only mess up a couple of acres. Of course, you also have to have workers living within a reasonable distance of the plant, and you have the wear and tear of transportation (getting the people to and from work, exporting the oil to where it needs to go). You've got the noise from the plant unnerving the wildlife (though I guess they'll probably get used to it eventually).

            And there's still the fact that all of this is to bring up petroleum, which isn't the nicest substance in the world. If the Valdez had been filled with corn oil or hemp, would there have been a problem? Not really.

        • We can make plastic out of hemp or corn (apparently), and alternative means of fueling vehicles are being created. Oil means drilling into the planet to bring up a substance which is unfriendly to most things in nature.
          Agriculture on the scale required to subsitute agricultural products for oil products is not exactly friendly to nature either. (Fertilizer? Insecticides? Neither very friendly.)
    • Inevitability of "Resource" Wars? I have to say that wars for resources are the only sort of war. Ok so its not as easy as Persian Gulf == Oil War but war comes from two societies' sharing a border. To keep the growth of their "lifestyle" both jockey for position with each other. Trade, culture, politics. At its most extreme extension is war. It is foolish to think that a society will every be so self-sufficient that it will no longer feel the need to expand. As its population grows so does its hunger for territory.

      Of course what is a society and what is a border are up to debate. Usually the rule of thumb is that if it can be broken down to an Us and Them scenario.

      It is an implicit delcaration of war every time you gas up your car or go for a drive. Your right to drive at 10 MPG is worth fighting for.
      • What wars aren't resource wars? Despite all the "religion causes war" propaganda, if you look at the vast majority of wars they are for more land, people, food, iron, etc, etc, etc. It is never just "I hate you", it is "I hate you and you don't deserve the land you live on and the food you eat. So I'm going to take it from you."

        Brian Ellenberger
    • As far as I can tell the auto industry made a good faith attempt at this. California for example mandated that something like 3% of all cars sold by manufacturers in the state had to be electric and the auto companies ended up having to heavily subsidize to be able to move them at all. They spent a lot on technology to figure out how to do it.

      But they are facing the same problem that laptops do:

      1 - They couldn't get enough charge to work
      2 - They couldn't maintain charge as long as they needed.

      Until there is a major break through in battary technology battary devices will always be crippled compared to those drawing energy for either AC or petro fuels. Wanting this to change won't make it change; and given how much is being spent on improving battary life there is no evidence that more spending (except for perhaps insane levels of spending like the moon project tyep spending) will necc. do very much to shorten the time to we solve this technical problem.

      Finally, right now electricity is generated by petro fuels. There isn't much gain by generating the electricity to store in a battery vs. just burning the fuel on an as needed basis (i.e. the current system).
  • This is good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chairboy (88841) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @12:32PM (#4176564) Homepage
    Hybrid cars are much friendlier to the environment.

    Many advocates of electric cars see the energy cycle as something like this:

    1. (energy comes from somewhere)
    2. Environmentally clean driving!

    The real problem is that because the anti-nuke lobby has made it uneconomical to run nuclear power plants, we currently get almost all our power from coal and gas burning plants. These guys are not very efficient at making electricity, a least not compared to the super efficient engines in the hybrids. They produce much more pollution per watt. The end result, an electric car just moves the pollution it creates from the car to the power plant, and the power plant is very very dirty.

    Until coal & gas are not used anymore, pure EV is bad for the environment.
    • I agree with you that most people think that electricity comes from nowhere, so it's automatically "cleaner". However, I have to question your claim that a single-user, commercial grade device is more efficient at generating electricity than a huge mass producing power plant. I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just saying that that would surprise me, and I'd be interested to see some hard numbers. Why don't the power companies junk their power plants and just order a boat-load of hybrid cars? Clearly I'm missing something. Thanks!
    • Re:This is good (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Jeff Fohl (597433)
      Not only that, but there is a lot of energy lost in moving the electricity from the plant to your car, and then also in storage in the batteries. It is much more efficient to create the energy in the car, when you need it. So, you are actually burning MORE fossils per mile with an electric car than with a standard internal combustion engine.

      On the other hand, automobiles spread the pollutants all over the place, whereas at a plant, it is a little easier to control the output of pollutants, and there is a single, concentrated source.

      re: nuclear: Yes, and it is troubling that so many people tend to think that fossil fuel is cleaner and better than nuclear. I have at least five friends with cancer right now. I sometimes wonder how the current high cancer levels in our society correlates to the burning of fossil fuels. It seems that fossil fuels, in the way that we burn them now, are probably orders of magnitude more deadly than radioactive waste. The only problem is, since pollutants are so dispersed, it is very difficult to track their effects. At least with nuclear waste, you know where it is, and you can measure it.

    • Until coal & gas are not used anymore, pure EV is bad for the environment.

      Electricity can be produced by environmentally friendly means--we need neither oil, gas, or nuclear power. Furthermore, even oil and gas-powered plants can reduce emissions much more effectively than automobiles--they can use much better catalysts and filters, and they could even eliminate carbon dioxide emissions. They also avoid most of the pollution resulting from refining and transporting gasoline.

      Another reason why electric cars are environmentally friendly is because they simply don't come in the kind of behemoths that gasoline powered cars come in. And they don't have to: if you want a lot of power in an SUV, you need a big engine and that's going to depress gas mileage. Electric motors give you a lot more flexibility.

      Furthermore, even if there were currently an environmental disadvantage of pure EVs (which I don't believe there actually is if you work it all out), you wouldn't have to eliminate all coal and gas powered electric plants, you'd only have to replace a fraction of them with environmentally more friendly technologies, or upgrade a fraction of them to run more cleanly.

      The real problem is that because the anti-nuke lobby has made it uneconomical to run nuclear power plants,

      If only it were true. Nuclear energy is environmentally the most harmful energy source imaginable because it leaves behind waste that is both highly toxic and completely indestructible by chemical or biological means. We should eliminate it completely as soon as possible--we just don't need it.

      • Not really. We know how to recycle nuclear waste, and get more energy from the process than we got in the first place.

        If I remember correctly, after we do all the recycling we know how to do we end up with just hundreds of pounds of waste (instead of tons from current mythods) with much shorter half lives (read we only need to store the dangerious stuff safely for hundreds of years, not tens of thousands)

        • Even if you could "recycle" the core materials very efficiently, you would still end up with enormous amounts of radioactive materials from the building materials and structural materials. And their half lives are all over the place.
      • Nuclear energy is environmentally the most harmful energy source imaginable because it leaves behind waste that is both highly toxic and completely indestructible by chemical or biological means. We should eliminate it completely as soon as possible--we just don't need it.


        That toxic nuclear material came from the environment in the first place.
        After being "burned" in a power plant there's less of it than when you started,
        what with that pesky first law of thermodynamics and all.
        Then it's returned to the environment, typically in a more geologically stable place than where it came from.

        -- Rattle snake venom may be 100% natural, but I wouldn't recommend drinking it.
        • That toxic nuclear material came from the environment in the first place.

          No. The fissionable material put into in nuclear reactors both has a very long half life, is not very radioactive, and is contained in geologically stable formations and minerals. That's because it has been around for such a long time before being extracted for use in nuclear power plants: anything short-lived has already decayed long ago, anything that isn't tightly contained in its geological environment has been washed out long ago. All you get with natural radioactive minerals is very slow decay and very slow weathering over a huge area.

          Once you refine this stuff and put it into a nuclear reactor, you convert it into something with a much shorter halflife (on a geological time scale, not a human time scale), and it is much more concentrated, much more chemically reactive, and much less geologically stable form.

          After being "burned" in a power plant there's less of it than when you started, what with that pesky first law of thermodynamics and all.

          There is a little bit less mass, but the resulting radioactive material is much more dangerous. Furthermore, you also end up contaminating huge amounts of previously non-radioactive materials with dangerous radioactive isotopes through neutron capture.

          Then it's returned to the environment, typically in a more geologically stable place than where it came from.

          Absolutely not. Apart from the fact that what we return to the environment is completely different from what we took from it, we have no idea how geologically stable specific sites are in the future or how our storage methods hold up over millenia. For natural radioactive minerals, since they have been where they are for so long, it's a good bet that they are going to stay there, up to slow processes like weathering.

      • If only it were true. Nuclear energy is environmentally the most harmful energy source imaginable because it leaves behind waste that is both highly toxic and completely indestructible by chemical or biological means. We should eliminate it completely as soon as possible--we just don't need it.

        Interesting opinion. Care to support your claims? My personal opinion on nuclear power is opposite yours, and covered quite well in the short essay âoeKnow Nukesâ in Mind, Machines and Evolution [jamesphogan.com] by James P. Hogan.

      • Electricity can be produced by environmentally friendly means--we need neither oil, gas, or nuclear power.
        There is no such thing as 'enviromentally friendly power'. There are only sources that are less unfriendly than others. (Windpower requires clearing hills of trees, tidal power requires dams... etc.) Lack of physical or visible waste is not a sign of lack of enviromental impact.
        Another reason why electric cars are environmentally friendly is because they simply don't come in the kind of behemoths that gasoline powered cars come in.
        If you choose to ignore the batteries, yes. But even a small electric car is a rolling toxic waste dump with current battery technology. They're not really much better than IC cars in that respect.
        • Windpower requires clearing hills of trees, tidal power requires dams


          There are plenty of places that have lots of wind and no trees (deserts, oceans, tundra, etc). Also, I think you meant hydroelectric power, not tidal power.

        • There is no such thing as 'enviromentally friendly power'.

          Sure there is. Solar power captured in deserts and converted into hydrogen would have much less impact on the environment than any current technology. Windpower and other technologies can also be put in place where they have very little impact. Plant-based fuels have no more impact than other agriculture (less, actually).

          "Friendly" doesn't mean that there is absolutely no effect on the environment, it just means that the effects are much more limited and predictable than they are now, and that those methods are sustainable.

          If you choose to ignore the batteries, yes. But even a small electric car is a rolling toxic waste dump with current battery technology.

          None of that needs to be released into the environment for their operation, and all of it can be recycled.

          Furthermore, once there is a demand, people will make incremental improvements and come up with cheaper, lighter, and better battery technologies.

    • IIRC, the current laws applying to car manufacturers require that their entire line of automobiles get a certain level of average fuel efficiency. An all electric car doesn't help the manufacturer in this respect. But adding a hybrid line can allow a manufacturer to also sell those mamoth SUVs that measure fuel efficiency in gpm (instead of mpg).

      That's why I have a sneaking suspicion why they always make hybrid cars look butt-ugly. They don't actually want to sell many of these, they just want to be able to sell their cash cow SUVs.
    • Not at all, for a number of reasons:

      1. Most, if not all, power plants are much more efficient that ICE's (Internal Combustion Engines).
      2. Most power plants are located away from pollution centers, distributing the pollution load so that it has less of an impact.
      3. As the power plant mix improves effeciency and produces lower pollution, so do all the EVs they supply.
      4. It's easier to retrofit pollution controls on one power plant than the thousands of cars it could support.

      I'm looking up the study that backs this up and will post a link as followup...
  • by suso (153703) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @12:32PM (#4176568) Homepage Journal
    I went to this website looking for specifications on the EV cars that they make and they are nearly the same specifications that I saw about 5 years ago. The top speed is still only around 55 mph. And the range is only 56 miles?!?! Come on. If it's going to take 4-6 hours to charge the battery only to 80% then I'd want to get more than 56 miles. I don't care who they are marketing it for. It's almost no better than buying a supped up golf cart.
    • It's fine for zipping around cities like San Francisco, Seattle, or Portland. Still, I agree that they should have increased the range somewhat for US distances.

      The biggest problem was that it was very hard to get these things. Also, people don't want to commit to something if the company isn't going to stick with it.

    • by WEFUNK (471506) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @02:26PM (#4177071) Homepage
      Actually, from what I understand, electric vehicles were never really expected to succeed and each of the big automakers purposefully limited performance, features, and production numbers. Now before you lump me in with the big-oil-bush-presidency conspiracy theorists, let me tell you why this is actually a good thing.

      Initially, EV development was influenced by government pressure and companies did try to market these vehicles to niche markets. However, once the car companies realized that battery technology was already mature and has already had years and years and billions of dollars thrown at development, they pretty well gave up on pure electric vehicles as the future of the automobile. However, they did not immediately give up on their EV programs (EV1, Th!nk, etc.). Apart from political reasons, why is this?

      Well, the most promising technologies (hybrids, fuel cells) were still out on the horizon but shared many simularities with battery driven vehicles. EV technology was mature enough to be put on the road immediately so they could learn about the issues they would run into with these cars. However, if they offered a particularly attractive EV with lots of features then Joe Average might buy one and become very frustrated with the beta level technology, swear off ever buying any future hybrid or fuel cell car, and tell all his friends how much they suck. Instead, they limited the market to early adopters who wouldn't be turned off by the problems of bleeding edge technology. This is also why the first hybrids had such long waiting lists and were only offered in very basic, unsexy models. Again, they intentionally restricted supply for trial purposes and made sure that only real geeks would ever buy them.

      Effectively, they used enthusiasts to fund the testing of their new technologies in real world conditions without risking widespread customer dissatisfaction and without the expense of designing normal creature comforts. Now, with real production model hybrids, the early programs have served their purpose and the limited functionality models have less catchet with enthusiasts, so the manufacturers are removing them from the road to avoid confusing the average consumer.
    • You're right --- it's a clear example of how the automakers not only have their heels dug in against EVs, they've thrown out a few anchors as well. I used to have a Sparrow --- an odd looking 3-wheel 1-person EV that cost $15,000. They couldn't build them fast enough. Unfortunately, they've got a number of design problems specific to the Sparrow that make them impractical, but it clearly shows there's a market out there, as even I thought they cost about twice what they should. But 1-person was only a minor annoyance on occasion, and the range was sufficient for 90% of my driving needs, which also means that my Explorer would last much longer, not only in time, but miles (short trips are murder on ICE's). If GM would put battery warmers in the lead-acid version of the EV-1 (lead-acid batteries don't like getting below about 60) and actually sell and support it nationwide, it would be kick-ass: it has good performance and decent range. My Sparrow was extremely peppy and nimble and was a blast to drive. Tomorrow, I'm going to the EV Drag races in Woodburn, OR, where it's common to see 1/4 miles in the low teens and a few specialty vehicles get under 10 seconds.

      The only thing keeping us from having commercial EVs is the will to produce them.
  • All I Want.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@gmail.OPENBSDcom minus bsd> on Saturday August 31, 2002 @12:37PM (#4176586)
    Basically, all I want in a ZE/LE car is three things:

    1. Costs under 10k. I mean, if you take a lot of parts out of something, and reduce its weight a lot, shouldn't it cost less? Electric cars are greatly simplified in many cases - hell most of them dont even need transmissions.

    2. Can be charged/refilled in many ways - including a fast charge at some type of service station. Also, a fold out/attachable solar array (maybe folds out of trunk, or from underneath the car). It must be able to be charged to at least 2 hrs worth of driving in the same amount of time as a normal "fill up". Absolute longest is five minutes.

    3. It must not look like a plastic toy. Make it look like any other car I've owned. I dont want people to look at my car and say "hey, look at the guy in an electric car". I don't want a piece of molded plastic with four tiny wheels. I want a normal 4-door sedan.

    Give me those three things, and I will never look back.

    Instead, what we get are 1000 pound plastic attempt-to-look-like-the-future pieces of junk. Not interested, thanks.
    • One of the problems that kills electric cars as a reasonable alternative is climate control - especially in winter. A normal gasoline engine throws off as much energy in waste heat as a it generates in mechanical power. This waste heat is easily used to heat a car interior. Since cars have really bad heat loss (lot of glass), it takes as much energy to heat a car as it does a small house. With electric cars you have a real problem because of the lack of the internal combustion engine heat.

      • Getting heat from an electric car should be easy. If your car has a 30 horsepower motor, it may consume over 20,000 watts (30*746). A small motor like that needs a lot of cooling. Its cooling system would be your heating system. That is a lot of BTU's. Add a refrigerant compressor on the drive for the hot days.

        It just takes a small extra investment to add these creature comfort features to any electric car.
    • All you want is the moon from the sky? The only way you're going to charge batteries in 5 minutes for 2 hours of driving is by using liquid acid batteries and actually replacing the acid in the cells. And the liquid batteries ain't that great otherwise.

      Anyways, here in Finland they actually have a punitive tax for any alternative cars. If you try to dodge gas tax by driving an electric van, they slap you with a fat annual tax to cover up the "loss". Delightful.
      • The only way you're going to charge batteries in 5 minutes for 2 hours of driving is by using liquid acid batteries

        Why not just manufacture the batteries to a uniform size and power grade. Then instead of charging them, swap them out. This also handles the problem of limited life cycle - add a surcharge to cover replacement after 2 or 3 years. In addition, this allows your car to take advantage of better technology.

    • Hmmm.

      Best solar cells you're going to see in "field use" are around 20% efficiency. Let's call it 25%. Let's set insolation to a very favorable figure of 1300 W/m2; this is what it is at 1 AU from the sun, but doesn't take into account axial tilt, clouds, nighttime, that sort of thing, so it's pretty much a maximum value.

      How many solar panels can you fold out of the trunk? 100 square meters seems like a reasonable size for how big the array could be and still be manageable. Let's also assume total efficency in the other aspects of the system; all energy the solar cells manage to turn into electricy eventually ends up moving the car.

      With all these favorable numbers, we end up with 1300 J/s/m * 100 m2 * 7200 s * .25 = 234 MJ.

      Merely to accelerate a 1,000kg car to 100km/h would take 784 kJ of this energy. I don't think you're getting 2 hours of driving time out of this array's charging the batteries for 2 hours unless the car in question is Matchbox.
      • Those numbers look pretty good to me. Maybe I missed something? According to your numbers, you could accelerate 0-100km/h 300 times from a two hour charge.
    • Re:All I Want.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by bedessen (411686) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @01:43PM (#4176881) Journal
      2. Can be charged/refilled in many ways - including a fast charge at some type of service station. Also, a fold out/attachable solar array (maybe folds out of trunk, or from underneath the car). It must be able to be charged to at least 2 hrs worth of driving in the same amount of time as a normal "fill up". Absolute longest is five minutes.


      Sorry, this is almost impossible. You underestimate the tremendous energy density of gasoline. To move an equivalent amount of electical energy in such a short time would probably require conductors too heavy to lift, and refueling stations would require special high capacity hookups to the electrical grid.

      Gasoline has an energy density of about 44 MJ/kg, and a density of 740kg/m^3. Let's assume you put 15 gallons into your tank in five minutes (which would be a pretty slow gas pump if you ask me.) That's 1.85 GJ of energy! Now, certainly not all of that energy is put to use moving the vehicle. Most of it goes to the atmosphere as heat. Let's say 20% of it does useful work. (Or, alternatively, that electric vehicles are 1/.2 or 5 times more efficient.) That means that our electric vehicle needs 370 MJ of energy for the equivalent fillup. If you want that in 5 minutes, you're looking at a rate of 1.23 MW (that's megawatts!) At 120 Volts, that would be over 10,000 amperes. Even at at 10,000 Volts, that's still 123 amperes.

      It requires either extremely high current or very high voltage to move that much electrical energy that fast. Neither is practical -- that much current would be horribly inefficient unless you had a cable the diameter of your leg. The notion of very high voltages at filling stations is no better. This completely ignores the fact that the "system voltage" of the vehicle is probably around 75 - 150V, so this refilling voltage would have to get stepped down again, and you're back to the problem of how to handle 10,000 amps. And of course there's the fact that the electrical grid probably could not handle short bursts of several megawatts for every person refilling a car. How many simultaneous people are refilling their cars at any given time? And how much extra headroom does your power company have?

      This is one of the classic problems of the all-electric vehicle. I don't think you'll ever see charging times reduced to less than 4 - 6 hours. And that's for specialized refilling stations. Most households just aren't wired for anywhere close to that much power. Older houses I think had 150 amp service, newer houses are built to 200 or 250 amp service, if I recall.
      • Re:All I Want.. (Score:3, Informative)


        It requires either extremely high current or very high voltage to move that much electrical energy that fast. Neither is practical -- that much current would be horribly inefficient unless you had a cable the diameter of your leg. The notion of very high voltages at filling stations is no better.


        While a true recharge in under two hours may be out of the question,
        a "fill up" at a station could be as quick as changing a battery pack.
        If the batteries were cheap enough, then you could have one at home charging at all times.
        (Or only at night, when the rates are lower.)

        The real problem is energy storage, not energy transfer.

        -- this is not a .sig
    • Costs under 10k. I mean, if you take a lot of parts out of something, and reduce its weight a lot, shouldn't it cost less? Electric cars are greatly simplified in many cases - hell most of them dont even need transmissions.

      Batteries are currently expensive. You'll have to wait quite a while.

      Can be charged/refilled in many ways - including a fast charge at some type of service station. Also, a fold out/attachable solar array (maybe folds out of trunk, or from underneath the car). It must be able to be charged to at least 2 hrs worth of driving in the same amount of time as a normal "fill up". Absolute longest is five minutes.

      Why not go a different route? How about putting automatic charging stations in every parking lot in the nation? The charging stations themselves aren't all that complicated, but it would need something special to do it automatically (induction?, some robotics under the car that finds the charging socket on the parking stall?.)

      This way the average use for a car is taken care of. You won't be able to go traipsing across the country, but a lot of us don't do that anyway.

      3. It must not look like a plastic toy. Make it look like any other car I've owned. I dont want people to look at my car and say "hey, look at the guy in an electric car". I don't want a piece of molded plastic with four tiny wheels. I want a normal 4-door sedan.

      Seriously, think outside the box. With polymer batteries that can conform to many shapes, there is no reason why a car manufacturer needs to have that really big front end where the motor used to be. You don't need an axle, so you can stick the driver in the middle instead of off to the left (or right for your backwards countries. :)

      As it stands, cars aren't exactly the most aerodynamic peices of equipment out there after all.

      In fact, GM is doing exactly this with their fuel cell platform. It will be neat if they actually go ahead and fully back the project.
    • I mean, if you take a lot of parts out of something, and reduce its weight a lot, shouldn't it cost less?

      By that same logic, laptops should be half the price of desktops. After all, they weigh less and they have less parts, right?

      In reality, though, lighter parts cost *more* because they're made out of things that are more expensive. Take the car's frame or body - iron is cheap, aluminum is not so cheap, and composites are downright expensive.
    • 1. Costs under 10k. I mean, if you take a lot of parts out of something, and reduce its weight a lot, shouldn't it cost less?

      To put it simply... No. Not when the parts that are added back in (the motors) are non trivial to build.

      2. Can be charged/refilled in many ways - including a fast charge at some type of service station. Also, a fold out/attachable solar array (maybe folds out of trunk, or from underneath the car). It must be able to be charged to at least 2 hrs worth of driving in the same amount of time as a normal "fill up". Absolute longest is five minutes.

      I suspect that a study of the laws of physics would benifit you here. 2 hours of driving is a lot of energy, and it's very unlikely you'll move that much energy, safely, that fast.

      3. It must not look like a plastic toy. Make it look like any other car I've owned. I dont want people to look at my car and say "hey, look at the guy in an electric car". I don't want a piece of molded plastic with four tiny wheels. I want a normal 4-door sedan.

      Did you ever think there is a *reason* why EV's are small and not full sized? See the comment above energy requirements.
  • Fuel Cell Cars (Score:5, Insightful)

    by breser (16790) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @12:40PM (#4176598) Homepage
    Electric cars that require an outside power source just don't have the range to satisfy people. The auto industry now thinks that fuel cell powered cars are much closer to achieving the 300 mile range that people expect. So fuel cell technology is where it is going.

    Incidentally there is a good articles in a recent Time [time.com] magazine and Wired [wired.com].

    • I don't think you will see a practical electric car unless there is a huge breakthrough in battery technology. The numnbers are just not there.

      The hybrid car really looks like the answer - some sort of internal combustion engine running at a 'sweet spot' for max efficiency charging batteries, or maybe a fuel cell converting the combustion directly into electricity.

      The fuel for that combustion could be a number of things including hydrogen, ethanol, natural gas, or gasoline. Eventually we hope that it will be a fuel that does not generate a net increase in greenhouse gases during it's life cycle - right now the only such fuel that qualifies for that is hydrogen produced from hydroelectric/wind/nuclear sourced electricity.

  • They are right (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "... we don't believe that this is the future of environmental transport for the mass market."

    They are quite right. Car is not the future of environmental transport. There are dozens over dozens of cities in the world where the transport situation is totally unsustainable due to constant grows of the cities themselves and consequently the number of vehicles on the streets.

    What city or country has the best public transportation system?

    • Re:They are right (Score:4, Interesting)

      by autechre (121980) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @01:30PM (#4176829) Homepage

      One example of how car transportation will eventually not work is the city of Beijing. You either have an "A" license plate, or a "B" license plate, and you can drive every other day. If you drive on the wrong day, you get a ticket. This is because there is simply not enough room for all of the cars. And sometimes I think 695 is bad here in Baltimore...

      On the other hand, we have Japan, which is pretty heavily packed with people in most areas, and the cities aren't spread out suburbs. This makes it easy to build an efficient train system, and in fact, most people take the train to get most places (that are too far to walk). Trains stop more frequently (sort of like busses in the US), so it's easier to take them pretty close to where you want to go, and according to my Japanese teacher, you can get really good pricing if you plan on riding them a lot (which you will). Germany is another example of a place with an excellent public transportation system.

      As I implied above, it would be difficult to do this in most US cities due to the way they're laid out. The public transportation system in Baltimore can't compare with Germany or Japan, although with the combination of busses and the light rail (I believe you can buy monthly plans for a combination of the two), you can get most places around the city and close suburbs, though not in a hurry.

  • As long as you are still charging the batteries from the national grid you're just moving the point the fossil fuels are converted into energy way back up the line, to the power stations.

    By the time you total grid inefficency, battery inefficency and so on, the total CO2 emissions advantage is negligable. You'd do better to add more insulation to your house and drive a little Honda.

    The Hybrids, though, are another kettle of fish entirely - they generate their electricity from gasoline, in situ, and that actually (surprisingly) turns out to be a smart thing to do for a long list of reasons.

    So, over-all, no great loss and wait for Hypercars [hypercar.com] - cars that think they are power stations..... (no, I'm not making this up).
  • by deft (253558) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @12:52PM (#4176652) Homepage
    I wonder if hybrids (which seem to be the practical transitional cars) are only the stop gap till the real 'next' car, fuel cell powered vehicles.

    i think ford saw ev as that stop gap, but they got the beta instead of the vhs in this case.

  • by Anna Merikin (529843) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @01:00PM (#4176702) Journal
    I would remind gentle /. readers that the electricity a Ford Think (or any electric car) would use has to be generated somehow. This was an attractive solution for California, as most of the electricity-generating plants that serve (my) state are in Arizona and Nevada. Further, when the California power grid goes down again, not only will you have no TV, you will have no car. Hydrogen, my friends. Dubya might be wrong about lots of things, but he knows the future of energy. Check out the new developments in extracting hydrogen from shale and rock, much like natural gas. Its only pollution is water vapor, which can be electrolyzed back into hydrogen fuel and ozygen if required. Hydrogen can also be produced by the electrolysis of seawater using solar cells for power or by heating coal dust in the presence of a catalyst using solar collectors. California simply tried to legislate a market that will never exist, and, if by some freak it did, would shift the pollution to other states.

    • There are several things wrong with this view - The previous post is self contradictory First it criticizes electric cars for requiring that the electricity be generated somehow, and then it advocate hydrogens, which has exactly the same problem

      Both systems are energy inefficient (although I suppose electric cars are worse).

      Electric cars are energy inefficient because you must generate electricity, then lossily transport it, then lossily convert it into chemical energy in a battery, then convert it back into electrical energy, then convert it into mechanical energy.

      Electric cars are not unpopular because of some vast conspiracy, but because they are a lousy technology. The main problem is a result of the energy storage technology; it is extremely poor compared to storing the energy in gsaoline. Electric car batteries are very expensive, only last a few years, and have such a low energy density that they greatly constrain the size and power of automobiles. And in climates like here in Arizona, the power load of the required air conditioning (5 kW) reduces the range even more.

      As a result, electric cars are a fine choice for a few people who are willing to pay too much (or extort the money from us via government subsidies), who have driving requirements/habits that can deal with the short mileage, and who don't mind small cars (read: more collision danger to the occupants) with limited air condition and storage capabilities.

      OTOH, hydrogen cars require the liberation of hydrogen from a bound state in some existing compound. Electrolysis is inefficient, and still leaves you with power plants to deal with. Storage of significant amounts of hydrogen is also a problem. The biggest problem IMHO with hydrogen powered cars is the investment required to distribute the hydrogen. Retooling the civilized world to dispense hydrogen along with gas (I am not a fan of slash-cuts!) will cost many trillions of dollars, and hydrogen doesn't offer those advantages.

      Fuel cells may be a better approach, depending on the fuel and cost. The car makers and the govmint are counting on them. Of course, there is the issue of what to do with the waste from fuel cells also. If you use a hydrogen fuel cell, you pick up all the problems of hydrogen mentioned above! If you use a fuel cell with something that reforms a hydrocarbon, you have to deal with whatever is left of the hydrocarbon. Hopefully you can put it into a tank and bring it back... but who knows.

      BTW... anyone who wants to use electricity as either a primary (electric cars) or secondary (hydrogen cars) had better be an advocate of nuclear power. You can put all the nuke plants you want here in Arizona, and its fine with me. But don't put any more hydrocarbon plants here and screw up our visibility.

      Oh, and solar.... fuggetabout it. It takes too much land area, produces unreliable power which must be stored somehow (probably inefficiently, even more reducing the energy efficiency of the system), and most solar cells take more energy just to produce and install than they will deliver in their lifetime!

  • ... for several reasons. Let's go through some of them:
    1) Batteries suck. Even the best ones are expensive, don't hold enough charge per unit weight or volume to come within an order of magnitude of gas, and take a long time to charge.

    2) Electric engines suck at high RPM. Gas engines suck at low RPM. Electric engines are horrible on the highway unless your car is really light.

    3) People don't want light cars, even if this is best for the environment, because all the mother-trucking heavy 3-ton pickups and SUVs out on the road will crush them like a VW Bug in an accident.

    4) Electric engines are expensive and not as efficient as gas ones. The industry has a hundred years of experience in making gas auto engines and not nearly as much in electric.

    5) It pollutes just as much anyway. Most people get their power from a coal or oil-fired plant, or maybe natural gas. Since charging and then discharging the battery is fairly inefficient, especially at high speeds, it can even pollute more than a gas engine.

    6) Those EVs on the site are ugly, as are the Prius and the Insight. People don't want to buy ugly cars.

    7) The cars are more expensive than gas cars. The decreased fuel cost does not offset this completely, and it doesn't help the environment much unless you have a nuke plant in your neighborhood, which you probably don't, because evironmentalists hate nuke plants (even though they are probably better for the environment). They have crappy performance on the highway and they are ugly. So what is your motivation for buying?
  • "Grid-provided" electric just isn't the way to go. Most folks that are looking to eliminate fossil fuel engines from cars are now working on hydrogen-based fuel cells. The reasons for this are fairly simple:

    "Electric cars" that charge off the power grid are just moving their fossil fuel consumption over to a power plant (unless the power is provided by nuclear generation, which has its own huge set of problems).

    With a non-material "fuel", there is a wait time associated with recharing. It takes a lot less time to fill up a hydrogen tank (or even swap an empty one for a full one) then it does to recharge a big bank of batteries.

    A reasonably-sized efficient fuel cell would be revolutionary far beyond personal conveyances. Rather than persue research that would result in, at best, a full-scale version of toys kids have played with for years, why not work on a method of power generation that could vastly change the way we physically structure our societies and make giant leaps towards restoring Earth's natural capital?

    Groups like the Rocky Mountain Institute [rmi.org] have been pushing fuel cell cars for a decade (search their site for "hypercar"). It's nice of the auto industry to catch up. :-)

    • "Electric cars" that charge off the power grid are just moving their fossil fuel consumption over to a power plant (unless the power is provided by nuclear generation, which has its own huge set of problems).
      ...but the hydrogen for a fuel cell would be produced by stripping natural gas (produces CO2) or by hydrolysis (uses that same electricity, and more of it). Or else you would have to use methane or some other hydrocarbon in the first place. How is that cleaner again?

      Oh, wait, you could use photosynthetic bacteria, some of which make hydrogen and oxygen. But if that became economically practical, we could use it for power generation too...
  • I think it's important to note that Think wasn't really about electric "cars" it was about electric vehicles. The venture was very much an "outside the box" and it's product line makes that obvious. (Mostly they are small vehicles designed for short trips around town) Not surprisingly, people like cars and don't want

    That said... Here's a rejected slashdot story submission about what *I* think was a fairly interesting news. I post it because I think it's on topic and intersting and I put some time in typing it up--obviously, sometimes slashdot doesn't have the space... so no hard feelings. (Maybe I just spelled everything right ;-) )

    The jist is that GM is betting on fuel cells. Not electric and not "conventional" hyrbids.


    Popular Mechanics is carrying an article [popularmechanics.com] (with pic's) of GM's latest fuel-cell concept car. The pictures are our first look (mine at least) at GM's new strategy to redefine the basic systems every car they make. It's called AUTOnomy and was written about [popsci.com] a little while back in Popular Science. Essentially, because fuel-cells allow a radically different organization of cars' structures, GM is betting it can make cars cheaper. This despite the fact they'd be running on the famously expensive fuel cell. Wired wrote about this"billion dollar bet" [wired.com] in its August issue and quotes a GM exec: "If we're not there by 2010], we'll have dug too deep a hole to recover the time value of that money." In other words: call us stupid if you can't drive one of these by 2010. This is some good reading for those wanting to know more about what GM's plans to do with its fuel cell "platform" that it hopes to use for virtually every vehicle it makes in the future. Of course, as Wired notes, a fairly heavy dose of skepticism is NOT optional. Itís required.


  • you can't fight the StoneCutters.

    Who keeps the metric system down? WE DO.
  • by Ellen Spertus (31819) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @01:20PM (#4176790) Homepage
    I'm a driver of the GM EV1, a great electric car. I've created a website about GM's treatment of the car: cleanup-gm.org [cleanup-gm.org]. GM is pulling working EV1s off the road, even though drivers are willing to pay to keep driving them. (They returned the checks that we sent them.) Meanwhile, they falsely report that nobody wants electric cars.
    • Ok, so you and a handful of other people are willing to lease (maybe not even BUY) an EV-1. This does not mean that there is a viable market for them. You have no plausible reason to believe otherwise. For one, it is almost certainly economically unviable to run the manufacturing facilities in such small quantities. For another, honoring the warranties, training people, overhead, on going engineering, etc to support these cars also may very well be costing GM a lot more than they could ever sell.

      As long as you are counting in the hundreds, you are not going to appeal to GM or any other worthwhile car maker. Now I'm sorry, but I simply don't believe that this is going to happen, because Americans aren't willing to put up with EVs in any sizable number. The fact of the matter is that we have standard cars that get 3x times the gas milage of the most popular cars today, without half the drawbacks of EVs and most of the supposed benefits (I'd argue they're probably even better), and they aren't exactly moving swiftly. What's more, we also see evidence of unwillingess to make really measurable sacrifices for the environment in numerous other ways, from CHOICE of driving distance, to not carpooling or taking mass transit, to living in an inefficient house, to simply owning an obselete highly polluting car (like so many so-called environmentals), and so on.

      Who, other then you and a handful of people that spend a lot of time fretting over such things, really want to put up with all the potential bugs (engineering 101, you make a lot of changes to time tested designs, you're going to have a lot more bugs), limited driving range, poor acceleration, costlier maintenance, numerous drawbacks of owning a lighter, smaller, and often weaker car, and so on just to save the environment a couple liters of pollution? A lot of people may clamour for it (mostly those on forums like this), but the money isn't following it. If there were a market there, or even one that could be easily developed, the major car manufacturers would have pounced on it (esp. those that are desperate for growth). What we have instead is a handful of companies that have made pretty damn impressive efforts...but they are all ultimate failures because there are not enough buyers.
      • Ok, so you and a handful of other people are willing to lease (maybe not even BUY) an EV-1. This does not mean that there is a viable market for them. You have no plausible reason to believe otherwise.
        Actually, the research indicates that there is a demand for electric cars. See, e.g., http://www.greencars.com/newsreleases/sept7.html [greencars.com]. There is also evidence that the car companies intentionally did a poor job marketing electric cars so they could make the same incorrect argument that you are. (See references at http://cleanup-gm.org/ev1.html [cleanup-gm.org].)
      • limited driving range
        The 120+ mile range of the gen 2 EV1 (and 4 hour charge time) is admittedly not good for road trips, but it's perfectly good for most commutes.
        poor acceleration
        You have obviously never driven an EV1. VROOOOOOM!
        costlier maintenance
        Electric cars are much simpler than ICE cars, so aside from the inevitable glitches of v1.0 of anything, there are far fewer points of failure in an EV. The EV1 doesn't even have a transmission. Admittedly, batteries are expensive and have a finite lifetime, but the same is true for many car parts that EVs lack. It isn't obvious to me that the total maintenance cost should be higher.
        weaker car
        If by weaker you mean less safe, the EV1 has good stats there. If you mean less power, all I can say is try one and see (but hurry up, before GM crushes them all). VROOOOOM!
        If there were a market there, or even one that could be easily developed, the major car manufacturers would have pounced on it (esp. those that are desperate for growth).
        Unfortunately, that's not true. First, there is a market. Despite putting essentially no effort (some might say negative effort) into promoting the EV1, GM has always had a long waiting list for the car. They simply never produced enough to meet demand. Now, despite having drivers who like the cars well enough to extend the leases and assume all maintenance costs, or buy them outright, they are taking the cars back and crushing them.

        Second, from the perspective of short-term profitablity, it may make sense for car makers to avoid selling EVs even though there is a market for them, since, by selling EVs, they are competing against their own (profitable) product line. On the assumption that someone who does not buy an EV will by an IC car, the most profitable thing to do is not sell EVs until forced to do so by regulation or competition. This does not even require an active conspiracy, just a small enough number of car makers, each doing what maximizes short-term profits. The American car makers have been doing the very minimum to conform to California law, and give every appearance of sabotaging their own efforts, to create the false impression that there is no demand. The Japanese manufacturers, rather than whining, are selling the cars. Does this remind anyone of the 1980s?

        What we have instead is a handful of companies that have made pretty damn impressive efforts...but they are all ultimate failures because there are not enough buyers.
        At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist: that's what they want you to think. We will probably never know what the actual demand for the EV1 was, since GM is not about to tell us how long the waiting lists were, but reports from would-be buyers suggests that the demand was high, and one survey [evworld.com] suggests that as many of 33% of California car buyers are interested in buying EVs.
  • The petrochemical industry hates EVs, for obvious reasons.

    No car company in America has taken EVs seriously. Who wants to make a car that lasts 300K miles without any service?

    Who wants to buy a car like the EV1, where odd batteries were scattered throughout the vehicle, making battery replacement a horrendous, expensive task? Most every commercial electric vehicle manufacturer in Japan or Europe uses a easy to replace battery pack that can be swapped out in minutes.

    No, damn it, we want catalysts and fuel systems onboard every frickin car sold.

    Forget batteries...it's surely impossible to increase the energy density of batteries; after all, they're basically the same technology that's been used for 150 years. Can't be done...technology just doesn't improve that way (riiiiigghht).
  • Hydrogen is the future. They have horse power and water is the only thing that comes out of their tail pipes.

    EVs are kind of lame.
    • Don't rule out the other fuel cell technologies. Ethanol and methanol fuel cell technologies are even better than hydrogen since we already have large industries capable of producing them. Not to mention they don't have to be stored at high pressure and supercooled while they are in the vehicle.
  • The big hope for electrics in the near term was that nickel-metal hydride batteries would get cheap. They didn't. They're still expensive, even in laptop-computer sizes.

    The RAV4 EV is more of a real product; you can buy the thing at ordinary Toyota dealers in California, and there's a reasonable network of charging stations in the SF Bay Area. But the range is still only 80 miles.

  • Check out the Corbin Sparrow [corbinmotors.com]. They are selling them as fast as they can make them.
  • I would have liked to buy one, but they never became available for sale around here (only a tiny number of leases) and they had almost no dealers. These cars would be great for cities like SF because they are very easy to park.

    Also, in the transition from Norway to the US, they should have (and could have) increased the range a little bit to match the longer distances in the US.

    If this failure weren't adequately explained by the usual corporate incompetence, one might thing that Ford was deliberately trying to set Think up for failure.

  • I went shopping for an electric or hybrid car a few years back, after seeing ads for the Honda and Saturn electric vehicles in Sierra magazine. Both turned out to be scams: the Honda was never actually available to regular consumers in the San Francisco Bay Area, and production on the Saturn was quite limited. The dealers strongly discouraged purchase, discouraged anyone from signing up for the waiting list, yet they had long waiting lists anyway (requests which were never filled).

    The prices were also absurd: the Saturn EV-1 was available only by lease, at a montly lease rate that was TWICE the monthly rate for a regular Saturn ($399 vs $199, at that time), and at the end of the 36-month lease term, the EV-1 had to be returned -- there was no purchase option, since GM didn't want electric cars to be "out there." The net effect was that the "real cost" of an EV-1 was triple the cost of a comparable Saturn gasoline-powered car.

    Later, the Honda and Toyota hybrids were marketed in a similar manner: not really available to consumers (most dealers can't get them), and priced at least twice the level of the comparable "regular" car sold by the same company.

    So what's really happening? The car manufacturers are playing a combined political/legal game, in order to avoid meeting California's requirements. The task is simple: the auto makers pretend to seriously explore alternative power technologies, and they pretend to offer them for sale, but they deliberately set prices at unreasonable levels, and when demand turns out to be extremely strong anyway, they discontinue the vehicle model, falsely claiming that consumers don't want these vehicles.

    If California ever sought to enforce its requirements (which seems quite unlikely), the manufacturers would go straight to court, claiming that the standards are unreasonable, and they will claim that they made all reasonable efforts to try to meet the standards.

    It's a shell game, and Ford's decision to buy and then dismantle one of the few viable companies offering alternative-fuel cars, is just another clear sign that the automakers won't tolerate any attempt to "do the right thing."

  • what is going on? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Lelon (443322)
    either everyone on this board is ignorant or electric cars have taken a huge step back.

    i tested drived an electric car about 4 years ago.

    it went 85+ miles an hour.

    it accelerated faster then any car you can buy from ford right now.

    it had a range of 400 miles (300 with excessive use of radio/ac/heat)

    it looked, felt, and drove, like a regular car. none of you could tell the difference from 20 feet away.

    there were only 2 drawbacks at that time.

    they were expensive.

    they took a long time to charge.

    its sad that so many of you have been fooled into thinking electric cars have to be small plastic toys or cant go faster then 55 miles an hour. go test drive one.
  • ...due to poor customer demand and lack of government support for the environmentally friendly cars.
    You have to ask how much demand there'd be if Ford marketed these vehicles as hard as they market SUVs. And how much support they'd get if the White House weren't overflowing with former oil industry executives.
  • They're probably looking at something like this [sciam.com]

    Basically, a process that breaks down biomass from plants and produces hydrogen and CO2 as byproducts. They claim the CO2 produced will be less than what is used by next years crop of plants that are grown for this purpose. We'll see, I suppose.

    But anyway, it's a promising technology, and probably what Ford is looking to for the future.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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