Governments should support Electric Vehicles
Researchers from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands say that electric transport is on the verge of a major breakthrough and it is about time the Dutch government got involved. The emphasis should no longer be on hybrid or hydrogen vehicles but on full electric transport, which is clean and highly economical.
Tesla 2008 Roadster
Photo: Tesla Motors
The electric car can accelerate from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in four seconds, and it has a range of 350 kilometres. All that for just 100,000 dollars!
Chris Hellinga, engineer at the Delft University of Technology, thinks the breakthrough of electric transport may come sooner than we all think. At the moment a very simple electric car is at least twice the price of a regular one. However, the use of an electrical car is much cheaper, especially with the fuel prices going sky high.
"The last few years driving electrically has become a serious option in all corners of the world because it is quiet, clean and economical. Quite a few people feel that electrical transport is here to stay," says Chris Hellinga. For just one euro worth of electricity a family car can easily cover a 100 kilometres. If you compare that to paying 80 euros at the gas station, driving electrically does seem the transportation of the future.
The engine in an electric car is four times more efficient than one running on petrol or diesel. That is precisely what makes electrical cars so clean. Eighty percent of the energy from the battery reaches the wheels of the car. In a regular car that is only twenty percent. Even if the car does not run on green energy it is still four times cleaner.
In the Netherlands electric transport is well on its way. The company Duracar in the southern town of Helmond for example produces the Quickk. It is a small delivery van designed for postal workers and pizza deliveries. The Quickk seats two and has a loading space of 600 kilos. It can do 120 kilometres per hour and has a range of 150. Charging the battery is easily done overnight, using a regular socket. Finally, the ‘fuel' price is less than one euro a day.
Photo: DuraCar Holding B.V.
Researcher Chris Hellinga says there is just one thing keeping electric cars from taking over the market: the production of lithium-ion battery packs. At present there are not enough companies in the world equipped to produce them, but this too is a matter of time. People in the Netherlands who want to drive electrically can start now, on two wheels that is. The Amsterdam-based company Mister Green sells and rents out electrical scooters. ‘Mister Green' Florian Minderop explains why he opted for such a vehicle.
"First of all the scooters are electrical and therefore efficient and environmentally friendly. Second, with a range of 50 kilometres and a top speed of 50 kph, the scooter is practical and can be used all over town." Chris Hellinga of Delft TU believes it is time the Dutch government took a clear stand on electrical transport. The car industry will take care of development, research and sales. Consumers are interested, so that is not the problem.
"Now it is up to the government to make a move. It needs to provide the infrastructure for electrical driving. If we all shift the focus to full electrical transport we can get rid of bio fuel altogether, let alone those complicated hydrogen-driven cars."
Hello? The Vanadium Redox Cell Battery can be recharged by refilling its liquid electrolyte Vanadium Gas Station.
Who Killed the Electric Car? is a 2006 documentary film that explores the birth, limited commercialization, and subsequent death of the battery electric vehicle in the United States, specifically the General Motors EV1 of the 1990s. The film explores the roles of automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, the US government, the Californian government, batteries, hydrogen vehicles, and consumers in limiting the development and adoption of this technology.
It was released on DVD to the home video market on November 14, 2006 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
During an interview with CBS News, director Chris Paine announced that he would be making a sequel: Who Saved the Electric Car? , finally called Revenge of the Electric Car.
The film deals with the history of the electric car, its development and commercialization, mostly focusing on the General Motors EV1, which was made available for lease in Southern California, after the California Air Resources Board passed the ZEV mandate in 1990, as well as the implications of the events depicted for air pollution, environmentalism, Middle East politics, and global warming.
The film details the California Air Resources Board's reversal of the mandate after suits from automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, and the George W. Bush administration. It points out that Bush's chief influences, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Andrew Card, are all former executives and board members of oil and auto companies.
A large part of the film accounts for GM's efforts to demonstrate to California that there was no demand for their product, and then to take back every EV1 and dispose of them. A few were disabled and given to museums and universities, but almost all were found to have been crushed; GM never responded to the EV drivers' offer to pay the residual lease value ($1.9 million was offered for the remaining 78 cars in Burbank before they were crushed). Several activists are shown being arrested in the protest that attempted to block the GM car carriers taking the remaining EV1s off to be crushed.
The film explores some of the reasons that the auto and oil industries worked to kill off the electric car. Wally Rippel is shown explaining that the oil companies were afraid of losing out on trillions in potential profit from their transportation fuel monopoly over the coming decades, while the auto companies were afraid of losses over the next six months of EV production. Others explained the killing differently. GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss argued it was lack of consumer interest due to the maximum range of 80–100 miles per charge, and the relatively high price.
The film also explores the future of automobile technologies including a deeply critical look at hydrogen vehicles and an upbeat discussion of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technologies.
The film features interviews with celebrities who drove the electric car, such as Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Alexandra Paul, Peter Horton, Ed Begley, Jr., a bi-partisan selection of prominent political figures including Ralph Nader, Frank Gaffney, Alan Lloyd, Jim Boyd, Alan Lowenthal, S. David Freeman, and ex-CIA head James Woolsey, as well as news footage from the development, launch and marketing of EV's.
The film also features interviews with some of the engineers and technicians who led the development of modern electric vehicles and related technologies such as Wally Rippel, Chelsea Sexton, Alec Brooks, Alan Cocconi and Stan and Iris Ovshinsky and other experts, such as Joseph J. Romm (author of Hell and High Water and The Hype about Hydrogen). Romm gives a presentation intended to show that the government's "hydrogen car initiative" is a bad policy choice and a distraction that is delaying the exploitation of more promising technologies, like electric and hybrid cars that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase America's energy security. Also featured in the film are spokesmen for the automakers, such as GM's Dave Barthmuss, a vocal opponent of the film and the EV1, and Bill Reinert from Toyota.
The film was written and directed by Chris Paine, and produced by Jessie Deeter, and executive produced by Tavin Marin Titus, Richard D. Titus of Plinyminor and Dean Devlin, Kearie Peak, Mark Roskin, and Rachel Olshan of Electric Entertainment. The documentary was featured at the Sundance, San Francisco, Tribeca, Los Angeles, Berlin, Deauville, and Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festivals and was released in theaters worldwide in June 2006. The film features a score composed by Michael Brook and also features music by Joe Walsh, DJ Harry and Meeky Rosie. Jeff Steele, Kathy Weiss, Natalie Artin and Alex Gibney were also part of the producing team.
The last half hour of the movie is organized around the following hypothesized culprits in the downfall of the electric car:
Lots of ambivalence to new technology, unwillingness to compromise on decreased range and increased cost for improvements to air quality and reduction of dependence on foreign oil. Although these allegations are made about consumers by industry reps in the film, perhaps explaining the film's "guilty" verdict, the actual consumers interviewed in the film were either unaware an electric car was available, or dismayed that they could no longer obtain one.
Limited range (60-70 miles) and reliability in the first EV-1s to ship, but better (110 - 160 miles) later. Research says the average driving distance of Americans in a day is 30 miles or less and that 90% of Americans could use electric cars in their daily commute. Towards the end of the film, an engineer explains that, as of the interview, lithium ion batteries, the same technology available in laptops, would have allowed the EV-1 to be upgraded to a range of 300 miles per charge.
Fearful of losing business to a competing technology, they supported efforts to kill the ZEV mandate. They also bought patents to prevent modern NiMH batteries from being used in US electric cars.
Negative marketing, sabotaging their own product program, failure to produce cars to meet existing demand, unusual business practices with regards to leasing versus sales. The film only explains this behavior once, saying that electric cars needed fewer expensive repairs and would hence not make the car companies as much money over the long term as gasoline-powered cars. The film also describes the history of automaker efforts to destroy competing technologies, such as their destruction through front companies of public transit systems in the United States in the early 20th century. It also, in one interview, mentions that automakers introduced important safety and emissions innovations including seat belts, airbags and catalytic converters only when forced by government legislation.
The federal government joined in the auto industry suit against California, has failed to act in the public interest to limit pollution and require increased fuel economy, has promoted the purchase of vehicles with poor fuel efficiency through preferential tax breaks, and has redirected alternative fuel research from electric towards hydrogen.
California Air Resources Board
The CARB, headed by Alan Lloyd, caved to industry pressure and repealed the ZEV mandate. Lloyd was given the directorship of the new fuel cell institute, creating an inherent conflict of interest. Footage shot in the meetings showed how he shut down the ZEV proponents while giving the car makers all the time they wanted to make their points.
Hydrogen fuel cell
The hydrogen fuel cell was presented by the film as an alternative that distracts attention from the real and immediate potential of electric vehicles to an unlikely future possibility embraced by automakers, oil companies and a pro-business administration in order to buy time and profits for the status quo.
The film backs up the claim that hydrogen vehicles are a mere distraction by stating that "A fuel cell car powered by hydrogen made with electricity uses 3 to 4 times more energy than a car powered by batteries" and by interviewing the author of The Hype About Hydrogen, who lists 5 problems he sees with hydrogen vehicles (these are his paraphrased claims, along with exact quotations):
1. Current fuel cell cars cost an average of $1,000,000. This cost, in his words, "has gotta drop."
2. Current materials cannot store enough hydrogen in a reasonable space to "give you the range people want."
3. Hydrogen fuel is "wildly expensive." In his words "even hydrogen from dirty fossil fuels is two or three times more expensive than gasoline."
4. The need for an entire new fueling infrastructure. He claims "someone's gonna have to build at least ten or twenty thousand hydrogen fueling stations, before anybody is going to be interested."
5. Competing technologies will improve over time as well. "You have to hope and pray that the competitors in the marketplace don't get any better. Because right now the best car in the marketplace just got a lot better, the hybrid vehicle..."
The movie's conclusions:
* Consumers -- Guilty
* Batteries -- Not Guilty
* Oil companies -- Guilty
* Car companies -- Guilty
* Government -- Guilty
* California Air Resources Board -- Guilty
* Hydrogen fuel cell -- Guilty
The movie pointed out that General Motors' customer survey may have served to lower demand. GM called interested customers and emphasized drawbacks to the car that were disputed by EV1 drivers. CARB officials have been quoted claiming that they removed their zero emission vehicle quotas in part because such surveys purported to show that no demand existed for the EV1s. Critics interviewed in the movie contend that the cost of batteries and electric vehicles would have been reduced significantly when mass production began, due to economies of scale.
PBS "Who Killed the Electric Car?" The film looks at the hopeful birth and untimely death of the electric car, an environmentally-friendly, cost-saving salvation to some, but a profit barrier to others.
In a film that has all the elements of a murder mystery, Paine points the finger at car companies, the oil industry, bad ad campaigns, consumer wariness, and a lack of commitment from the U.S. government.
"[The film] is about why the only kind of cars that we can drive run on oil. And for a while there was a terrific alternative, a pure electric car," Paine said.
In 1996, General Motors (G.M.) launched the first modern-day commercially available electric car, the EV1. The car required no fuel and could be plugged in for recharging at home and at a number of so-called battery parks.
Many of the people who leased the car, including a number of celebrities, said the car drove like a dream.
"...the EV1 was a high performer. It could do a U-turn on a dime; it was incredibly quiet and smooth. And it was fast. I could beat any Porsche off the line at a stoplight. I loved it," Actress, Alexandra Paul told NOW.
After California regulators saw G.M.s electric car in the late 1980s, they launched a zero-emissions vehicle program in 1990 to clean up the state's smoggy skies.
Under the program, two percent of all new cars sold had to be electric by 1998 and 10 percent by 2003.
A Saturn EV1 — the ill-fated star of the doc Who Killed The Electric Car — recently sold at auction for $465000!
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