That was the title of a film previewed before Al Gore’s documentary. The site for the film is here. (Note, the site doesn’t like Opera, so you need to use another browser to view it.) The trailer for the film heavily plays up the whole “the car companies and the oil companies are in cahoots to keep electric cars off the road.” It even features noted “scientific experts” like Ralph Nader and Ed Begley Jr. :rolleyes:
Now, if anybody was going to claim that there was a conspiracy involving automakers, it would be yours truly, but in the case of the electric car, I’m not buying it. Yes, the people who got to drive the cars as part of GM’s lease program loved the cars so much that when GM cancelled the program, they did everything they could to avoid turning the cars back in, but cancelling the program made sense. Of course, the trailer doesn’t even hint at such a thing, and it completely glosses over the problems with EVs.
In fact, Ed Begley Jr. states in the trailer, “The electric car is not for everyone. Only 90% of the population could use one.” Uh, Ed, the actual number is significantly lower. First of all, anyone who lives in a part of the country that has very cold winters would find an electric car to be nearly useless in the winter time. Electric cars have a max range of about 130 miles on a full charge. You only get this on flat ground, during warm weather, and if you don’t run any accessories (like the radio, heater, A/C, etc.), running the accessories cuts down the range of the car, and if like most people, you run the heat in winter, and listen to the radio, you’ll get nowhere near that. Batteries hate cold weather (also exceedingly hot weather) and take longer to charge when it’s cold out. They also tend to lose their charge during cold weather, and given that the days are shorter, you have to run the lights longer.
The trailer makes the claim that the car has no emissions, implying, of course, that the car is thus better for the environment than gas powered cars. That’s a maybe. In this thread on hybrid cars, it’s pointed out that the exotic materials used to make the batteries for hybrids are kind of nasty (and I doubt that they’re being mined using environmentally friendly methods in developing countries), and electric cars tend to use all kinds of exotic materials in their construction (all to save weight). These materials are often expensive, and the production of them tends to involve all kinds of nasty chemicals, that have to be properly disposed of, but hey, that’s all right if it doesn’t dump gunk into the air, right? Sure, if you don’t mind dirty drinking water, or having your light bill shoot up dramatically. And your power company uses clean methods to generate electricity (you know, hydroelectric, solar, wind, geothermal, and depending upon your political leanings, nuclear).
Oh, but Tucker, you say, a higher light bill won’t matter, because you won’t be spending any money for gas, so the savings will work out to be the same! Heh, that’s true, until more and more people start buying electric cars, and the increased demand starts overloading the power grid, so new plants have to be built. Naturally to cover the costs of these new plants, the power companies will have to jack up your rates (possibly dramatically, because the power grid’s in pretty shitty shape in most of the country). As Una can testify, new power plants ain’t cheap, and getting more expensive all the time because of the gear needed to clean up the emissions. (If you live in an area that’s decided to adopt the Kyoto Accords [as many US cities and states are doing], some experts predict that your lightbill will double and that’s without adding the plants necessary to handle the increased demand for electricity created by electric cars.)
Then there’s the fact that you have to plug the car in every night to recharge it. Not terribly inconvient, but how many folks are going to remember to unplug the thing in the morning? It happens all the time at gas stations. People stick the nozzle in the tank, forget that it’s in there and start to drive off. (Yeah, electric cars can have an interlock to prevent someone from doing this, but you could do the same thing with gas powered cars and nobody does it.) Five hour recharge times means that you can’t take the car on long drives (unless you want to spend huge amounts of time sitting around waiting for the car to charge up). I’m sure that the film will make the claim that “if GM hadn’t killed the program, someone would have come up with quick charge batteries, so you wouldn’t have to wait hours to recharge the car!” Riiiiight. Let’s say that someone did manage to do that, in order to recharge the car in a short period of time (say a minute), you’d have to find a way to pump 5.2 megawatts of juice into the car in that time. The only way you could do that is by using superconducting wires, which means that you’ve got to have them cooled by something like liquid nitrogen, and you’re not going to want the average idiot handling such gear. (Wonder how much pollution is created by producing liquid nitrogen.) So that means either trained techs at every filling station, or robotic filling stations, which is going to be expensive.
But, but, but, the environment’s in danger and we need to do something to help save the planet! Absolutely correct, but if the “solution” is expensive, creates other environmental problems, and has such severe limitations that most people can’t use it, it’s not much of a solution, is it?
So what do we do? Well, for starters, raising CAFE standards would help. So would pouring money into alternative fuel (bio-diesel, ethanol, methanol, hydrogen, etc.) research in greater quantities. We also need to rethink automotive design. Make cars more aerodynamic, increase the amount of lightweight materials (more aluminum, less steel and iron), but most importantly, design the cars so that they use fewer materials. Not only making them smaller, but things like cutting the amount of wiring used, using hollow parts instead of solid ones, and reducing the number of parts used.
Brainless environmentalist wankfest films like “Who Killed the Electric Car?” Do absolutely fucking nothing to solve the problem. If we’re lucky, the film won’t inspire people to write to their clowngress critters and tell them to divert billions of dollars from areas of research would could pay off in the short term (like biofuels) and put it into battery research (where it won’t yield significant results for possibly decades [but will inspire nitwits to scream that the car companies are blocking progress]).