Baby, You Can Still Drive My Electric Car

As gas prices soar and Americans lose their taste for foreign oil, OC's biggest EV booster sounds like a prophet

Hence, Chevron and GM together led to the end of Toyota's RAV4-EV program, it seems; at the current time, only Chevron is allowed to market "large-format" NiMH batteries in the USA, and Chevron has decided not to do so. In fact, Chevron won't sell its NiMH batteries to anyone except large fleets, it says. When I say Chevron, I am referring to their Joint Venture, "COBASYS," which is their unit controlling the batteries.

Lead-acid is inferior on weight, and has a shorter cycle-life; Lithium is not produced in large-format versions . . . We wait for 2014, when Chevron's patent rights, we think, expire.

As you watch us gas-guzzlers whining over the looming $4-a-gallon summer, how do you feel? Vindicated? Sympathetic? Are we getting what we deserve, or do you view us as pawns in a big shell (and Shell) game?

Lisa Rosen, Doug Korthof and their fine ride./James Bunoan photo
Lisa Rosen, Doug Korthof and their fine ride./James Bunoan photo

We don't deserve the catastrophe in Iraq, and the two madmen arguing over oil supply lines seem intent on martyrdom for Iraq in a widening war. With EV, we need not get involved in seizing and defending the oil supplies of the Mideast; nor need we maintain fleets, bomb and incarcerate people we can't stand, give foreign aid to oily dictators, and so on. It's not anything to laugh about.

I suppose that at the time of our story three years ago, some naysayers could have discounted 9/11, the Gulf Wars, rising childhood asthma and everything else associated with our oil economy and still branded you some kind of cultural oddity or threat to our "way of life." They'd look at air pollution and see freedom! But even they must recognize now how far ahead of the curve you are from everyone else, don't you think? Or will they never be convinced?

Worldwide gas prices are $5 to $7, in most developed countries; recently, the BBC was sort of sneering, in its snide, dry fashion, at the U.S. drivers who expect cheap gas, gas guzzlers, and to be able to drive long distances. Their point is it can't go on forever. Even T. Boone Pickens claims that we are not going to ever produce more than 120 million barrels per day, without some new supplies; and he just does not see any new fields that size coming on-line.
The only thing that will convince people, and the best way, is a big rise in gasoline prices.  Already, we see that diesel is now more expensive than gas because it has 1.11 times more energy, and the energy is now the deciding factor.

I hope you know that you do have fans with your emails chastising the Bush administration. But I wonder, when it comes to the EVs, do you ever feel like not drawing too much attention, not spoiling a good thing for current drivers, especially after winning some concessions from the automakers?

We are aiming for production electric plug-in hybrids, that can drive 120 miles in EV-only mode (or 10 miles, etc., depending on the user selection) and which has a small gas/generator (40 hp is enough to run the EV at 80 mph, so long as it just runs the motor and does not have to push gearing and clutch) to charge the batteries. We want cars generally available on the free market, made available to anyone who wants to buy, without trick or artifice, at a fair price and no phony "specialists," advisers, bad charging stations or other sabotage, to the general public. So that Joe Six Pack can jump into one and drive oil-free.

The Prius, for example, and ALL current hybrid cars, have the gas engine embedded in the power train, which is the LEAST efficient way of running an EV. These hybrids are all gas cars, because ALL of their energy, ultimately, comes from the gasoline pump.

It's a telling indictment of who runs the auto companies to realize that there are NO serial hybrids, and NO electric cars; even those writing stories about EVs miss the point, they were never sold (except the RAV4-EV, the last 328 of them); if they were ever sold, they would still be out there running. The EV1s that were crushed still ran as well as when they were new.

There's a reason for this, the profit profile of EVs is different from gas cars, and EVs don't need repair or logistical support, from which dealers make the majority of their money. So EVs threaten not just the oil companies, but dealer service and parts functions, muffler shops, smog shops, brake shops (EV have less brake and tire wear), radiator shops, tune-up shops, engine specialty shops, gas stations, and so on.

In addition, it threatens, of course, the high margins of current automakers. The cost of the batteries cannot be reduced as radically as the only $500 for an engine. Amazingly, it costs no more than $8,000 to make even the more expensive cars. EVs threaten, as well, auto constituencies: GM power train, engines, lubrication, all the trades dependent on making gasoline cars and the many systems they need to run these days. Unions are afraid of change, and afraid of learning new things, and so on.

When I looked back again at that previous story, I zeroed in on a section that sought to refute the automaker-propelled idea that no one wants electric cars. Given the current situation, that dog won't hunt, will it?

They still lie about it.

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