Friday, July 30, 2010

When Life Hands You Electric Lemons...'re in the Age of Obama!
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Edward Niedermeyer writing in the NYT: G.M.’s Electric Lemon
GENERAL MOTORS introduced America to the Chevrolet Volt at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show as a low-slung concept car that would someday be the future of motorized transportation. It would go 40 miles on battery power alone, promised G.M., after which it would create its own electricity with a gas engine. Three and a half years — and one government-assisted bankruptcy later — G.M. is bringing a Volt to market that makes good on those two promises. The problem is, well, everything else.

I heard Obama hawking the Volt today:
"This car doesn't use a sip of gas for forty miles and then keeps going after that!"

Nah! That's not misleading at all!

For starters, G.M.’s vision turned into a car that costs $41,000 before relevant tax breaks ... but after billions of dollars of government loans and grants for the Volt’s development and production. And instead of the sleek coupe of 2007, it looks suspiciously similar to a Toyota Prius. It also requires premium gasoline, seats only four people (the battery runs down the center of the car, preventing a rear bench) and has less head and leg room than the $17,000 Chevrolet Cruze, which is more or less the non-electric version of the Volt.

One of the annoying presumptions people make about electric cars is that somehow they don't "pollute". On battery power, it's not that they don't pollute, it's that they shift the pollution somewhere else. It doesn't come out your tailpipe, it comes out of a smokestack at the power station. And unless the electric cars are more efficient than their older gas powered brothers, it will require even more energy to be generated. And lugging that massive battery pack around can hardly be considered "efficient". And if your utility is like mine, the power for your car will be "charged" at the highest possible rate.

So, to recap, it's priced above its value, requiring more cash incentives from the government. It will still pollute the planet, just in a different place. Manufacturing and disposal of the batteries will produce higher levels of pollution. And electricity isn't free. I don't hear anyone talking about what the Volt will do to an average family's utility bill.

Windshield defrosting can be done with wires in the windshields. What is going to defrost your fingers and toes in the winter North Dakota? An electric heater, if available is only going to reduce your "40 mile range" down and start you burning that premium gas that much sooner.

Maybe in another three years they'll have all the bugs worked out?

Cross posted at Left Coast Rebel, Say Anything, Lady Cincinnatus


  1. ....make electric lemonade?


    Points well taken. No matter how we get around, entropy will always be increasing.

    But I do like the idea of electric vehicles. Not for environmental reasons, but I'd like the OPTION of using something other than gasoline to get around. And all things being roughly equal I'd rather depend more on American coal and nuclear power than on Saudi and Venezuelan oil.

  2. RK: I've got the same problem with electric cars that I do with rocket packs: There is a serious range problem, based on the amount of energy you can take with you!
    Maybe someday when they perfect those Star Trek power cells that will fit in your hand and power an energy weapon, or when room temperature superconductors transmit power from improved efficiency solar cells, it may become the preferred mode of transportation.

    In the meantime, gasoline is a nearly perfect, portable source of energy for the 21st. century.