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July 15, 2008

What's wrong with electric cars?

Posted: 05:36 PM ET

Thomas Edison with his electric car in 1913.

They produce zero emissions.

Electricity is cheaper than gas, and can come from renewable resources such as wind and solar power.

EV engines are far more efficient than internal combustion engines, are more reliable, and require less maintenance.

So what gives? Why don’t we buy and drive electric cars?

Program Note: Watch Miles O'Brien's report on EV's on CNN TV, Thursday morning.

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Filed under: economy • environment • Fuel • Gas • Gasoline

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Rick Cockrell   July 15th, 2008 5:41 pm ET

Electric cars would be great if: if batteries were lighter and more efficient than they are, if electricity were in great supply, if batteries didn't take so long to charge (with a great loss in electricity and efficiency), if elctricity were really cheap, it's not...

David F Becker Sr   July 15th, 2008 5:49 pm ET

Give me a livable range, say maybe 150 miles and I'm in

zeferino   July 15th, 2008 5:52 pm ET

We don't drive them because Detroit refuses to drag itself out of the previous century. If the American car companies were proactive instead of reactive, they would be designing cars based on the consumer and the planet's future needs – not based on how many SUV's and trucks Americans feel they need to buy today.

Big Auto and Big Oil are have been in bed together so long – it's no wonder companies like Tesla are having such a tough path toward creating a better, more efficient, more earth-friendly way for us to transport ourselves.

Perhaps the brighter of those Ford, GM and Chrysler engineers who are soon to lose their jobs will do the smart thing – for them and for the future of our country/world: and that is leave the antiquated fossil fuel based auto industry behind and become the leaders of a brand new industry.

Ham   July 15th, 2008 6:09 pm ET

Detroit... in bed with big oil...
Guess they own Honda, Toyota, Kia, BMW, etc....

It's because when they do make a good one (Tesla) it's 100K. If I have a 100K to blow on a car I wouldn't be worried about gas.

Make them affordable, places to station them, etc... and people will buy them.

It's simply more expensive then oil right now. The Toyota electic started at 24K and is now going for close to 30K due to demand... yet a Corolla is 17 nicley equipped... which is what I bought... 15 MPG less but 10K + less in price.

Taylor   July 15th, 2008 6:15 pm ET

We can. However, they are very expensive and rare ( The reason they are not cheap is due to "economies of scale". Simply put, it is cheaper to build 1 million cars than 100. Unfortunately, there is no demand for 1 million electric cars today.

The reason there is no demand is that there is no infrastructure. Do you know any electric car mechanics in your area? How about recharging stations? Without this infrastructure, people won't buy electric cars.

Market economies dictate that when it becomes cheaper to drive an electric car than to drive a gas car, then people will start driving them.

Ben   July 15th, 2008 6:24 pm ET

The previous commenter needs do a little research on this topic. The main issues with electric cars have been the price of them and the battery. With cheap oil, the cost of the battery caused the electric cars to be prohibitively more expensive than typical fossil fuel cars. The battery technology of electric cars has not been good enough to replace the flexibility that normal cars have, in terms of distance traveled on a single charge and recharge rate. Not being an expert, I do question the statement that EV cars are more efficient and less likely to breakdown. I'm not sure that that is entirely correct. Additionally, the energy grid of the U.S. may not be capable of supplying the power requirements for recharging the batteries of EV's if most people in the US had them. Construction of more power plants would almost certainly be needed. From the automakers point of view, it would seem to be a losing effort to produce a more expensive car with less flexibility that, in the past, would have a very small market. Finally, I don't believe that the desire to produce EV's by automakers and buy EV's by consumers was present in the past, due to cheaper alternatives. This may be changing.

As for the Tesla Motors' Roadster, a quick look on the internet revealed that these will be selling for about $200,000 and very few will be sold in the next two to three years. I do not believe 'Big Oil' is the cause of this price.

Keith   July 15th, 2008 6:25 pm ET

One of the biggest problems for electric cars (outside of the conspiracy theories) is the fact that we dont have effective enough energy storage solutions. You cant store nearly as much energy in batteries in your electric car as your fossil fuel car holds in its gas tank, which severely limits the usefulness of electric cars.

Also, the large majority of our electricity still comes from coal and other non-renewable sources, which in the end, make electric cars no cleaner than internal combustion cars.

Roberta Villavecchia   July 15th, 2008 6:26 pm ET

There is absolutely nothing wrong with an electric car, other than our own stupidity. The average gas-guzzling SUV contains 1 driver and 0 passengers on an average commute of less than 30 miles. Yet we consumers insist on ineffieciency and ostentation.

Jacob Anderson   July 15th, 2008 6:51 pm ET

It's really a matter of convenience. At the moment, electric cars aren't practical for long term use. As a commuter car sure. They work just fine. But imagine those cross country trips. Don't you recall the days of yore when Dad would pull into the electric station and you'd regale each other with stories for several hours while the car charged?

Hence the issue, electric cars can't be charged quickly. Sure, you could carry around a few spare batteries, but the size and cost of doing so wouldn't be effective. Now I know solar is an option, but the last one I saw could only do 60 and it took up the space of two cars. And.. you can't drive it for very long at night.

Practical is the issue here. I'm no lover of big oil, but until something comes along that actually makes sense, I'll gladly switch. Those people clamoring for GM and Ford to switch immediately doesn't understand economics. When Americans stop wanting gas cars and start clamoring for electric or hydrogen ones, they will make them.

Rocky   July 15th, 2008 7:03 pm ET

Battery operated cars might be a alternative fine people of Southern California who seem to constantly tell the rest of us what we are doing wrong. I don't think it's very practical in northern Michigan with winter time temperatures of -20 F. Batteries do not perform well in cold weather and we need the heat of the engine to keep us warm. We also need this heat so we can see out the windshield.

Gary Box   July 15th, 2008 7:24 pm ET

Electric motors powerering the wheels is a perfect solution to the problem of improving overall effeciency of a vehicle; because it allows energy recovery on deceleration. But that doesn't mean sacrificing range; the power source could be a small engine, or needing the weight and charge time of batteries; the energy storage for braking could be supercapacitors. For most of us, there is an electric (or partial electric) car in our future, the only question is when.

Mike   July 15th, 2008 7:24 pm ET

Indeed, the cost of gasoline at $5/gal is comparable to the cost of electricity, 0.12 $/kWh for gasoline vs. 0.1 $/kWh for electricity. However, if we started consuming electricity at a rate to satisfy transportation, here in CA we would pay much more than 0.1 $/kWh for it. Furthermore, if we completely switched to electricity we would need to increase generation capacity by a factor of 10, a laudable goal, but is not something we can do over night and not with electricity from renewable sources alone. Even the most optimistic estimates put electricity from renewables at something around 0.25 $/kWh. Finally there are the issues of range and energy density of available batteries. The Li-ion polymer battery in the Tesla gets us closer to a practical solution but this technology is not yet proven in an automotive application and it is not cheap. Perhaps more time and development will solve the issue of cost but it will take time and substantial effort. 20 years ago the Li-ion battery was predicted to be the best option for electric vehicles and it has taken this long to bring this technology to where it is today, not because of collusion between industries but because the technical problems are difficult and important materials needed to be invented before the Li-ion battery could be made to work. For the time being I'm going the hybrid route which increases gas mileage and lowers my carbon footprint. Hybrids aren't cheap either, but it's a step in the right direction. Who knows, when my hybrid wears out in 10 years maybe the Tesla will be ready for mass production.

MT   July 15th, 2008 7:32 pm ET

So a reasonably good bicycle carries 1 person and can go about 30 miles an hour and weighs under 50 lbs. If an electric motor and batteries are added it would still be under 100 lbs. A car carrying 1 person at 70 miles an hour (for safety's sake it's said) must weigh over 1000 lbs. I think some changes must be made in our concept of what a car is.

Jeddy   July 15th, 2008 7:58 pm ET

How about AirCars? They use air highly compressed air stored in extremely safe carbon-fibre tanks to run the motor. The tanks fill in 3mins with a commercial compressor/4 hours using the on-board compressor.


The range on just air is something like 200km. Running with a gasoline hybrid, tests indicate an air car can travel from LA to New York city using a single tank of gasoline to fuel the air tanks (via compressor.)

So why are we so concerned about battery powered cars. Intake - air –> exhaust –> air (for a purely air powered car). Now that's amazing

Mr. Obvious   July 15th, 2008 8:06 pm ET

Because batteries suck.

Steve   July 15th, 2008 8:10 pm ET

Rick Cockrell stated that:
"Electric cars would be great if: if batteries were lighter and more efficient than they are, if electricity were in great supply, if batteries didn’t take so long to charge (with a great loss in electricity and efficiency), if elctricity were really cheap, it’s not…"

Gas cars would be great if: if gas was more efficient it is, if gas was in great supply, and if gas was really cheap, it's not...

As you'll notice, I skipped the part about battery charging and efficiency. This is because there are in fact battery technologies in use (flow batteries) and in research/development that would eliminate the short life-span of a battery and could increase the speed of charging.

However, speed of charging is not actually a critical issue. Ask any modern carpenter how they manage recharging their battery powered tools. He will answer, "multiple batteries – one charges while the other is in use." In practice, if we could develop a system where batteries could be rented instead of owned, a driver could simply swap his cell at a service station.

Greg   July 15th, 2008 8:19 pm ET

I'm very interested in and plan on trading my Honda for a Chevy Volt when released. Good bye gas pumps! It's not for everyone but fits my needs perfectly. I'd rather give my money to nearly anyone than OPEC.

Simon   July 15th, 2008 8:32 pm ET

Regarding the issue of cold weather and electric car batteries, you are of course right the batteries don't perform well in the cold, but it should be easy enough to install an electric "core heater" in the battery so that it would stay warm on cold nights similar to what the owners of diesels have to do in cold weather. It would actually be better, because the owner of a diesel may not have a place to plug in their heater at work, whereas the battery could keep itself warm.

Same goes for keeping us warm and keeping the windshield clear. An electric heater system (think hair dryers) would work just fine. An added advantage would be that it would be instant and you wouldn't have to wait for the engine to warm up for the heat to flow on those -20F mornings. It is a question of will, not ability.

Kayne   July 15th, 2008 9:51 pm ET

All you folks have it wrong! The truth is in the pudding. Big oil and big auto makers have been sleeping together for years and now the world is changing on them very quickly. Computers have increased the speed of our inventions and them boys know it. Oil is on the rise because there running scared and want to get all the pennies they can before the green giant comes, and big auto that recieved all there kick backs from big oil are going bankrupt because they were told to build gas hogs so the would suck down more gas that would create bigger profits for big oil and the oil companies sent the lobbiest to washington to buy our congress which were on board as well for a few bucks, but guess what!

Bush is trying to save the day to keep big oil by drilling in the wrong places, its pothetic! his own father signed off on the band in the early 90s and now he wants to save the day! Yea, save his wallet! the bushes and there big oil scam for tax credits for gas hogs 5 years ago to sitting back doing nothing as the oil sky rockets!

Well congress! what are you going to do now, the big green machine is coming and the middle east will loose,venezuela will loose, GM is almost bankrupt as well as ford and all the suckers that took the bait from big oil! these are trying times but what comes around goes around and hydrogen and electric autos are coming so them boys and gals will have to figure out a way to profit off these times.

I have two Toyota Priuses and there great! I am totally green and push for a much better world for our children and there children. There is nothing wrong with bettering the planet we live in!

Michael   July 15th, 2008 10:20 pm ET

Efficient, cheap and abundant in the US..... Hmmmm sounds like natural gas fits that description perfectly. Bifuel natural gas cars have been around for a long time. They run on compressed natural gas and if that runs out automatically switch over to gasoline. CNG costs $1.91 per gallon equivalent in Michigan and as low as $0.68 per gallon in Utah, get a filling device at your home and you can cut that price by 40% to 50% and save even more.

Ford in fact announced a new van that runs on both gasoline and compressed natural gas called the CNG bifuel C-Max, unfortunately their current plans are to sell it only in Germany.

On the other hand Honda can't make the Accord GX (CNG only) fast enough for the demand and they are selling it only in New York and California and it only runs on CNG so out of luck if you can't refuel.

Electric may be great when the tech on batteries finally breaks through but CNG is the way to go for the near future.

giniajim   July 15th, 2008 11:14 pm ET

The primary question is how much electricity is needed? And where will it come from. The electricity that is generated today barely meets the demand (and the demand is far higher than it should be). This goes right to the core of building a national energy policy, one that deals with supply, the demand and the pollution.

wisco   July 15th, 2008 11:40 pm ET

I suggest everyone watch the documentary "who killed the electric car"

David   July 16th, 2008 12:13 am ET

If you want an electric car BUILD ONE. It took me about a second of searching to find

We used to be a great country. Americans used to be super handymen, able to fix anything that broke and improvise anything they needed that didn't exist. Now we whine about what we don't have, sell insurance, burgers, banking and software to each other and wonder why the giant companies that we serve aren't fixing everything for us like they should.

Here's a news flash people. There are only two ways you're going to get an electric car – after mindbogglingly expensive engineering and legal processes to make sure the environmental impact is minimized, that backward looking rules and regulations set up for gasoline powered vehicles are followed and that the company is completely buffered from the flock of legal vultures waiting to profit on product liability lawsuits. The Tesla costs what it costs because it spreads these issues over a relatively small number of vehicles.

The other way is DIY and take the liability yourself. Good luck.

Oh and how much electricity? 200Wh per mile per the website. Thats .2kWh per mile or about 3 cents a mile if you're paying 15 cents a Kwh.

David   July 16th, 2008 12:28 am ET

To respond to some other comments from this post, there was an electric car being used for a while in LA. It was called the EV1. GM only leased these and once the lease was up, they gathered up the cars and crushed them...

Franko   July 16th, 2008 12:33 am ET

Electricity, off peak hours = 3.8 cents/kWh. Perhaps 10 cents to pavement.

Gasoline to pavement 8.8 KWh/US gallon $4,50/gallon = 51 cents/kWh

Cheap coal, wind supplemented, as the primary source.

Has to be electric hub motor wheels, for simplicity, scalebility, and flexibility
Air to electric generator is a good option.

Mark   July 16th, 2008 1:09 am ET

Car manufacturers are hesitant to change to all electrics because:
* They would have to retool and retrain (down time / no productivity)
* R&D costs would go up – newer technology / fewer engineers
* Cost of the battery is still high. (may go down when mass produced)
* Parts sales would decline. (Fewer moving parts to wear out)
* Auto repair orders would decline (Fewer moving parts to wear out).
* Car sales would eventually decline due to higher reliability (fewer moving parts to wear out)

Tesla motors have a decent shot in the market if they can segment their market where they have a low end, mid range and high end cars. Similar to Scion/Toyota/Lexus, Mercury/Ford/Lincoln and Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche marketing segmentation schema.

Bob   July 16th, 2008 1:10 am ET

I see that a very quick charge battery is what is needed to make the electric car the vehicle o the future.Therefore I will start on battery design tomorrow and shoot for the goal of recharged in 1 minute or so with no carbon footprint, using cheap materials, and little environmental impact.
Sounds improbable but not impossible.Should have it done in 6 months or less., Going to make me a billion maybe a trillion dollars if I succeed.

Brandon   July 16th, 2008 1:11 am ET


Please educate yourself and go to If you actually look at their site they have started delivering them and the price is around 100k. They will also start selling their next model within the next couple of years.

Joe Kochera   July 16th, 2008 1:41 am ET

Our economy is fueled by locomotion. The ability to move goods and services in large capacity is the backbone of our economy and has been since the establishment of the railroad those many years ago. The economy was again given a boost with the automobile, allowing individuals to move relatively long distances to further their own interests. We are at a crossroads now with respect to our economy and our ability to move ourselves. As I see it we can do one of three things:
1. Continue to drill for and import fossil fuels and continue down the path of energy dependence, destroying our planet and eventually running out of this resource. This will do a lot to support the economies in the Middle East and Russia and I am sure they will appreciate our contributions.
2. Pretend to be "green" by manufacturing flex fuel cars, ethanol, and any number of combustion engine type contraptions that, in the end still pollute, maintain our reliance on fossil fuel, and keep us from true energy independence.
3. Engage the business and manufacturing might of America to develop the technology to allow the mobility that America needs in order to have a growing economy while pursuing the clean energy that is solar, hydroelectric, wind, and other. By creating non combustion locomotion we give the world the means to stop and even reverse the damage done via the combustion of fossil fuel at the same time causing potentially record setting growth for our economy by implementing this technology in public transportation and cargo movement.
Fossil fuel has had its time, we must move on and not squander the remaining resources of that old era on movement down an easy path when we have the knowledge and capability to cut a new trail and lead the world into a new era of responsibility and good stewardship.

joe   July 16th, 2008 5:06 am ET

electric cars are not very efficient in terms of getting its power. yes, wind is a form but in order to gather the amount of electricity needed to charge the batteries of these electric cars by wind we are talking about planting maybe 10 wind generators to gather enough energy to charge the batteries in a short amount of time so you don't have to wait 5 or more hours to drive. Plus once charged, the electric cars have a distance limit of 300 some odd miles before needing another charge that will take another 5 hours.
not to mention most of the electricity now is produced by burning coal, natural gas, and oil so if you take those factors into account, the net efficiency of the electric cars are worse than gasoline powered cars.
i think we should have more nuclear power plants to produce our electricity because it is essentially free power, after the uranium fuel rods are done we can refine them into plutonium and put them back into service in the nuclear power plants.

CB_Brooklyn   July 16th, 2008 5:33 am ET

Here's a new water powered car reported by Reuters:

After watching the above news clip, read this important article:

Mark in FL   July 16th, 2008 6:01 am ET

I'd love to have an inexpensive electric car that would run 500 miles @ 80 mph on a single charge, and recharge in 15 minutes. That's what I need.

Rob   July 16th, 2008 8:06 am ET

We don't drive electric cars because no one sells them at a price that anyone other than weird celebrities can afford. $200,000 for a car? Sorry, I don't have that in my wallet just now. I think that if a legitimate, competitively priced electric car was marketed by one of the big companies and was not artificially setup to have low availability, people would buy them.

It seems to me that everyone who says that electric cars are not practical is basing it solely on what we have today. This is much the same as every other argument about "alternative energy".

I agree that the current situation where electric batteries run for a couple hundred miles maybe and then have to recharge while plugged into a coal-fired electricity plant is poor. So, what's the solution to that? Add solar panels to the roof of the car, maybe? The thin-film technology that is coming out seems really promising. These solar cells can charge the battery as you drive during the day (even if it is cloudy). Or wind power? Add technology under the hood to catch the wind that is generated by the act of driving... to charge the battery. Day or night. Imagine that - an engine that refuels itself by the very act of doing its job. A small gas engine could be left there at first to be an emergency charger, but once people are comfortable this would no longer be needed.

Anyway, this is just me, some dork in New Jersey, and maybe my ideas are stupid, but it will take thinking a little bit outside our conventional ideas to fix this. There's no reason that our electric engines have to be confined to the constraints we've set up with our internal combustion engines. It's just what we've done. What it will take is someone to step up and decide to try something. If taking a risk on this in a development shop would be rewarded, I'd bet a solution would be around the corner, since we already have sufficient technology to do this. We just have to put that technology together in a different way.

Mike Smitreski   July 16th, 2008 8:43 am ET

I'm still waiting for the flying cars...

SJ Muller   July 16th, 2008 8:46 am ET

There are several reasons, I think. First is cost. The Electric cars cost more than traditional gasoline engined cars. Second is speed, which is rapidly changing to not being an issue, in the past the electric cars could not do highway speeds. Third is range, traditional gasoline tanks hold enough fuel for several hundred mines, where the electric run autos couldn't go more than a hundred miles or so on a charge, which makes using them for long distance travel a problem.

Price is something that the auto manufacturers will need to address to make the cars more price friendly to those of us with lower budgets, which might happen as demand increases and so does the number put into production. i don't know how much it would take to convert current plants to from producing gasoline autos to electric autos, which might also be a factor with the industry.

Speed and Range are a direct result of the battery storage, and conversion – currently batteries are at best, less than 20 percent efficient with the power put into them.

While it is true that some Electric Providers do include alternative sources such as solar, wind and hydro, in general the majority of power does not come from such renewable sources. To suggest that electric cars are "green" for that reason, is misleading as power plants primarily use such things as oil, coal, or nuclear sources as their primary source. While there have been improvements to using these materials to produce electricity, they still produce pollution or other waste products that still present a problem to the environment.

gianmarko   July 16th, 2008 9:12 am ET

electric cars are unpractical and expensive. range is limited. and i dont see people giving up heating, aircon, power steering etc.
using the batteries to run a heater would seriously decrease range.
just to make an example, try to mow and trim any sizeable lawn with electric tools.
transportation uses around a third of all crude oil.
of all the uses of fossil fuels, transportation is the most difficult to replace.
widespread use of nuclear power for heating and electricity generation would enormously decrease national crude oil consumption, driving its price down, and saving it for the most critical use, transportation.
but this would require large investments and unpopular political choices.. instead, pushing the nonsense of electric private transportation has two big advantages: it makes the greenies happy, and YOU pay the cost.

Wayne   July 16th, 2008 9:29 am ET

It seems to me that perhaps the most pressing need regarding our energy dependence is one that will be corrected by market forces as the price of fossil fuels climbs: to re-engineer the cultural geography of our country. Since WWII and the economic boom that followed, we have built a country that in its very nature is not sustainable. Whereas walkable neighborhoods with sidewalks, parks, local markets and the corner bar were once the standard of American cities, we've spent the last 60+ years transforming our country to become completely dependent upon the automobile.

And I'm not some Bohemian living in a loft saying this. I live in the 'burbs myself. Fortunately, both my wife and I work from home, so our daily commute is the fourteen steps from upstairs to down. But we still must crank up the good ole internal combustion engine to do everything else. Want to take the kids to the park? It's five miles down a busy US highway. Want to pick up a bottle of wine or a loaf of bread? There are plenty of big box options within a four-mile drive, all on a 6-lane asphalt slaughterhouse.

am an American, and by my very nature I love to drive. But I would like to save driving for family road trips and the gas-fueled ego boost of my inevitable mid-life crisis. Until then, it would be nice to be able to get my basic needs by walking or cycling... and not have to pay a 50% premium per square foot to have that privilege.

John ford   July 16th, 2008 9:31 am ET

The technology is here in various forms, but government has to get on board and out of bed with big oil. We could pass laws that require cars
to get 100 mpg with existing technology but the Bush administration will not support this type of legislation. Perhaps the next president will be not be an oil man. I recommend a TV series you can down load from iTunes called "EcoTech." It's surprising how far we have come but still refuse to use the science at our fingertips.

S.N.Austin   July 16th, 2008 10:19 am ET

Keep your Prius. It looks goofy, and won't carry all the tools and equipment I need to haul around to do my job every day. Some people own SUVs because they need to carry their families around, and don't have room to keep 2 or 3 vehicles at home. Also, what makes people think the Japanese automakers want to stay on gas burning cars? Japan imports all of the oil and gas they have to use, and would be much better off if they didn't need it. We can wish all day that all-electric cars would be available to everybody next year, but realistically it could take decades for a practical and economical solution. Insisting that we don't drill for more oil without knowing for sure that we have another solution coming in time to help us is just plain dumb.

Bob   July 16th, 2008 10:36 am ET

Addendum: I meant to say when I succeed not if I succeed.Already have a prototype design and process in mind.

PKeffer   July 16th, 2008 10:44 am ET

GM did have an electric car in the '90's, but because the oil companies complained about lost business, GM gave up the ideal. Now they are having to reinvent the wheel and trying to get back into the business. That car went 200 miles on a single charge and up to 80 mph on the highway. This isn't astrophysics ya know, it should be a simple thing to build. Now we have to push the auto companies to build one that will do the same thing these days and improvements will come as demand increases. I would buy one right now if they were available in the USA.

Kathi O.   July 16th, 2008 10:45 am ET

The price - if they were CHEAP instead of $40,000, I'd buy one.

There was nothing wrong with GENERAL MOTORS' EV1, or the Ford or Toyota versions. After 1 year of leasing by California drivers, these plug-ins were confiscated and SHREDDED.

CNN, why don't you investigate what money changed hands among the auto makers, the oil corps. and/or the U. S. Government - that's the REAL STORY.

Try viewing "Who Killed the Electric Car."

We need the EV1 TODAY.

Rick   July 16th, 2008 10:46 am ET

The battery. Battery technology is not up there yet. We need a nice, cheap battery with good storage. As for the rest of the car, we've been building electric motors for over 120 years is a mature technology. Less moving parts will equate into better reliability. But we have the battery issue...

Jay Maynard   July 16th, 2008 10:49 am ET

I'll buy an electric car when it will handle my mission. I have a small SUV, and need the ability to carry that much stuff and people 400 miles, refuel in 10 minutes, and go 400 miles more. It needs to be able to handle and move in big city freeway traffic without causing a hazard due to inability to accelerate or keep up. It needs to be not a lot bigger than my current vehicle due to the small size of my garage.

If it doesn't meet *all* of those requirements, I'm not interested.

Frank Alguire   July 16th, 2008 10:54 am ET

It's simple. There is too much momentum behind the oil economy. There are a lot of gas stations, but where can you plug your electric car in for a charge when on vacation?

Federal, state and local governments have enormous purchasing power and could in partnership rise up against the prevailing oil economy by purchasing fleets of electric cars and supporting installation of charging stations or installing charging stations. They could also offer financial incentives for corporations and individuals to purchase electric vehicles, although a profusion of charging stations and market penetration might make government incentives unnecessary.

Once an infrastructure is available, it would be hard to imagine Americans ignoring electric vehicles. Not only are they non-polluting, they are very quiet, and can in many ways match the performance we have for years enjoyed with the internal combustion engine.

With wind turbines across the country, and solar photovoltaics on every roof, we can also power these vehicles in a sensible manner with power naturally bestowed on us daily. It's there for the taking.

The Scientist   July 16th, 2008 10:55 am ET

It should be clarified: They produce zero emission "at the tailpipe".
And although they do not produce emissions at the point of usage, using an electric auto requires that emissions be generated at the power plant. If you live in the Midwest, 70% of the electricity is generated from coal (roughly 50% averaged over the entire US), which releases more CO2 per unit of energy than oil, as well as being a major contributor to NOx, SO2, mercury and particulate matter pollution.

We should be more honest about how 'green' electric vehicles really are. At the present time, they are no better (and likely worse) than standard gasoline automobiles, and will remain so until we change how electricity is generated in the US.

Electric Car Wanter   July 16th, 2008 11:01 am ET

I WISH I could buy an electric car for around the same amount as a gas powered car. One that would be able to go at least 200 miles between charges and could go up to 70 mph. If I had that opportunity, I would buy one TODAY. Just think how great it would be to never have to put gas in your car again? To drive past every gas station and laugh at those fossil fuel users. Ha ha ha. That's my wish.

Did you hear me Tesla? If it were more affordable, I'd buy one of your Tesla Roadsters TODAY!

Gene   July 16th, 2008 11:02 am ET

The Holy Grail is a battery with five characteristics:

1. Volumetric energy density of gasoline.
2. Size of typical gasoline tank
3. Rechargeable in fifteen minutes.
4. Life of 100,000 miles.
5. Replaceable for one thousand dollars.

Here's a worthy Manhattan/Apollo project challenge.

James Beauchamp   July 16th, 2008 11:02 am ET

My short, direct commute would be perfect for an electric vehicle. But as an engineer, I question the total utility and value with respect to reliability. Today's best battery technology produces units that significantly degrade within a year, to which I'm sure everyone who has purchased a laptop in the last few years can agree. After paying probably $15,000 for the vehicle, another $5,000 every couple of years to replace failed cells is not very attractive. The motors are even more expensive and suffer similar problems.

Even as a middle class "techie", I can't compete with a reliability / MTBF cost that high. Come back when you can really market something we can use.

Rick   July 16th, 2008 11:05 am ET

Look at

J.R.   July 16th, 2008 11:10 am ET

The electric car is a proven solution that works great. With that said, there is a fatal flaw which must be overcome before it is viable for the marketplace. The battery life on an 18v drill is not always reliable – imagine your car running on batteries! When you are heading for a meeting a few hours out of town and are low on energy, you will have to fuel up. Even if you have an outlet, you will not have the amount of time required to fuel up and make your meeting. This will even be more of an issue at night, when there is no solar power to help keep the vehicle charged. Once, the generators are cheap and efficient enough to work with the axel to generate electricity, coupled with solar power, and the vehicles can run up to 400 miles per charge then it will be viable for all consumers. Currently, it is only good for in-town consumers.

Greg   July 16th, 2008 11:13 am ET

We will be driving electric cars in the not too distant future, they are totally the way to go. It will be slowed down by lack of government backing though, but it is still coming. The technology exists today for the owner to generate much of the electricity themselves and get the rest from non fossil fuel sources. It's all a matter of getting our act together and doing the obvious.

Mike Montgomery   July 16th, 2008 11:14 am ET

Batteries are heavy, batteries are expensive, batteries do not store much energy compared to liquid fuel, batteries take a long time to charge, batteries are environmentally unfriendly, batteries must be replaced periodically. I'd say that it is mostly because of the batteries. Electricity is comparatively cheap; however, if you consider the cost of the batteries as a consumable then the electric car is no cheaper to operate.

adamrussell   July 16th, 2008 11:14 am ET

I guess I had the feeling that they arent ready for prime time yet. How long do those batteries last? I have never seen this point covered in any report yet I know that rechargeable batteries eventually lose the ability to recharge and have to be replaced. I had a shaver that lasted only 4 years. Id imagine that a battery powering a car would have heavier usage and might go bad even sooner than that. So how much do the batteries cost per year when you consider replacements?

futuretran   July 16th, 2008 11:17 am ET

How about imbedding electric rails into existing roads and use cars with contacts and a small backup motor for inaccessable areas – like the old model electric race car set some had as a kid.? You feed off the grid and the car is programmed and metered so that you pay off your electric bill.

prunebreath   July 16th, 2008 11:21 am ET

They do produce emissions, though about half that of gas powered vehicles. Lead, nickel and cadmium are all extremely toxic – how will they be manufactured and recycled? Lithium is one of the rarest elements in the Universe. Pure ECs have limited range and long "refueling" cycles. Fine for an urban commute, not so good for a long trip, which is why they need to carry an APU. They are also expensive to produce – the current generation being heavily subsidized. Other than that, they're great.

adamrussell   July 16th, 2008 11:22 am ET

Also, with replacing batteries every X years there may be a disposal issue. Batteries contain some of the most toxic substances we use.

Wally   July 16th, 2008 11:24 am ET

Batteries have been stigmatized to be expensive when replacement is necessary. Recharging a battery is fine if the charge holds, but some of my rechargable batteries hold a charge less than 5% of what they did when first purchased. Even used laptops have warranties that exclude the battery. I think better battery warranties, like free replacement for life, would drive demand for the electric car.

MB   July 16th, 2008 11:24 am ET

electric cars are in fact less efficient when it comes to consuming fossil fuels. you're probably saying "WHAT?" right now. its simple really. the percentage of energy lost from produce electricity in a power plant and transmitting it through power lines is greater than the % lost by a combustion engine.

electric cars only make sense if they're being powered by forms of renewable energy. also, to make eletric cars work we need much better and cheaper ULTRACAPACITORS to replace chemical batteries for energy storage.

Bob Hunger   July 16th, 2008 11:25 am ET

Since fuel cells are NOT new, but in fact a highly developed system they should be used. They can be run on water – no refueling station needed. Since most cars could be converted for, at a guess based on current prices, between $10,000 and $20,000 there is now reason not to go electric. I am pne of the "poor" an disability and I am saving every possible cent to be able to do this. Think of the annual saving versus gas.

Alex   July 16th, 2008 11:25 am ET

Electric car enthusiasts who think EV is the answer to saving the environment need to look at the copper mines needed for the motors, the battery production facilities, the coal mines that are still largely responsible for electricity being cheap, and what happens to the batteries after they are finished. My point is this: there is no magic bullet. We could be using half the oil in existing IC cars if technological improvements over the last 15 years were used to increase MPG instead of HP.

Wally   July 16th, 2008 11:25 am ET

Why not force the auto manufactures to only produce light weight vehicles and then bann heavy, dangerous SUV's from all highways.

Keith Beal   July 16th, 2008 11:26 am ET

If I install Solar panels to charge my battery-operated car – what can they tax?
Roads are generally paid for by gas taxes.

Bethany M.   July 16th, 2008 11:28 am ET

From a college student's perspective, electric cars are simply unaffordable when your already living on student loans. If they were more affordable and more convenient they would catch on faster (especially with the younger crowd)

dave g, Minneapolis   July 16th, 2008 11:28 am ET

Mostly, it's fear of taking risks. The car companies don't want to risk a new technology, or upsetting parts resellers and aftermarket parts manufacturers, or oil companies who make the Hydraulic oil, Lube oil, Grease, differential oil, transmission oil that would all be gone in an electric car: no oil changes! no gas! That's a big impact on the economy. No more "jiffy lube", no more oil recycling...

And Consumers don't want to risk being the early-adopter.

The technology is there and it can be done. People keep saying that the battery tech is not there is. Hybrid batteries, batteries with super-capacitors, can both hold charge and recharge very quickly. To address long distance travel, small CNG or gasoline generators could be "snapped in" for the trip and removed for general commuting.

Any company bringing a car to market at a consumer price of ~25,000 that could recharge in one hour or less on a 110v home outlet, drive 250miles and maintain a speed of 80mph would win the market. Of course this would be a disruptive technology and would shake up entire industries.

Lue   July 16th, 2008 11:29 am ET

Take a look at this:
UK’s Lightning Car Company will hold the world debut of their Lightning GT EV at the London Motor Show on July 23rd. The Lightning GT has no engine and runs only on an electric motor powered by an advanced battery technology called NanoSafe.

Producing 700 horsepower, the Hi-Pa Drive electric powertrain is mated with nano titanate battery packs that produce 36kW of power. The batteries in turn power four magnet brushless motors that produces 120kW for each wheel enabling independent traction control and regenerative braking. That gives the Lightning GT a range of 250 miles with only 10 minutes of charging and high-performance with a 0-60 time of 4 seconds and a top speed of 130mph.

Hello!!!! 700 hp is more powerfull than a lot of big rigs and even a lot of race cars! And it charges up in only 10 minutes! That is equivelent to pulling into a gas station and filling up a gas tank. AND a fillup would be less than $5!

COME ON BIG 3. If UK can do it WHY CAN'T YOU!!!!

Mike Sanders   July 16th, 2008 11:30 am ET

What’s wrong with electric cars? Ans. Nothing!

The thing is, energy is energy and it is finite. Gas has been (relatively) cheap for many years and the producers of Autos and leaders of the free world (along with market realities) decided to use gasoline to power the millions of internal combustion engines that were expected to criss-cross the world. This has served us all very well indeed all these years. Now the well is finally drying up. If you believe, or don’t believe, that cheap fuel is running out; doesn’t really matter, the realities of price have taken over. The folks that have been pumping light, sweet crude are now firmly in control of their own destinies and they really don’t like us.

We need light rail and other forms of public transportation, to give the U.S. a more sane approach to energy consumption. I’m afraid the good old days are over and that’s OK, as long as we adjust to the new world order. If we keep putting our hope into some developing new age marvel, I’m afraid our children are in for a tough time.

Kent Ohio

dave g, Minneapolis   July 16th, 2008 11:31 am ET

Banning "heavy, dangerous SUV's" would also require a ban on heavy, dangerous, battery-laden electric vehicles. The argument that because something is heavy, or big it is more dangerous is flawed. Trains are REALLY heavy, Planes are REALLY big...I don't want them banned.

sileru   July 16th, 2008 11:33 am ET

An interesting question, and one that currently evokes many different opinions.

However, I must point out that by definition – electric cars have NO ENGINE. Otherwise they would be called a hybrid (or gasoline) car. Thanks for starting a conversation, but having such a major mistake only allows further misinformation to be spread down the chain...

Brian   July 16th, 2008 11:34 am ET

What the heck, i'll be the first to say it: Electric cars don't sell because they aren't cool.
Sure, you have your pretentious people buy them, your smug people, and maybe your genuine Earth lovers, but in the end, the cars just aren't cool enough.
You own two Prius'? Did you buy them or lose a bet?
They have some good looking hybrids coming out (the Accord isnt too bad) but most are STILL not willing to trade in the big-block V8 for a battery pack. They like to hear the engine growl, perform dirty maintainence work on it, tune it up, etc and don't want to give it up. Look at the new American 'muscle' cars; all are cloned from their 60s-70s parents. But thats only part of it.
Some of the electric car myths also need to be dispelled. Batteries aren't reliable? Ya? Neither is any sedan produced by Chevy. Give me numbers, not blanket accusations. In addition, give me other reasons to go electric. Gas prices are one good one, but most wouldn't say that the environment is good enough, simply because most don't believe that one person can make a difference and that the environment doesn't effect them in the here and now. Show me that electric cars cost less to maintain or are less prone to breaking down. Show me that they are easier for the common person to fix, survive accidents better, or will run longer.
And find a way to turbocharge them while you're at it!
Electric cars don't sell because they aren't appealing to consumers. Gas prices add to their appeal but its not enough for most to trade up just yet. People bought into SUVs because it was big and cool, a manly minivan, or provided an illusion of safety on the road. Simply put: electric cars need a better image to sell.

Metcliff   July 16th, 2008 11:35 am ET

Electric cars were delayed mostly due to insufficent battery or energy storage capacity comparable to a gastank at roughly 700 to 1000 km. The country as a whole has no domestic or foreign tech available to purchase to be used immediately on energy saving and environmental cars at present. Even if done now; it take roughly 15 years to be ready. So much for short term thinking. Algae crude anyone?
GM is doomed since the elecrtic car crush out..

gianmarko   July 16th, 2008 11:36 am ET

wind turbines only work intermittently and have huge environmental impact.
one nuclear power station reliably generates the electricity that require 5000 one-megawatt wind turbines, and cost a lot less.
photovoltaic cells are expensive gadgets which find justification only where there is no alternative. like on mars or in space. you cant even power a laptop from photovoltaic cells.
"solar photovoltaics on every roof"
sure i can see how tha can happen in manhattan...

the cost of photovoltaic is massive, 2 to 5 times more expensive than electricity generated from traditional sources. i have a question here. if generating electricity with photovoltaic is convenient, why photovoltaic cells manufacturers, who can for sure get them cheaper than anybody else, dont use them to generate their electricity?

Michael   July 16th, 2008 11:42 am ET

Do any of you buy a house on the beach in California so that it's there when you go on vacation? Not many I'm guessing. You rent, right? Buy the electric vehicle for the 98 percent of your driving habits and the money you save on gas can be used to rent a gas guzzler on your 500 mile trip.

The reason prices are so high for electric or hybrid vehicles is because people don't buy them. Quit making excuses why you shouldn't buy them and make excuses why you should. Even if you break even or lose money over (let's say) 5 years, think about it this way. You're money is going to battery companies who will reinvest to make better batteries rather than going to the middle east. Also, think about it as a vote. With every vehicle you buy you are casting a vote on what type of vehicles you want on the roads in the future.

Joe Redding, CA   July 16th, 2008 11:42 am ET

I hope electric cars will come about. They can be made more powerfull than gas burners. We use one to train cutting horses. The thing can out run a hores for the first 30- 50 feet. Most drag racers cant do that.I do not think ower precious government will allow this, Simpley because like ower food and gas is a gambleing table for speculators to run up the price and the government makes huge capitol gains tax. Electric is harder to tax.

Bob Hunger   July 16th, 2008 11:42 am ET

Excuse the poor typing on my last comment. The Hydogen Fuel Cell was invented in, I believe, 1839. The hydrogen for it can be extracted from water by using a solar powered electrolyzer. You can do this yourself, and can install the system in your vehicle if you have the mechanical skill and the energy. Therefore there should be no need for stations providing you anything but water. There would be no need for gas or for recharge stations. You would save money and avoid pollution since the exhaust from a hydrogen fuel cell is water. Electric motors for cars and fuel cells are now available to buy. As I said, I'm saving all I can to be able to do this. The price I guesstimated includes a mechanic to install this system in your car; if you can do it yourself it would be less. Petroleum companies would not go out of business because there are a lot of other things made from petroleum so it should be no real problem to anyone.

Ralph   July 16th, 2008 11:43 am ET

I'm all for it. They have to be affordable. Maybe the auto manufacturers will see there is a demand for this. And in the future we are going to need to get off gasoline. Maybe if they make them and rich people start buying them in time the price will come down. The technology to produce them will become better and more affordable. Like cellphones, computers, microwaves and televisions. The first ones are expensive but the price eventually comes down.

Bob   July 16th, 2008 11:44 am ET

Electronics companies are always looking for the latest and greatest battery technology. It's just that none exist yet. You can't blame "big oil" for that.

The problem with electric cars is the battery. They are too big, too bulky, too sensitive to temperature, and have too little capacity. Not to mention the hazards you create if your car gets into an accident.

Plus, in my area all electricity is provided by burning natural gas and coal. How is that any more environmentally friendly?

I think the fuel of the future is gasoline. It actually is a great fuel. But we could use less of it. Cars can be made more efficient through hybrid technology. People can properly size their cars (no commuting using a pickup truck or Hummer).

Dave   July 16th, 2008 11:48 am ET

Batteries are just part of the problem. We should look at a totally electric infastructure, where the majors roads and highways provide the necessary current for the long range requirements. Intercity buses have been powered using this method for many years.

Batteries should provide power for off grid, and than vehicles can connect into the electrifide roadway.

Greg   July 16th, 2008 11:59 am ET

"Oh and how much electricity? 200Wh per mile per the website. Thats .2kWh per mile or about 3 cents a mile if you’re paying 15 cents a Kwh."

The PGE cartel here in California charges 33 cents for the last Kwh to residential customers. A 200% surcharge if you turn on more than one lightbulb during the month.

At that rate, it's 6 cents a mile, or $3.60 to go 60 miles.

My hybrid gets 60 miles a gallon. Until a few months ago, I was saving money over electric.

Until the electric infrastructure here is corrected (eg. offering realistic baselines and off-peak rates), electric cars will just replace "Big Oil" with "Big Electricity"


dennis cough   July 16th, 2008 12:01 pm ET

I believe that speed was an issue. We love to go fast, faster. During the growth stages of automobile production was automobile racing. I think the speed mentality guided us to gasoline engines. We were able to get across the country and around the neighborhood in one car.

Fred   July 16th, 2008 12:01 pm ET

There are many very accurate reasons already posted as to why we don't drive electric cars, so rather than be redundant, I would like to mention one that has not been brought up yet. Current hybrid vehicles produce extemely high Electro-magnetic Fields (EMF), around their occupants when running on their batteries. The same could be expected of any electric car. Though the final vote is not yet in on the subject, long term exposure to high EMF is thought to produce increased risk of leukemia in infants and brain cancers in adults. They are also believed to contribute to feelings of fatigue, sleepiness, hallucinations and paranoia; all attributes that certainly make the drive more interesting. The generally accepted maximum safe exposure level is thought to be around 0.5 milli-Gauss (mG), but there have been fields as high as 135 mG measured in the "cockpits" of today's commercial hybrids. Just food for thought!

Sue   July 16th, 2008 12:03 pm ET

This may be a dumb question, but doesn't the Prius charge its own battery while driving?

Zalad   July 16th, 2008 12:04 pm ET

Electric cars have not caught on because there are not practical for most drivers. Battery technology has not improved much over the last 50 years, though some progress has been made. And then there's the problem of batteries wearing out rather quickly and become toxic waste. Our cities, especially the ones that have grown rapidly in the last 30 years (Atlanta, Houston, Dallas-Ft. worth, etc.) were planned and developed in the age of cheap gas and relatively cheap cars. They are spawling urban areas, with little public transporation infrastructure, and where commuters my travel as far as 100 miles to work each day. Electric cars are not suitable for such distances.

Like it or not, none of the technologies under consideration are very good choices. Not even fuel cells, which produce only water vapor as an emission. Imagine a commuter city like Atlanta, with millions of cars producing a pound of water vapop per mile? What effect would that have on local climate? Also, water vapor is itself a very efficient greenhouse gas. And what long-term effect would millions upon millions of hydogen powered vehicles have on the planet's hydrogen cycle?

Bruce   July 16th, 2008 12:07 pm ET

The way I see it, the only hurdle to practical electric cars is the energy storage component(battery). If we can develop a universal, light-weight, modular high-energy storage device, then, when the one in your car starts to run low, you pull into a service station and have it quickly replaced with a fully charged one. I'm sure it could even be automated, where you pull up over a pit, and a hydraulic lift disconnects and drops your discharged unit, then installs a charged one. You wouldn't even have to get out of your car, and it would take less time than the current method of filling a gas tank.
They're already doing this, in a low-tech way, in India with standard battery strings, using a forklift to exchange batteries that are mounted on a pallet in the rear of minibus-type vehicles.

J C M minnesota   July 16th, 2008 12:07 pm ET

Are goverment will not be able to collect taxes on gas per gallon so why should they look at a alternative source its all a big game and its all about the money

Jeff Casalina   July 16th, 2008 12:08 pm ET

Even though most electric cars don't have the speed or range people are used to, millions of people still could use an electric car to commute to work and run errands. They get the equivalent of several hundred miles per gallon, and there are several nice models out (but not from the mainstream auto companies). I am buying a Zap Xebra and adding photovoltaic panels to my roof.

Steven   July 16th, 2008 12:09 pm ET

One problem is that they still have to be plugged into an electrical socket. The post mentioned that electricity CAN come from renewable sources, but for the most part it does not. You plug you electric car in get electricity from dirty coal and the like. If the renewable energy supply increases, I think the electric car is a viable option to combustion engines. Other than that, and the limited range of the vehicle, it is a step in the right direction.

Tom   July 16th, 2008 12:09 pm ET

I think it is important to consider the consequences of any new means of transportation. Let's say ten years from now we're all driving battery cars. Fifteen to twenty years from now we're going to have to dispose of millions and millions of worn out batteries. The type of battery we choose needs to be safely disposable or recyclable. Otherwise we're trading one problem for another. Same with hydrogen: What will be the effect on the climate if millions of cars are pumping steam into the atmoshere? Probably not worse than what we have today, but but worth contemplating if it might cause big cities to resemble saunas.

Mike W   July 16th, 2008 12:09 pm ET

The comment that electric cars are zero emmisions is absolutely false and misleading. There are lots of polutants emmited from the power plants that charge the cars, and to produce the batteries and the vehicle itself. The battery disposal is a major issue also. The real solution to our problems is a major energy conservation effort, and reliance on renewables, which many of these options have their own flaws. We need to choose the best of the evils, welcome to the world of physics.

Pete S. - Florida   July 16th, 2008 12:09 pm ET

I have put together some info on energy use. Electric Cars are great just one big problem – People forget where the energy comes from.
Sure make a lot of electric cars and power them with clean renewables like wind or solar sounds great. Just unfortunate that wind and solar cannot meet the huge demand for energy that large scale use of electric cars would create.

Check out

Fact is that given todays technology gas at even $10/gallon is very difficult to beat!

The real problem is we have 7 Billon people using a finite amount of energy like it will be available forever and at a very low cost.

Maureen C.   July 16th, 2008 12:10 pm ET

Anyone who hasn't seen the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car" should do so before leaving a comment on this blog. Many of the myths about electric cars that are being expressed here are disproven in the movie. GM's EV1 was so successful, potential buyers had to "apply" for one. So, why, then, did GM try to "disappear" all traces of them out of existence? I'd love to have a Tesla, but it is way out of my price range. However, Tesla can't even meet the overwhelming demand from those who CAN afford one. Once they raise the capital from these sales and gear up to mass produce electric cars, just watch what happens to the price and the status of Tesla Motors among automakers. If every US car owner switched today to EVs, yes, we probably would need more electric generating facilities, but for the time being, off-peak electric generating capacity is underutilized, so EVs owners could avail themselves of that by charging their cars overnight. Meanwhile, as a country, let's see what we can do with our wind and solar resources so that they can fulfill increased electric demand in the future.

Joe   July 16th, 2008 12:11 pm ET

Hybrid or electric car that gets ~300mpg for under $30K:

Currently only sold in CA since this is a new company.

Jim Cramer   July 16th, 2008 12:11 pm ET

The golden ticket is batteries. We need cheaper and lighter batteries, batteries with higher engery densities...otherwise we need to rethink the automobile. We need something like a light weight two passenger vehicle. 99% of driving is done by one person five days a week. A combination of two solutions to the problems will shape the future.

Don   July 16th, 2008 12:12 pm ET

Check the connection between Cobasys and Chevron. Chevron owns the patent for the nickel metal hydride battery that is used in the Prius. Toyota is not allowed to build a plug in electric model using the nickel metal hydride battery because Chevron says no. Recent commercials by Exxon talk about a lithium battery improvement they are working on. Are they going to lock up the patent for that as well? The ev conversion I am working on uses lead acid batteries. I may never be able to use a more advanced battery if Big Oil has its way. Until more car companies become courageous enough to stand up against Big Oil, shade tree mechanics will build the cheaper ones.

Buster   July 16th, 2008 12:12 pm ET

A lot of the challenge here seems to be range. As mentioned, carrying extra batteries is not practical, and until a battery exchange "gas station" network is established (which will likely be controlled by big oil since they already own the practical locations/facilities), all we can rely on is plugging our car in at home or possibly at work, although I doubt most employers would agree to subsidize our transportation costs. Why not supplement electric with other small footprint technologies like CNG or hydrogen to extend range?

Adam, Salt Lake City, Utah   July 16th, 2008 12:15 pm ET

Ben, What they mean by "more efficient" is that more of the "stored energy" is transfered into forward motion to move the passenger of the vehicle. In a gas engine, much of the energy (over 60% of it) is directly turned into heat through combustion. Another 10%-20% is turned into heat through friction, so you end up with only a very small portion of the energy actually making to the wheels (much of that is wasted on aerodynamic drag) which eventually is transfered through the body of the vehicle to your behind. In an electric vehicle, most of the energy goes straight to through the motor to the wheels without a lot of fanfare, although electrical resistance does kill some of the efficiency (also generating heat) it's nowhere near what a combustion engine wastes.

eman   July 16th, 2008 12:18 pm ET

California doesn't even have enough electircity to power their air conditioners. What makes you think they can power a fleet of cars too? Proponents say to charge at night when demand is low. That works today, but if EVERYONE is charging at night, do you really think demand will remain low?

Remeber what ethanol did to the cost of food? Switching to Electric cars will jump the price of electricity, and create one more thing that people can't afford. You'll hear complaints that people can't afford to buy food for their family AND keep it cold.

Coal plants are still our primary source of electricity, and carbon emissions. They would need to run full capacity 24-7, so you're not really reducing emissions, just shifting them somewhere else. Aside from carbon, they also release nasty chemicals like mercury.

If you are an enviromentalist, you should advocate less travel, PERIOD. Changing out the technology of the fleet is a band-aid solution that will never address the real problem.

Sybil   July 16th, 2008 12:18 pm ET

No one here seems to be talking about the amount of energy that cars use. While there are forms of clean electricity to be had, right now we can not even add enough to the electrical grid with it to keep up with demand without cars.

No one likes the reality that as of now, electric cars will burn diesel and coal. The only fuels capable of adding significant amounts to the grid at this time. Unless or until the TWIN problems of batteries and electrical generation are solved, electric cars aren't going anywhere.

jim   July 16th, 2008 12:20 pm ET

Car companies make most of their money on the maintenance on and replacement parts for their vehicles. Car companies killed their own electric car a few years back because they weren't making any money because of lack of maintenance/repairs. BTW, the people who owned the electric cars from GM/Honda/Toyota/Ford, loved the vehicles.

In the past, LA used to have a trolley system until GM bought it and shut it down so that they would force citizens to buy/use more cars.

Until, the car makers see it as MORE profitable than making gasoline powered cars, they won't!

Greg Ballantyne   July 16th, 2008 12:22 pm ET

Electric cars ARE NOT zero emmissions. As long as any of our electical generating capacity produces emmissions, electric cars cannot claim to be emmission free. Even if you put solar panels on yopur roof for the sole purpose of keeping you electric car batteries charged, you are still using other emmission producing electricity for other things that you could eliminate by using the solar power. The same is true on larger scales, county, state, country, etc...

What we nned to concentrate on is zero emmissions electric generation. Wind, Solar, and New Generation Nuclear. We can eventually phase out all emmission producing generation, and then drive zero emmission electric cars. Along the way perhaps the batteries will provide sufficient range and/or fast charging to actually provide feasible replacement of current technology.

Nick   July 16th, 2008 12:26 pm ET

I can think of several reasons why we do not use electric cars:

1. Oil and gas companies lobby heavily against electric cars and other RENEWABLE sources of energy. (Think about it folks: it's just like the pharmaceutical companies. There is no money in CURES or VACCINES. They only make medications that allow you to live with the disease so that you have to pay for your pills monthly for the rest of your life). The same concept applies to energy companies. If they sell you a fully reliable solar powered car today, you will never need "fuel." Thus they lose a constant revenue source. (This is why the oil-allied Republicans (i.e. McCain/Bush) are pushing for domestic and offshore drilling and a gas tax holiday. Both of these are temporary fixes that would only make oil companies richer).

2. Car manufacturers have not been willing invest the time, money,a and resources. This is likely due to their relationship with oil and gas companies. Anyone who doesn't believe that automobile manufacturers are in bed with energy companies obviously does not understand basic economic incentives. This is a bootlegger/baptist situation. Same goes for the lobbying.

3. Electricity costs will rise if much of our nation switches to electric powered cars. Right now a car that gets 20 MPG will cost 20 cents per mile to drive (at $4 per gallon). Comparatively, most electric cars average about 1-3 cents per mile in electricity costs. If millions of vehicles begin using electricity, costs will rise. Meanwhile gas costs will drop. This could create a disincentive to switch to electric cars. This problem can be fixed by investing in more electric power, such as nuclear power, clean burning coal, wind, solar, and tidal energy.

4. Range. Most electric cars barely have a 200 mile range. If car manufacturers can double that range, electric cars will become much more attractive. Also manufacturers should consider in-vehicle charging like solar panels or small gas engines.

Kimberly Shaw   July 16th, 2008 12:28 pm ET

I am excited about the use of solar power for lighting, pumps, heat, etc. Can the panels and components not be made with recycled materials? The panels actually recharge a battery!

I see no reason why all "clean" sources cannot be used to power an automobile... Solar panels incorporated into the body of the vehicle; Some type of fan system, similar to the radiator fan, to provide wind charging while moving; Electrical charging while in the garage (powered, of course with the stored energy from the home roof solar panels and "windmill" systems already in place for our home needs.)

Yes, it costs money to implement those things but since we need to update our infrastructure anyway, why not do it right the first time? Do we really want to be enslaved to oil owned by others?

Tom Jones   July 16th, 2008 12:29 pm ET

It's simple economics-gasoline would have to cost around $10.00 per gallon over a four to six year period in order for a $30+K hybrid to become cost effective vs. a 13K Saturn ION that I drive now. With a slight modification to the air intake, and keeping my freeway speeds below 65 mph, I get 38+MPG.

Right now anyone buying hybrids is doing so to feel good about "saving the planet", neverminding where that couple of hundred pounds of used battery is going to end up in 5 years or so.

I can think of better ways of spending money to reduce emissions and create alternative power than blowing my money on hybrid cars, like installing solar power arrays on my rooftop (doing that), or having my home upgraded with high effeceincy windows and siding (did that). The energy saving gained via these permanent solutions far outweighs the cost/ benefit of the current hybrid electric automotive technology.

Individuals need to find permanent solutions to energy issues when corporations and utilities are either too slow or not financially motivated to get the job done, not go running out to buy the latest gizmo they slapped together to make the public feel good about them after decades of squandering our technology and wealth.

Americans need to stop complaining, research the problems, and exercise some personal initiative when dealing with our current energy issues. No one innovates like Americans can, we just have to roll up our sleeves and get to work!!!

Mad Matt   July 16th, 2008 12:31 pm ET

Retail cost is the single biggest issue. As soon as a company can figure out how to build a 150-mile range runabout for city commuting under $10K, everyone's attitude will change. Too bad the major motor companies today won't be the ones to realize that success.

All of the major manufacturers have insisted on placating the US consumer public's "want" as opposed to "need". The US has voted with their wallets on vehicle design for the last 10 years, leading the big three to generate Ford Expedition, Quad-cab 4x4s from every maker, Hummer, Escalade, Navigator, etc. etc.. Nissan and Honda followed with Titan, Ridgeline, etc. not wanting to miss the market. Not only that, the manufacturers then continued the momentum by pumping these vehicles through endless advertising. No one had the vision to say "hmm, maybe we oughta be serious about plan B...:". Sadly, you know who is going to kick-start the economical electric car revolution? China or India, by government subsidization of the start-up costs for production of an inexpensive model that can be made in the 100s of thousands.

JONWYATT   July 16th, 2008 12:36 pm ET

Many, many mornings in the winter up here it is -40F....enough said!!

Derek   July 16th, 2008 12:36 pm ET

The big picture here that a lot of people are missing is america's dependency on foreign oil. A switch over to an electrical energy source that can be produced within the united states (i.e. coal, wind, nuclear) would change the dynamics of the american economy in so many ways. The price of foreign oil is the sole reason why the american economy is sputtering today.

America is supplying countries in OPEC with enormous amounts of money that is leaving the US economy. I would rather any profits of paying for electricity go to an american company that people would get paid back in stock dividends rather than supplying money to greedy OPEC.

New coal power plants today are actually really efficient and have cleaner emissions that oil powered cars. Coal is an abundant resouce in the United States and should be utilized. There is technology to capture CO2 and inject it into empty gas wells to store. Once more renewable energy sources come on line (wind, solar, geothermal) you can phase out coal/natural gas power plants.

Sick of it   July 16th, 2008 12:36 pm ET

What many people don't realize is that car dealerships make more money from their service department than from actual car sales. The power and complexity of an internal combustion engine requires heavy maintence – electric motors do not. Replace the brushes every couple of years (along with the batteries which varies depending upon the type) so and you're good to go. Eliminate replacement parts for dealerships and you eliminate a huge revenue stream. The thought process is no different than many industries. We can make light bulbs lasting 20 years but then you sell a lot fewer bulbs. Its simply part of the business model aimed of maximizing profits – not about creating the best products possible for the benefit of the consumer.

Richard   July 16th, 2008 12:38 pm ET

When the automobile first came to market there was no fuel source available on a mass scale. Henry Ford's cars were designed to run on alcohol. Something a farmer could produce. Gasoline was a waste product and was being dumped in to rivers and streams. Most people didn't have electric. It seemed like a good idea to take a product businesses were trying to get rid of and selling it.

Bil Pal   July 16th, 2008 12:38 pm ET

Wow – what a lot of uninformed nonsense one finds here!

Batteries are bad? Thats a lie. The innovations in battery technology are astounding – considering that the oil industry/government has fought battery research for 30 years.

Photovoltaic is more expensive than "regular" electricity? That's been a lie for more than ten years, yet it's repeated as catechism by the "conservatives" – who seem unwilling to conserve anything but their own power.

What about flywheels? The latest versions, "carbon-fiber composite rotors that have a higher tensile strength than steel and are an order of magnitude lighter" than steel – according to wikipedia, have been ignored for the same reason all the problems with the oil economy – America is run by oil-men and has been 100 years.

If, starting in the early 1970's when scientists first called attention to the problems with America's energy systems, a tiny percentage of the money wasted on nuclear power and military gadgetry had been directed into alternative energy and electric cars there would be no energy problems today. As it is, the high price of oil is purely political – the oil men who control the monopoly on transportation in the US have worked very hard to make it possible to screw you at the gas pump. Still got that "W" sticker on your car? "Ha ha" – Nelson, the Simpsons

Fred   July 16th, 2008 12:38 pm ET

Okay, so if we're not concerned with the negative health side effects of cocooning ourselves in high EMF fields, then Lithium Ploymer becomes the battery of choice. They are extremely high energy per pound compared to pretty much any other type of battery commercially available today. They will also hold a charge much longer than NiMh batteries and show no evidience of the "memory" charge effect associated with NiCD or NiMH. The only catch (other than being a bit pricey), would be that great care must be observed during the charge cycle. All Litium rechargeables are subject to explosion if allowed to overheat during the recharge process. This includes the ones in your laptops and cellphones.

Kirby   July 16th, 2008 12:38 pm ET

Although all technology has evolved in the last century, batteries are essentially the same, heavy devices that they once were. Also, consider what goes into batteries and what happens when they have reached the end of their life cycles: heavy metals and you throw them out (even though you're supposed to recycle them). Heavy metals in landfills = groundwater contamination

PDW Michigan   July 16th, 2008 12:39 pm ET

3 totally different issues are at play in electric cars:
1) Infrastructure: We have really not built a sizable new electric gernerating station in the US since 1980 because of regulations and the not in my own back yard syndrome. The electric power construction industry has been in mothballs for 25 years and there have been few developments inefficiency and cleanliness in this time period.
2) Battery storage technology: this is growing by leaps and bounds lately but has been a dead issue because of the low price of fossile fuels for years. It probably was a disservice to US consumers to have artificially low gas prices over the last 20 years because it made no economic sence to innovate more costly solutions to familiar problems.
3) Economics: We really have not heard the whole story about the total life cycle cost of electric and hybrid cars. Starting with the best batteries available we need to count the cost when the materials demand goes up 1000 fold, relaize that the batteries will not last more than 2-5 years, and plan to replace them ($7,-$10,000). Now we need to figure the cost of recycling the materials into new batteries rather than filling landfills with them. Finally we need to figure the cost of providing the additional electric power in the form of new generating stations. I'm sure some think tank has all these figures, but they are not talking about them in the industry presently.

Eric   July 16th, 2008 12:42 pm ET

The battery technology exists to get 300+ miles on a single charge. Watch the movie "Who killed the electric car". CNN did a recent story on a Swede who is driving a solar electric vehicle all over the US. It is fully powered by the sun (not a BS hybrid). It may be a bit impractical, but the point is that he made it work in his own back yard with products available now. The geniuses at Ford,GM,&Chrysler should have no problem if this guy can do it. Watch the big three go down in flames as the people reject their insulting oily products. Oil is ruining this country.

If the "people" would quit letting big business run this country, particularly a president's family business like oil, then maybe we could do something that will benefit the country and not a few CEOs of the oil industry. When you have a mentality that everyone should fend for themselves, then what good is a government or calling this collective group of individuals a country? Just ask Katrina victims about the basic responsibility of a government. We are far more intelligent than this and most of us know it, yet we keep repeating the same mistakes expecting different results (clinical definition of insanity). We are about to add ourselves to the long list of great empires that fell due to their gluttonous arrogance.

Dave   July 16th, 2008 12:46 pm ET

The answer to the question is not rocket science.

The vast majority of electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels. The amount of fuel that you have to burn to drive a care X distance using gasoline is a mere fraction of the amount of fuel you have to burn to generate the electricity to drive the car the same distance. The difference is the energy loss in producing and transmitting the electricty.

As such if everyone drove electric cars today the amount of fossil fuels consumed would increase astronomically – as would the cost.

Electric cars only make sense when "all" electrical demand can be met by not burning fossil fuels. The only remotely feasible way to do that is with nuecular energy, (wind, solar etc are fantasies of environmental ludites – do the math).

Joe   July 16th, 2008 12:47 pm ET

Electric vehicles are being used all over the country! In many manufacturing facilities with a large worker population they use electric forklifts to cut down on foul air. The electronics for forklifts has been developed and just need tweaking for automotive use. IMO the major delay is developing a lithium ion rechargeable stack battery with low maintenance and light weight. The industrial use for batteries is dependent on the weight of the lead, liquid and case to keep all 4 electric lift truck tires on the floor when they use the forks to pick up heavy material. The lighter an electric auto( or a correctly named, motorcycle) is the longer the battery charge will last before needing a recharge.

No free lunch   July 16th, 2008 12:50 pm ET

The downside of electric cars is there is simply no free lunch. The batteries have extremely toxic/caustic materials – many of which are derived from petroleum products. Many of the "green" infrastructure to support electric cars, such as solar panels, have rather similar chemicals required for their manufacture. Creating electricity from coal is simply displaced pollution. Nuculear is clean for us and a version of torture for our kids for the next 10,000 years. Wind and solar is simply not avaialbe because of the environmental realities for much of the world.

hans   July 16th, 2008 12:51 pm ET

i am getting so angry just by reading all these posts. people listen up. electric cars are the future. nissan just announced a whole new line beginning 2010 of all types of cars. everyone keeps talking about all this crap that keeps the consumer from buying these cars. Bologne. the simple fact is that if the cars were made and were under 40K, and they could plug in, and the battery lasts 300 miles, every human on this planet would want one! oh and guess what: all of the above conditions were met in the 80's with the "EV-1". now with the rediculousness of the gas prices and proposals of new oil drilling etc, there is the biggest demand EVER in the history of the world. it is time that car companies can profit from it and NISSAN is the first major car company with big plans..check it out.

mfeberhard   July 16th, 2008 12:52 pm ET

Despite the conclusions of the excellent movie, Who Killed the Electric Car, we have not seen decent and widely adopted electric cars mainly because batteries were too expensive, too low capacity, and too short a lifespan.

But battery technology has been improving at a good clip, largely driven by the consumer electronics industry. Today, it is possible to build a good high-end electric car; soon it will be possible to build lower-priced electric cars that will be widely acceptable. I guess that a significant number of cars on the road will be electric within 15 years.

The Chevy Volt and other "extended range" EVs will come first, and their battery needs will drive the battery industry to optimize development for cars rather than handheld devices. So, while not a perfect solution, the Volt will help two ways – first by providing gasoline-free driving for your first 40 miles every day, and second by driving battery evolution in the right direction.

MikeM95831   July 16th, 2008 12:52 pm ET

I had a rechargeable lawn mower. It was a 24 volt Toro Carefree. Used it for 8 years, then replaced it a month ago with a gasoline mower.


Because for the second time, the batteries went dead. This mower uses 2 12-volt lead-acid cells with a total weight of about 30 lbs. I used 60 lbs of lead-acid batteries over 8 years to run this mower. They were going to cost $100 to replace (for the second time).

Over a period of 8 years, I'd use about 10 gallons of gasoline to run this mower. At the present time, that's $50. And it does a better job.

This is all an obtuse way of saying that the simple answer is "economics." I probably run cars longer than most people (we own a 12 year old car and a 6 year old car), so I demand cars that last. If I demand an electric car that lasts, chances are very high I will eventually face a choice: New car, or change the batteries?

Because I doubt even the best Lipo or Nimh cells will last 10+ years.

Ultimately, battery life will have to improve to attract me. Personally, I'd prefer massive upgrades to our rail transit systems. If the Japanese can build Shinkansen, so can we. French rail. German rail. Heck, even Chinese rail now. We shouldn't be looking to the next generation of electric Suburbans; we should be looking to rail.

Jim in Colorado   July 16th, 2008 12:54 pm ET

Why not electric ? Uh, duh! All the crap about batteries ignores thebasic fact: where the heck does electricity come from? Oh yeah, just a lightning rod attached to your roof and charger, where once in a thousand years, it will get struck by the "free" elec tricity. Most electricity comes from coal fired power plants. When you turn on that light switch, or that "green" car recharger, you are not using anything remotely close to zero emissions. All those Califonia dreamin, green environmentalist prius driving tree huggers would have been SOL during the power crisis a few years back. Building any new power plants there anyone? Wise up people, electricity doesn't grow on trees! geeesch!

Rob   July 16th, 2008 12:54 pm ET

The Prius and other hybrids charge its battery while braking, I believe, making the hybrid engines better for in-traffic/city driving than on the highway.

Someone commented that you can't blame big oil for limited batteries - check the internet and you'll find that the oil companies are the ones that are dictating what the car manufacturers are allowed to use in terms of batteries.

I agree that we cannot simply transfer from one big pollution thing (i.e. gas/oil) to another (dirty electric from coal/natural gas). At no point do I want to seem like I belive the electric car fixes the problem entirely. However, it's a start and there is a lot of research going into making better, less polluting solar energy or wind energy. It is these technologies that will be needed to make electric vehicles and alternative energy become mainstream in the future. Couple these efforts with improvements in electric engine technologies, improvements in roads and infrastructure and other new or old ideas and we'll have a good start on fixing the problem. Fuel Cells are a great thing to be working on if they're powered by water... but I'm sure there is some clause in some oil contract to prevent them from being mainstreamed.

It all starts and ends with oil. Electric cars are stuck there, too.

R.Lentz   July 16th, 2008 12:55 pm ET

Electric vehicles are NOT “Zero Emission” If you think so then answer these questions before you flame the blog:
What emissions will be created making the battery?
What emissions will be created charging the battery? (These two can generate some really bad toxins – not just hydrogen – why do nuclear subs surface to charge their batteries?) Most of our electrical energy comes from fossil (coal/gas), and even these were made CO2 free they release more radioactive emissions into the atmosphere than a nuclear power plant.
How long does the battery last? (How long does that lithium ion battery last in your cell-phone?)
What is the total electricity cost and what is the efficiency of the charging system? (Someone here said 3.8 cents per KwHr that is MUCH lower than the average US cost.) Don’t forget to add in the road tax (state and federal) that is in your gas cost and how that will be collected on your electric vehicle – another new tax! Also, all of this new electrical use will drive up the cost of electricity for everybody and every other use. Wind, even subsidized, cost almost twice that of any other method and if that is all that is added the price of electricity will go up. (Yes they will be cheaper – in about 50 years)
Where are all of these windmills going? (NIMBY)
Where are the power lines for all of these windmills going? (NIMBY)

Adam, Salt Lake City, Utah   July 16th, 2008 12:55 pm ET

As far as the energy itself, the answer is obviously wind and solar. There's plenty of it lurking in places you wouldn't expect. I saw a design on popular science for a freeway with verticle wind turbines that recapture wind energy from cars, and this doesn't cause any additional drag on the cars themselves, in fact it lowers the turbulence that causes additional drag on cars in the first place. This sort of high volume/small scale strategy can be applied to hydrolectric power as well so instead of building a huge dam with a few giant generators, you build a bunch of smaller "funnel dams" and place them in a series along the length of a river. You can mass produce many smaller generators and make more power without completely interrupting the flow of the river itself. The key development in turbine generators, either for wind or hydro is going to be magnetic bearings that never wear out. Right now that is the only major expense in maintainance. Also lets think about solar for a second. There have been some concepts of EVs with solar panels on the roof. Now that won't give you enough of a charge to drive every day, but there are solar race cars that run completely off of about 4 square meters of solar cells, and they store enough energy for nighttime running. So lets say there's a car that deploys a sort of solar canopy when it's parked. I know it sounds sort of "transformersish" but its not technically more complicated than many hardtop convertible roofs. Combine that with new thin film, and transparent transistor technology (recently licensed by HP) that will enable lightweight, ultra efficient, cheap solar cells that require no mechanical sun tracking and use only a fraction of the silicon in a normal solar panel and you've got a vehicle that not only powers itself but might end up with a surplus at the end of the day. Down the proverbial road you could turn every parking lot and freeway in the country into a power plant essentially enhancing the existing infrastructure to power itself.

Mike Donofrio   July 16th, 2008 12:55 pm ET

How about give me an electric car that doesn't get abused in traffic, has range over 200 miles, and doesn't look like an egg? Incidentally, I tried looking at the Prius but they are waitlisted. When an electric car can outperform a gasoline powered car, I'll take one...but for now, I'll happily pay $5 for the seat of the pants feel that only V-8 powered muscle can provide. Electric cars are lame and not terribly masculine...just ask Ed Begley Jr.

Dru   July 16th, 2008 12:55 pm ET

So far, I've read through about the first page of comments and I haven't seen anything about the negative environmental impact of electric cars. Sure, everyone justifies their love of the idea by saying "It uses no gas!!" Has anyone thought about the manufacture of the magnets used in the electric motors? Sure the production process is cleaner than it was a few years ago, but its still quite filthy. I think that, rather than spend billions of dollars on something else that is going to contribute to the destruction of the earth, maybe we should use a truly sustainable source of clean energy. Maybe further our knowledge of HHO?

Mike Donofrio   July 16th, 2008 12:58 pm ET

Is anyone concerned with the fact that we burn coal for electricity and that man made sources of carbon emissions are less than 1% of the global total. Sounds like leftist scare tactics made popular by Al Gore's Convenient Truth.

Eldon Tedder   July 16th, 2008 12:59 pm ET

My needs require a car with a 150 mile range between charges. Otherwise i will be pushing my car home from work. Price it between 20K-30K leave off the frills and i will buy one in a heartbeat.

James   July 16th, 2008 1:00 pm ET

The problem is Greed.

One person writes about infrastructure, but if you do your research or even watch "who killed the electric car" you'll see that Electric Cars have minimal moving parts... there's no need for 99% of the engine maintenance.

Some say "Detroit" but when you really put it down, it's the Automobile industry in general. Sure Toyota is making great strides, but that's because it saw the early electrics and said "We've got to compete" of course when their product comes out, our Car industries have squashed.

One big part of it is reflected in the comments, we've been taught to believe that we want tons of cargo space and long range. Yet most of us drive 50 miles or less on daily commute. Households increasinly have multiple cars, so it's not a big jump to have an electric only for the commute and a hybrid for a "family vehicle" Many are already doing this, getting a small fuel effecient car for commutes and saving the Mini-Van or SUV for when the entire family needs to be hauled.

Ultimately it comes down to the choices *WE* make – yes auto companies will say "no one wants that" and they'l try to convince you otherwise... Remember Henry Ford's comment when asked if the Model T would come in other colors? "So long as it's black"

Eventually as more people bought other cars and competitors catered to customer's whims, even old henry caved in.

You want more effecient cars? Electrics? Hybrids? Buy them.

Right now a good half the driving public can't afford a new car, but already automakers are feeling the pinch. old Guzzlers are hard to re-sell, New Guzzlers are even harder. The Mighty Hummer is unprofitable enough that they are thinking of retiring it.

Problem is, if gas gets cheap, they'll go right back to what sold before... afterall they not only get you for the Car, but for oil changes, Filters, plugs, maintenance...

And so long as big gas guzzlers are a status symbol... there will be those willing to pay to waste our common resources.

The world's being bottled up and sold to the highest bidder. If you don't like the product, you've got to make it unprofitable to sell.

Better yet you've got to make the alternative a better deal.

Republicans need to quit pandering to Big Business (who doesn't want to spend money or inpliment costly changes to be more effecient)

Democrats need to quit pandering to unions, yeah, they are filled with the common working men and women... but if we change our systems, we're going to LOSE SOME JOBS... that means things are going to HAVE to change...

Everyone's got to pull their heads out the sand and realize the Status Quo cannot be maintained.

We are all in the same big boat... and there's an Iceburg ahead!

Joe   July 16th, 2008 1:00 pm ET

The Toyota Prius, green and clean? I don't think so. Take a look at the environmental impact of what it takes to build one of these cars or for that matter, any of the other gas/electrics. Batteries contain chemicals and material that are not easily disposed of or recycled (other than the copper core).

Roger Willitt   July 16th, 2008 1:01 pm ET

Make one with a range that will last all day before it has to be plugged in and it's affordable and useful and I'd buy one. Current ones getting 40-50 miles a charge just don't get it, or a 200+ mile range but it costs over $100K doesn't get it for the masses either. I'd say in the 150 mile range per charge and the price range of gas powered cars and lots of us would buy them, I know I would.

Buck   July 16th, 2008 1:02 pm ET

Can the batteries be recycled? Or will they just add to man's pollution, but in a different way?

Reg   July 16th, 2008 1:04 pm ET

A lot could be done if people replaced one of their many cars with electric. They'd still have their big guzzler for the long trips, etc. However, I don't expect this will happen. Look at the number of people with multiple SUVs. They could have bought a fuel efficient car already which would have reduced the problem we all have now, but also given them some alternatives to personally avoid the high prices. But most didn't. They are in fear they might get hit by another oversized, overweight killing machine like their own SUV. Or maybe they are afraid they won't be seen as successful if they don't have the most and biggest SUVs.

As to the demand electricity would place on the infrastructure, this could be true. But is it any different than adding more computers and devices to our houses? There is not a single solution. We need to make our whole lives more efficient, not just our cars. Not doing so just transfers the pain to a new location. Maybe a little less pain, but still pain.

Adam, Salt Lake City, Utah   July 16th, 2008 1:07 pm ET

Also remember that the weather is driven by the sun itself so wind and hydroelectric can be considered solar that has just been absorbed and transported by the fluids in our atmosphere. Hmmm I want to coin a new term so let's call wind and hydro power "Fluid Absorbed Solar Transport" or "FAST Solar"

Kris   July 16th, 2008 1:08 pm ET

I think this country sould consider the hydrogen powered vehicle. It's and electric car that gathers the electrons from hydrogen. I've been reading about it for years. If successful people would be able to produce hydrogen at home! But alas, our government has not been very supportive of it. However Honda is going to begin leasing these cars in test flet.

Mike   July 16th, 2008 1:09 pm ET

Why have "power stations" at all?

Why can't we create some sort of technology that allows the wind that passes over our car or through our engine to produce the energy needed to sustain the charge.

KK   July 16th, 2008 1:11 pm ET

1) ask the oil millionaires who have the government in their pocket

2) watch "Who Killed the Electric Car."

Irvell   July 16th, 2008 1:11 pm ET

The present gas stations need to add bays that would cater to EVs – swapping out discharged batteries with fully charged ones, for a small fee. This will solve the charging time issue, no more need to develop fast charging batteries that could deteriorate faster than the current LiOn batts, for example. Likewise, a smaller number of batts will be needed by these EVs because these gas/batt service stations will be everywhere, thereby making them lighter and increasing their range. Since these cars are inherently smart, they will have GPS and other gadgets that will let the driver know how soon he needs to get his batteries swapped out and where.

TCSPINS   July 16th, 2008 1:14 pm ET

The problem we should be trying to solve is finding alternative FUEL sources. An electric car is absolutely dependent on the same fuel sources we have always used to generate electricity – coal, natural gas, nuclear, and rarely, hydro and wind. Where do you think the electricity comes from the charge the battery?

So an electric car may reduce hydrocarbon emissions while driving but is it really producing a net savings given that the electricity must be generated somewhere by something? I would postulate that an electric car that was charged by electricity from a coal burning plant nets no better carbon footprint than a gasoline powered car.

We need electric plants that use more nuclear (yes, it has almost zero carbon footprint), hydro, wind, and solar. Then electric cars can make sense.

Or, we need cars that themselves use an alternative fuels such as hydrogen, solar, and/or greatly improved fuel economy. The genius of the Prius is that it uses heat produced by braking to charge the battery. I maintain that is a better solution than plugging a car into a coal plant.

Otto Nordpol   July 16th, 2008 1:14 pm ET

Even a modest shift to electric cars (say, to 10 percent of the national vehicle fleet) would place huge demands on the electric grid and necessitate massive expansion both of generating capacity and distribution infrastructure (wires, transformers, etc.) It doesn't matter if new supply comes from wind, solar, tides, gas turbines, nuclear or hamsters spinning in cages–we're talking decades to put new capacity in place under current regulatory, NIMBY/litigation, capital investment, and construction constraints.

In the meantime, here in California, Big Brother Arnold bullies us to "Flex Your Power" (Translated: Follow government orders to turn off the lights) any time the thermometer goes above 90 degrees (35 C).

The forgoing are just forseeable consequences. The recent bio-fuels experience shows what happens when a slight increase in share of contribution to energy supply triggers food cost rises in rich countries and food shortages in poor ones. As always, be careful for what you ask for!

Nick   July 16th, 2008 1:18 pm ET

Overall, America needs to rework its energy infrastructure. We need to invest in tidal turbines (that operate like wind power, but in the 832 times denser medium of water, thereby creating much more power per turbine). Also tides and currents are 100% predictable unlike wind. We also need to look into geo-thermal energy. Solar energy is of course a great option. Wind power is also very viable in certaina areas of the country.

But as I and others have mentioned, all of the above sources of energy are not constant revenue generators. If you build a wind, tidal, geo-thermal, or solar powered machines, you lose the constant demand for fuel. Corporations are created for profit. I'll say it again, just as there is no money to be made in CURES and VACCINES, there is little money to be made in truly renewable energy sources.

Nick   July 16th, 2008 1:26 pm ET

Responding to Dave from several posts above:

Nuclear energy is not the only electricity answer. That is a very narrow minded view. Tidal, wind, and solar energy are all viable options. Solar panels are gaining in efficiency. Wind power is very viable in certain areas. And more importantly, tidal energy.

When I say tidal energy, I am speaking of underwater turbines that are strategically placed in currents or in areas with heavy tide pulls. Water is 832 times denser than air. Thus you create the same effect as a wind turbine, but with much higher efficiency and with much more predictability.

Also, we should look into geo-thermal energy in areas where it is feasible.

Zalad   July 16th, 2008 1:30 pm ET

Many posters are probably too young to remember that we've seen this same debate about every eight years since the 1973 oil embargo. Everytime gas prices spike up, debate about althernative energy and cars powered by things other than gasoline starts anew. Then prices fall and everything is shelved.

It takes far more energy to manufacture a rechargeable battery than it will ever produce, so batteries are not so grat an answer. Ethanol? It's one of the biggest scams being perpetrated today. It takes an average of five gallons of oil to produce a single bushel of corn and a bushel of corn will yield aboout 1.5 gallons of ethanol. It then takes several hundred cu. ft. of natural gas or about the amount of electricity needed to power the average house to convert that bushel of corn into ethanol. The energy yield from a gallon of ethanol is only a fraction of that of gasoline. Worse, growing corn not only needs too much farmland (which could be used to grow food), but it is very polluting, since corn requires more fertilizer (made from oil, of course) than any other crop. These fertilizers run off into rivers and streams and evenually into the ocean. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is caused by this fertilizer run-off.

Ed   July 16th, 2008 1:36 pm ET

Why not use electricity to make hydrogen, and use that as a fuel to power cars? Concentrated solar energy (see Dec. 2007 Scientific American "A Solar Grand Plan"), wind, and nuclear could supplement coal and natual-gas fired powerplants. Honda recently introduced a hydrogen powered vehicle that it plans to make available under a lease program. We have a network of gas stations that could be outfitted to fuel hydrogen vehicles. Seems to make more sense than trying to deal with the limitations of batteries.

Dennis   July 16th, 2008 1:36 pm ET

Electric cars are part of the answer, but not THE answer. For a lot of the population, like myself that live in apartments, condos townhouse clusters with parking lots or even houses in the city where you have to park on the street, there isn't anywhere to plug in and recharge your car. It would cost a lot of money for these places to build in electrical outlets for their residents to plug in cars at no benefit to their bottom line and that's just bad business. So as I said before, the electric car is a good idea for some of the population, but definitely not all of the population.

AnswerJoe   July 16th, 2008 1:43 pm ET

The EV, California's sacred cow, killed by Big Oil and the Big 3. And now the reason that foreign manufacturers can't make one is because Big Oil has the patent on every battery ever made. Come on people, open your eyes. When it is practical and PROFITABLE, every car company in the world will try to sell you an EV. Until the TECHNICAL issues can be solved they will always be Niche vehicles for self-righteous people with enough cash to prove their value to the world. Does anyone remember when laptop batteries were exploding and catching fire? At least 3 million were recalled. Can you imagine having to recall 3 million vehicle batteries that cost thousands of dollars each? Not to mention the stigma of your vehicle burning to the ground, possibly with you in it! Yeah, Big Oil and the Big 3, why wouldn't they want to get in on that!

George   July 16th, 2008 1:44 pm ET

Problems with electric cars:

1) Electricity for the cars must be generated – presently that menas lots of nasty coal or petrochemical fired power plants spewing all sorts of pollutants into the environment as solid and gaseous wastes to say nothing of the nasty mining and transportaiton requirements of these fuels.

Solar is a nice idea but solar cell production, like most semiconductor processing, is one of the nastiest dirty chemical polluting processes there is. Very very nasty!

2) The electricity must be delivered to the car in some fashion by the power grid – our present power grid cannot handle the load of alos powering all of our cars and will require significant upgrades.

3) the electricity must be stored in the car for use – The batteries in the car have a finite lifespan and most battery technologies include lots of nasty heavy metals (lead, nickle, cadmium, etc.) that must be mined, refined from ore, fashioned in the batteries and then when the batteries are expended the batteries must be recycled (hopefully) or disposed of properly.

These are the major hurdles to electric cars. All are manageable with known technology.

IMO, the first step toward electric cars is building nuclear power plants that can generate the electrical power necessry to power the cars.

The second step is converting as many cars a possible to natural gas so that current cars can still be used.

The third step is upgrading the power grid as the car mfrs convert to building electric cars.

B Mutia   July 16th, 2008 1:47 pm ET

Forget the electric car. Too many limitations.

I added a water-booster on my civic 2006 gas car. I am getting 50MPG at 70MPH in freeway driving and I'm not even done tweaking yet.

A full water-powered car might possibly be even in the works.

John   July 16th, 2008 1:55 pm ET

I agree with David F Becker Sr. If an electric car could be produced that had a good range (150 miles) I'd be more excited about them. Holding enough of a charge for in-town driving is a nice start, but a lot of us commute to work.

Greg   July 16th, 2008 2:02 pm ET

The primary requirement for energy storage for transportation is energy density by volume. Hydrocarbons are some of the most energy dense materials known. Gasoline is 17 times better than the best battery and 3 times better than liquid Hydrogen. It is not by accident that we use gasoline, diesel fuel and Jet A in our vehicles. This is truely woundrous stuff. The reason we do not currently use hydrogen in our vehicles is this thorny energy density issue (the tank has to be so large). So, lets assume that electric motors are twice as effecient as internal combustion. This takes the disparity between gasoline and battery tech down to a factor of 8.5. We will assume for discussion that the minimum acceptible energy density is half that of gasoline. This yields a required improvement of battery technology over the current art at a factor of 4. Battery technology is mature (150 yrs old). Significant unforseen breakthroughs would be required. Cheers.

Encarta   July 16th, 2008 2:07 pm ET

Going from a gas guzzler to an electric car isn't an easy thing to do. There are so many issues that you have to overcome before you can embrace the new concept. Not only that, depending on what stage you are at in your life, the initial cost to make the change can be overwhelming. I have to say that my husband has always ensured that I have a very nice car. When I had to switch from my very nice gas guzzler car to a very nice hybrid car, for I while, I felt like something was missing. Those wonderful, wild moments when I would put the pedal to the metal kind of disappeared. However, I have become a much safer driver and my husband is quite pleased with me..... but I am boring! :D

Greg   July 16th, 2008 2:11 pm ET

B. Mutia's comment is pure bunk. I'm surprised it got past the moderators. Water cannot power a car. Only scammers and scammees think it can.

Sammy   July 16th, 2008 2:11 pm ET

The deal is that liquid gasoline is just so darn convenient. It contains a large amount of energy per unit volume and is easily transported and stored. Electric energy has to come up to that standard. Although not necessarily all the way. As the world changes and energy issues become more significant, we may have to change our expectations for our personal transportation vehicles. And it's starting to happen now. I predict that plugin hybrids will be the bridge between gasoline cars and electric cars. One day it will be normal to plug in your car at night and while at the office. But just think: no more trips to the filling station!

Christine Vo   July 16th, 2008 2:15 pm ET

We don't drive electric cars because it is more profitable to the oil and car maker companies that we are still dependent on fuel dependent cars (even hyrids and hydrofuel. they all still use some kind of fuel). Electric cars are so clean and would be so dependable if oil company didn't buy the rights to the cutting edge battery technology that would increase the life of EV engines indefinitely. Because the big oil companies have the rights to that technology, car maker cannot use it and the oil companies are loving the fact that they own that knowledge. Knowledge is power and they have ensured that they bought all the power they could get their grubby little hands on. For more information on the electric car, people should watch the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?". It is very informative and very interesting.

JohnyC   July 16th, 2008 2:15 pm ET

After reading some of the posts here, it is obvious there is no solution that will make everyone happy. The whacky environmentalists will always find a flaw with any plan we can present. It almost seems as though they have this warped view that America should not be this advanced in technology. Do they want us to be like some of the 3rd world countries without new technologies at hand? I thought plants used CO2 to make oxygen for us to breathe. Wasn't that the whole premise of the catalythic converter, to turn carbon monoxide (a pollutant) into carbon dioxide (not a pollutant)?

B Mutia   July 16th, 2008 2:22 pm ET


if you are around Richmond VA or Washington, DC I'd be happy to allow you to drive my civic with water-booster.

Greg   July 16th, 2008 2:35 pm ET

Until you put 10 gallons in it and drive for 500 miles, that won't prove anything.

What was your mileage before the booster? That is the mileage after the booster. Maybe you can get 50mpg at steady-state 70mph (I can get 75mpg+ in my car), but it's not due to your "booster".

Water vapor injection can reduce detonation, cool the intake charge, and provide other minor benefits in certain conditions.

But HHO and other "magical" electrolytic technologies that create more power than they consume violate the laws of thermodynamics.

Ray   July 16th, 2008 2:47 pm ET

People, please... where do we get most of our electricity from? Coal. That is all.

Jeremy Horne, Ph.D.   July 16th, 2008 2:51 pm ET

The underpinning issue is that of the conservation of energy chain, basic physics and system theory. That is, one must assess how much energy is used from source to expenditure. For example, with electric cars, one must include the energy and resources used to produce batteries. There is the electricity used to recharge them, the energy needed to produce the material for the batteries, waste disposal and energy required to do that, and everything relating to these factors. In essence one has a very large, complex system with interrelated and interdependent elements. In essence energy in = energy out. The only way a closed environment/system can be overcome is with renewable energy, external to the system, i.e., wind, solar, geothermal, etc. Before expressing an opinion on alternative means of mobility, one must address this discussion before that opinion can be considered seriously.

John, NH   July 16th, 2008 3:00 pm ET

So what gives? Why don’t we buy and drive electric cars?

BECAUSE they need to be produced so we can buy them!

Repeat after me:

General Motors EV1
General Motors EV1
General Motors EV1

They were real and I can only imagine how much better they would be some 10 years later.

If GM was building them today I'd buy two of them. GM deserves the problems they are having today for allowing the EV1 to die.

Everyone (CNN too) should watch "Who Killed the Electric Car?".

It just shows that no one cares how much others have to suffer as long as they are getting rich.

B Mutia   July 16th, 2008 3:08 pm ET


I drive 130 miles/day just to get to work location for almost 2 years now. I used to refill gas 2x a week. I am very aware about my gas mileage. It used to be 40MPG average. I computed that every time I filled up my tank specially when gas prices when high.

Now, I got Scan Gauge II from to give me real time engine sensor data and trip averages. Plus, I still compute the old way every tank refill time.

The 50MPG average is just the water vapor yet. I have not turned on power on the electrolyzer at drive time yet. I will be doing probably in the next week or so.

I am an IT consultant by profession and do not believe just in anything until I test it my own way. I have a honda civic 2006 LX 4 door 1.8 engine.

I am not selling anything.

Lewis   July 16th, 2008 3:31 pm ET

Why don't we drive them?

Too many are ugly. Yes, looks matter to people. Impractical at the moment with current battery technologies. Electricity doesn't grow on a tree, something produces it. Coal mainly does that now. Coal can be made clean but I wonder how many power plants are running clean now? I'm speaking from a pollution standpoint.

Thank the media for blowing global warming into this chaotic catrastrophe of cataclysmic proportions. That's the sole reason for all of this madness. I'm all about alternative energies but I also think global warming is the biggest scam in the history of mankid.

Climates will change no matter what mankind does. It happens. It will happen. Warmer is better than cooler, by the way.

Oh right, electric cars. They're expensive also. :)

Kurt   July 16th, 2008 3:34 pm ET

The electric cars are on their way...not just the high end Tesla Motors (it's a sports car, not meant to be a station wagon)...but how about using a Venture One or Aptera for commuting? Complaining about road trips and not enough range on a charge? Then rent a hybrid SUV for the week or weekend for a hundred bucks or so...instead of buying a Chevy Tahoe or something just so twice a year you can take a road trip. Watch Who Killed the Electric Car. We have the technology that can be used practically in every day use and i'm pretty sure it won't take long to develop better & better technology...lets see in 1890 electric cars out numbered gas cars 10 to 1...we sure have come a long way.

Greg   July 16th, 2008 3:37 pm ET

You got 25% from the water vapor....possibly due to the water vapor changing the mixture ratio and altering the combustion for the better.

Excellent. As I said, there are ways to improve efficiency slightly. Except plenty of people have tried your method and gotten no benefit. So did they all do something wrong?

Or maybe it's due to subconsciously driving better, or due to the warmer weather, or what? My car gets more than 25% variability due to weather and driving habits.

My engine at 50mph will get 100mpg. I'm sure if there were ANY way to tweak it for 125mpg, I'd have heard about it by now.

I'll wait for your report on the electrolyzer when you admit it makes no difference. :-)

Philip Tanner   July 16th, 2008 3:46 pm ET

Electric cars use electricity which *could* be generated by clean sources. COULD BE. There's problem #1.

And then there are those pesky batteries. If everyone placed an order for an electric car today, think of the tons of batteries that we would need to manufacture. Have you ever looked at a list of the ingredients in a typical electric-car battery? That's problem #2, and in my opinion, this is the real deal-breaker.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the answer. Of course, there's the little matter of explosion risk... but hey... at least we'd be using the most abundant element in the Universe, and we then could tell Middle-Eastern autocratic regimes to shove it.

Arad   July 16th, 2008 3:48 pm ET

I live in an apartment building. How am I supposed to recharge an electric car battery overnight? Snake an extension cord through my second-story window?

B Mutia   July 16th, 2008 3:53 pm ET

Just like any other skeptic, my attitude with this water-stuff has always been SCAM until I have proven otherwise. So far so good from previous 40MPG average to current 50MPG. I got 25% increase at 70MPH. If I can get to 60MPG average, I'd be happier.

I blog my experience on a daily basis for my own sake. If you are interested I can send the link to your email addresses if you post it here. I do not want to post the blog link here.

If I can not get it to 60MPG average, I'd be content to stick to the current 50MPG. ;)

John   July 16th, 2008 3:58 pm ET

Conspiracy theories, media hype, control of the masses, are all small compared to the real reason why no one buys electric cars: Its hard to pick up chicks with them!

(seriously, what are you gonna do, rev the battery??)

Jason Bolstad   July 16th, 2008 3:59 pm ET

I'm not entirely sure why the push for electric vehicles has been on the back burner. The vehicles themselves would be more efficient than the outdated combustion engine. I would not doubt that the combustion engine has been outdated for at least 40 years now. The problem with the electric cars is making them cost effective. It would provide more jobs for the American people and boost the economy as well. We need to wean ourselves off this addiction of oil. It's holding us back with progress to a better future.

Greg   July 16th, 2008 3:59 pm ET

Please do. My name at'll go pick it up and email you directly.

Lue   July 16th, 2008 4:17 pm ET

John, NH

GM did NOT let the EV1 die. They CRUSHED it every way that they could and made sure that not even the tinyest part could be reused.

Who ever heard of ANY car company crushing least cars before selling them to salvage yards – Nope it NEVER – EVER happens because it drastically reduces their value. In any business sense – it is very foolish to destroy a used product prior to selling it.

The EV1 is 10 year old technology an it had a range of 160 miles. Plenty for most people.

But now the technology is available for much MUCH better! Look at my post above for the Lightning Car Company.

It has a range of 250 miles and recharges in only 10 minutes.

It has 700 Hp and can do 0-60 in 4 SECONDS!

I bet your current car can't come close to THAT!

Sure the Lightening is expensive – but I bet if you put those same 10 minute charge batteries in an EV1 that you could get something affordable for the average guy.

Joshua Hayes   July 16th, 2008 4:31 pm ET

Everyone seems to overlook that the we are trying to SAVE energy here, and the amount of energy it take to make a battery is too much. It would take years and years to recoup the energy in making one hybrid car battery, let alone millions. Fuel effecient cars and wind/solar/nuclear/Tide powered homes is the solution for America.

Ken   July 16th, 2008 4:35 pm ET

For every stupid person on here bashing Telsa should learn to read for starters. ON THEIR OWN SITE they talk about how they roadster is ~89K (might be more but not much for 2008) and they are throwing that money back into making cars like the one code named White Star of theirs. They said it WILL be half the price and there goals are similar mileage as the roadster. It IS very ambious as it should be. How can anything change if no one makes the leap out of line of the mainstream.

Scott   July 16th, 2008 4:58 pm ET

I would have no problem using an electric car for day to day driving to and from work, grocery store or whatever. If I had a car that I can plug into my 120v outlet at home and charge it in 8 – 10 hours and maybe during the drive/breaking I can get it recharged up to 100% capacity I would jump all over it. But we are not there just yet. So to fight the gas prices I got a motorcycle for the drive to work. Great mileage and easy on the pocket book.

Batteries..., more effecient than gas or not, lithum or lead/acid they all are toxic. What do you do with a 800lb battery when it wont charge any more?

The big draw back that I have to electric cars/vehicles is you can't pull anything with them. At least that is my assumption. I have a trailer I use for hauling lumber and a boat to tow around. If you can show me an electric car/truck that can tow.... I'm in.

Greg   July 16th, 2008 5:16 pm ET

"Everyone seems to overlook that the we are trying to SAVE energy here, "

Actually we're trying to save MONEY, because when energy was cheap, we didn't have this discussion. (Environental issues aside).

"It would take years and years to recoup the energy in making one hybrid car battery, "


Hmmm, let's see, conservatively my battery contributes to 30% of my MPG, getting me 60mpg instead of 40mpg. So if I drive 1200 miles a month, it saves 10 gallons of gas.

If the battery lasts 120,000 miles, it saves 1000 gallons of gas.

At current rates, that's over $4000.

My car has 120 D-cell batteries. Last time I checked, commercially available NiMH cells cost under $6 each (retail). Or $720 per pack.

$4000 vs $720? Are you trying to tell me the benevolent battery manufacturer is subsidizing over 75% of the cost of the battery? Either that, or their energy is free. That would be a good thing, but it's probably wishful thinking.

Leaving the only possible conclusion that your data is wrong.


Greg   July 16th, 2008 5:19 pm ET

"Batteries…, more effecient than gas or not, lithum or lead/acid they all are toxic. What do you do with a 800lb battery when it wont charge any more?"

RECYCLE. Lead-acid batteries are all recycled these days.

It's infinitely easier than recycling carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and water into gasoline. :-)


Ken in Dallas   July 16th, 2008 5:19 pm ET

One point with regard to numerous comments dismissing electric vehicles as no more efficient than internal-combustion powered vehicles: IC engines waste more than 70% of the heat of combustion, so comparisons between electrics and IC vehicles that ignore that fact are off by roughly a factor of three. Electric motors are about 90% efficient at converting stored power into thrust, so a gas engine needs about three times the energy input an electric motor needs to produce the same result.

Widespread adoption of electric vehicles would demand about a 16% increase in available power. This is a lot, but the need can be met without expanding the power grid by concurrently adopting some effective and available power conservation techniques.

Arguments regarding the indirect pollution attributable to electric cars rests on the assumption that all the power required will continue to come from fossil fuels. This is a demonstrably incorrect assumption, given that there are several gigawatt-scale renewable power projects currently funded and moving forward.

Some of the remarks addressing the car makers' business model come closer to the mark. Electric vehicles are inherently more reliable than comparable internal combustion vehicles for a variety of reasons, including a major reduction in part counts. This will have a serious impact on the parts and service components of the car makers' business model, components that currently have substantial volume ands high margins. This impact, combined with the influence of oil companies' desire for sales volume, constitute major political obstacles for electric cars.

Lue   July 16th, 2008 5:58 pm ET

Used batteries are no worse for the environment than the huge amount of used Motor Oil, Used Transmission Fluid, Used Antifreeze and Used Lead Acid Batteries that are currently being produced by gas powered vehicles. Not to mention all the gas and oil tanker spills that happen yearly.

Matt   July 16th, 2008 6:28 pm ET

No one wants a car that they can only use part of the time. I very often need to take trips of 200-300 miles one way just to visit family and friends or do a days worth of errands . I'm not going to spend 20k for an automobile that can't get me from point A to point B wthout having to charge for several hours. Maybe if I could buy a new one for about 5k and use it for commuting it might be worth it but as a main vehicle no way

Bob Hunger   July 16th, 2008 7:36 pm ET

To Fred: EMF can be contained, protecting the passengers, by putting a Faraday cage around it.

zicos   July 16th, 2008 9:36 pm ET

The individual (Keith) nailed it with the comment –
"the large majority of our electricity still comes from coal and other non-renewable sources, which in the end, make electric cars no cleaner than internal combustion cars".

That's it, end of story. So....make clean electricity, and we're in business.

Barry Bernsten   July 16th, 2008 11:25 pm ET

A fundamental change in our driving habits is now required.

The Automobile Industry is going to be in the same position as the Airline Industry in the next few months. Unless we get away from gas combustion vehicles, including Hybrids, the automobile industry (as we know it) will die.We need to make drastic moves. America needs to move to ELECTRIC. The vehicles are not as fast, not always as fun to drive, but the move will save Americans money (Billions) and help bring change to our automotive companies. Let's "Be Green"!!!!!!!!!!!! BG Automotive Group Ltd. has a car that will travel 80-100 miles per charge for $15,995. Finally a car that most Americans can afford. Did you know that 80% of all drivers, drive less than 50 miles per day? This new car will cost an equivalent of $0.20-0.25 cents/gallon (depending on electricity rates in your area). Why send $700 Billion per year to OPEC (now buying up U.S. companies) when we can use this money for our schools, health care, social security for all Americans, etc, etc, etc. We can make the difference if WE change.

Pete   July 17th, 2008 2:17 am ET

I have to say I don't really LIKE electric cars..

But alot of people here are missing the main advantage of them. It's that per unit of energy they are more efficent. Thus even if the electricity used to run them comes from a coal plant – it will take less burning of fossil fuel and thus the total pollutant levels will fall. Not to mention its quite a bit easier to make clean coal plant then ensure fleets of cars run clean..

Michael Bender   July 17th, 2008 2:18 am ET

One problem few people seem to be aware of is that the nation does not have extra capacity to generate electricity. In WI I belong to a cooperative and we get a news letter every month. Last year an article explained in great detail that at the current rate of growth, we will have not one extra kilowatt of generating capability. The demand will equal the supply and that is WITHOUT adding electric cars to the demand.
Every time a power plant is suggested numerous groups file lawsuits to stop it.
Here are just a few: Environmental concerns, pollution, "It will bring down the value of our homes", the list goes on.

People know we need to have more electric generating capacity but as the title suggested, "Not in my backyard."

If we are not willing to allow for new power plants and we can't afford gasoline, then we will need additional trains and buses to get us where we are going. How good are you at commuting on your bicycle?

Juan Larronde   July 17th, 2008 3:47 am ET

Its simple. If recycling an aaa battery is expensive, imagine recycling 500lbs in batteries of your electric car.
Try to make an electric truck, and transport 70000lbs 500 miles in one day. Are you going to make batteries, and trust that people are going to recycle them properly? do you know how many water a bat contaminate?
In my modest oppinion, its simple to convert internal combustion engines to hydrogen. Its almost as simple as a conversion to ngv and you use the same components(natural gas vehicle). You can even convert old cars to hydrogen. A smaller trunk (the hydrogen cilinder:-) wouldnt affect your life and the environment.

gianmarko   July 17th, 2008 5:16 am ET

for those who saw the movie "who killed the electric car"
it was a movie, not science. there is no teletransportation. and you cannot hit a coin at 100 yards with a revolver.
the movie was full of propaganda and plain lies. please read some science.
the EV1 costed close to a million dollar EACH. and a few went on fire while recharging in the garage, thats why they were retired.
that everyone wanted one is a lie. some 800 were leased over a period of 4 years. demand was LOW by any standard. range was poor, and it was a small 2 seater with virtually no luggage compartment.
only a handful of people accepted to buy the car after the lease. please get the facts, movies are movies, not real life.
the future of transportation is turbodiesel and biodiesel. forget about electric. it doesnt make any sense technical or commercial sense. electric cars are just expensive toys for rich greenies.
someone said here that photovoltaic is the way to go and that it is not used due to a boycotted by a conservative plot.
please come up with some numbers justifying your claim.
photovoltaic is horrendously expensive, and that is a fact. not a conservative plot.

gianmarko   July 17th, 2008 5:26 am ET

have anyone seen a Lithium battery explode? be aware that in an electric car, in case of crash you are sitting on a chemical-electrical bomb.

another detail few know.
the prius battery is used only for a small fraction of its capacity, this to maximize durability. if the battery was used for all its capacity, it would need to be replaced every 1 or 2 years. and they are not cheap.
there are several electric vehicles available on the market, like small motorcycles. buy one and see how slow and short ranged it is.
please do a reality check. electric cars, like hydrogen cars or fuel cell cars are a technological dead end. laws of physics cannot be cheated or changed by investing money and time. there are physical limits to the energy that can be stored in a chemical accumulator. producing hydrogen takes more energy that it gives back burning it.
compressed air car is a clever scam.
and so on. please read some physics, buy a calculator and stop believing to myths and legends.
some mentioned solar cells powered cars. lets imagine your car has a 10 square meters of body surface, imagine to cover it with cells, and imagine the cells all get solar light squarely, at midday and at the equator, so the best scenario possible, which is impossible in reality.
well, all those cells would produce less than 3 horsepowers.

Flamespeak   July 17th, 2008 6:33 am ET

A california based company that makes an electric car with a 120 mile range that can be recharged in just under two hours, has all the modern conveinces, plenty of room for two people of any size, surpass the goverment crash ratings, and is available for under $25.

It also cruises at an zippy 90 miles per hour.

Currently only available in California.

Don   July 17th, 2008 10:11 am ET

It`s about time the media wakes up and reports on this, GM took the lead and took away all the EV1 vehicles and destroyed them all to keep them out of the public eye, Unfortunatly Ford and the rest followed, Exxon Mobil also had a ghost company buy out the company that designed new batteries for these vehicles which boasted extended range and a faster charge rate. After learning of this I no longer support GM in any way or any of their other company holdings, Ford has been good to us so far, So, Happy bankruptcy GM, YOU DESERVE IT FOR YOUR BETRAYAL, As far as I am concerned, You destroyed your own company when you destroyed the EV1. I WAS a GM customer for more than 30 years, NO more for me thank you.
Don, Northwood,Ohio.

gianmarko   July 17th, 2008 10:26 am ET

the aptera is nothing like a normal car. is a two seater and has virtually no luggage compartment. in germany there is this vehicle available since years
it is a "hybrid" too, ;-) human and electric. this has been on the market since years, while the aptera is still NOT in production.
these things will never replace ICE powered cars. they are just cool toys for those who can afford to have a third or fourth vehicle.
i would really be curious to see how the "climate control" of the aptera works, powered by solar cells...

gianmarko   July 17th, 2008 10:29 am ET

forgot to add. i fly small airplanes. anyone who does knows how hot these cockpits can get in a moderately sunny day. sitting in californian traffic with that thing is going to be fun, trust me.

Paticia   July 17th, 2008 10:36 am ET

Has anyone considered what the millions of people who live in apartment buildings are supposed to do with these plug-in cars?
We park in parking lots.
No electric outlets.

Paul Riddoch   July 17th, 2008 11:15 am ET

Does anyone have summary information re total research funds of phev power saving units....last time I looked it seemed very small in comparison to the impact of a solution.

dave   July 17th, 2008 11:16 am ET

The same reason we have busses instead of trolley cars. GM was pushing buses, put the trolley lines out of buisness. Rural people didnt have electricity, but they could store gas. Gas was cheaper and easier. Now we are at a point where batteries are becoming better, and the cheap gas is gone Now electric cars are once again becoming a viable alternative. We also have free solar from the sun that we didnt have before. Add all these up, throw in a little being green, and you have an electric car.
Plus since Americans average three cars per family, you still have room for a daily work commuter, and a big SUV for vacations.

And all the bad things people say now about electric cars has already been said about combustion cars. Millions of gallons of combustable gas not only at stations, but in small tanks all over the city- like sitting on a bomb. All those moving parts in a combustion engine, we had to build hiway and fuel infrastructure. All the smaog, and health hazzards of gas, the potential for speeding and innocent deaths. Whatever bad you say about electric cars has been said tenfold worse about the cunbustion engine.

I prefer renewable fuels using our current technology and fuel infrastructure. And i mean grass, woodchips, and algea – NOT CORN.

Arthur Collins   July 17th, 2008 11:59 am ET

Good News:
There are a series of important innovations on the horizon that will soon make electric cars affordable and practical.

The proprietary hybrid battery/super capasitor technology has a much improved power to weight ratio. It weighs less than 20% of a comparible powered Lead/Acid battery. It will also be safer, as it won't explode or catch fire in a crash. It also has a much better range per charge, probably 250-300 miles depending on vehicle efficiency, weight/size and driver behavior. The new batteries also take a full charge in about the same time it takes to fill your gas tank now, and weighs no more than a full tank of gas.

Add to that, new more powerful electric motors and better motor controllers will make electric drives more feasible. Its said that these will start to appear within the next couple of years.

james Braselton   July 17th, 2008 1:09 pm ET


murk   July 17th, 2008 3:18 pm ET

After skimming through this thread it's obvious that best source of alternative energy is hot air recharged with falsehoods.

The Internet is a great leveler of Truth. It also obfuscates Truth, thanks to us all.

Stephen Colbert's coined word "truthiness" captures the essence of the endless blogs, unresearched news and Swift Boat commenters that litter our electronic superhighway.

And here I am, shoveling some of my own smelley truth onto the pile...

Phil R   July 17th, 2008 6:11 pm ET

My understanding is Sen. McCain will be visiting GM on Friday (7/18)and will be getting some first-hand knowledge on the new Chevy Volt from their CEO.

While I am not interested in the political side of things, will Miles or someone from CNN will cover the event?

For many viewers, this would be their first introduction to an "Extended Range – Electric Vehicle" and the cure for electric vehicle "range anxiety" syndrome.

Bruce   July 23rd, 2008 11:41 am ET

A couple of thoughts:

The Sun puts out more energy in a second than all of the power plants on Earth do in a year. I'm referring to the Sun's total ouput, not just what falls on the Earth.
How about all of the nations of the Earth getting together to agree to ban war, then taking that money that is spent on defense to come up with a plan for building a constellation of energy-gathering satellites around the Sun, which would then transmit that energy back to Earth. Sure, there's a few minor details to work out (hah-hah).

The other thought is that the root cause of the energy and pollution problems is too many people.
How about a global plan to gradually reduce the World's population by half or more. All it would require is for people to limit the number of children they have.

gianmarko   July 24th, 2008 12:36 pm ET

someone still has to tell me where is the surplus production capacity in the electric grid that would allow to use electric cars

the electric grids of most of occidental countries have no spare capacity, some have even deficit of capacity. most countries under the pressure of greenies and environmentalists are not building or even planning new power stations, and are even shutting down existing ones.
if you think that wind farms, photovoltaic and electric cars are a solution, you are in for a very bad surprise very soon.

gasisking   July 25th, 2008 8:06 am ET

Forget alternatives! Simply improve the IC engine to achieve 50mpg. It is easy. Just reduce horsepower and displacement in existing engines. I remember the 80's – we all did fine with 100 hp. We drove sanely, not insanely. New technology will do the trick.

Bruce   July 29th, 2008 1:12 pm ET

The big advantage of electricity is that it can be generated by numerous sources – sources that don't require money leaving the US.

The electric grid can(and will) be made more robust as demand increases. New power plants will be built – the NIMBYs and "greenies" will be shouted down by the majority.

IC engines are ineffiecient and generate pollution. Sure, power plants generate pollution, but works are in progress to ameliorate that.

No solution is going to be perfect, but I believe the electric car is still the way to go for the majority of personal driving that is done.
I don't see gasoline going away anytime soon, so people living in places without access to an outlet for charging may have to opt for an IC-powered vehicle. I suspect that apartment complexes will eventually find ways to provide charging outlets to their tenants.

For those that need the sex appeal of a muscle car, I don't doubt that hot-rodders will find ways to make electric cars babe-magnets! The Tesla is no slouch.

We're still going to need oil for heavier vehicles, heavy machinery, aircraft, manufacturing, and heating. But, if we can greatly reduce the amount of oil used, maybe we can supply most, if not all, of it for our own needs.

None of this is going to happen overnight. But we have to start moving away from oil, now.   August 6th, 2008 5:13 pm ET

We had electric cars already in the early 90's (called EV1) however the gas /oil companies bought and shut them down.

Electric / Hydrogen will be the future with the rising gas prices. I believe Chevy is advertising on TV already.

Cheap iPods at

sj.greenlady   November 14th, 2008 3:26 pm ET

Electric Vehicles ARE our future but we have to start somewhere. I have been researching EV's for a few years now and have found that the BG C100 is available now in low speed. However, they are advertising that the same model will be available in high speed next year. I understand that standard high speed vehicles require much more extensive testing and therefore will take longer to get on our streets. It is my opinion that the BG C100 offers the most affordable price for it's standard options. I am excited to be able to order a BG vehicle now as opposed to waiting until 2010 like most other companies are offering. Here is some more information on the BG C100 if you are interested:

First legitimate electric car coming to the market.
Safe, reliable and affordable.
Check it out............
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beejium   May 29th, 2009 4:11 pm ET

Hey what happens to the internal parts of these batteries when they can no longer hold/give a charge? Is there going to be a recycling plan? Are there minerals and and resources in the bat that have been taken from the planet? won't this cause the same problem causing a flip flop from electric to oil and back and forth, because of over demand?
I still believe that internal combustion is the way to go. maybe just not gas. steel rusts which is fairly harmless. did you know worms can digest motor oil? Oils and fuels can be made with alternative materials.
here is my temporary solution. make and use less plastic. plastic is made from oil and could free up more for fuel. focus on more than one product to fuel our vehicles. i think in the end that if we share our planets materials and not focus on one specific fuel source we would be doing a lot better as a planet and as people.

we will never be free of oil if all we do is sit here and type on our plastic keyboards. sit in our plastic chairs and stare at this plastic computer screen.

sorry if this is a little jumbled i wanted to get it down before i forgot

Elliot Russell   October 4th, 2010 2:26 pm ET

light switches should be made from oxygen free copper so that they last longer~.'

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