How do we get there from here?

Yesterday saw the announcement of the price of the Chevrolet Volt. Jokes and hilarity ensued. My contribution was a post on EV Gearbox detailing how you might be able to build your own Volt (a range extended EV … or to everyone who isn’t part of GM’s marketing team, a series hybrid.) for the same or less money.

Should we really be ripping on GM as they finally attempt to build and sell and EV ? Well, yes. Yes because it is a bit of a joke, and yes because they are GM. Because they had an EV program, it fell foul of politics, apathy and minor technical issues. If they had been dedicated, and the public properly engaged about EVs then it might have been a different story. Thats a whole other blog post, so I won’t talk any more about the EV1.

I think the major dismay over vehicles like the Chevy Volt is that its akin to a “greenwash” buying this car does not make you instantly green. It will use less gas, it may even produce less emissions if you charge it from a clean source of electricity, but you can do that without buying this vehicle. (in fact, buying anything “new” instantly increases any kind of impact you’re having)

You don’t have to support Government Motors, you could choose to support another sector of the market entirely, buy from many US companies and manufacturers that make and sell batteries, motors and controllers. Build your own EV. Recycle a used car or truck.

Alas. I’m not that naive to believe that everyone can do it, and everyone can purchase clean electricity. (Its still a point of contention whether every coal plant can actually improve over the wells-to-wheels of gasoline, I think its doable.) We’re not there yet, we won’t be for a while. Unfortunately, vehicles like the Chevy Volt are a necessary evil. There are huge chunks of the auto-market pie that don’t even think about EVs, because not enough of them are made, they’re not visible. (GM: “because there’s not a market for them” Me: “shut up! give me an EV1 NOW!”)

The only other EV destined for the US market is the Nissan Leaf. (and hopefully some incarnation of the Fiat 500 Electric) Along with the Volt this should get the ball rolling, but I fear its happening way to slowly.

How do we get there from here ? to a future where every person in this country, and by extension worldwide (most likely before us) really thinks about the energy they use “does the math” when it comes to where their energy comes from and WHY.

It struck me as odd that it is law that packets of cigarettes carry a surgeon general’s warning about their harmful effects; why not cars ? (NANNY STATE! I hear you cry) but seriously, the last 8 presidents, count them EIGHT presidents of this country have referred to our nasty “Addiction to foreign oil” but yet, we’re not having the dangers of this addiction thrust into our faces every time we buy a new car, just like a smoker does when they buy a pack of cigs.

Healthcare costs associated with all the ailments that come with smoking had to be brought under control some how. Why not our expensive “addiction” to the substance that runs our daily lives ?

Oh, I think I’ve hit the nail on the head. Smoking is a choice, using oil is not. How did that happen ?

Sensibly then the thing that essentially runs the world in the condition it is today (higher standards of living, increased growth etc.) should be the number one concern of well, pretty much everyone. You should be told exactly where it came from when you buy it, how far its come, what gets made from it, and as a scary fact, how much of it is estimated to be left (or if “excess capacity” is declining). You shouldn’t have to dig around for these things on the internet. But you do.

Scaring the markets means those markets will evaporate as everyone looks for something else.

Having to look for this information, think about it and entwine it into the larger picture (“I wonder why everyone is attempting to make EVs ?”) is a fairly tough thing to do, especially when you don’t really give a shit, like at least half the population of the US. Brace yourself for some whining: “Why doesn’t anyone care ?” You’re forced to use this stuff every day if you want a slice of the economic pie, you should care.

So, the Chevy Volt is a car we have to have. Its a stepping stone. Consumers who can’t fathom driving less,  battery companies that haven’t quite smashed the energy density barrier and large scale deployment of renewables are what is being bridged here. Its a necessary step. Is it any surprise it comes from a company that we would probably all place in the “half-assed” category ?

Its all about developing the collective consciousness of the “consumer”. The Prius is a great example of a difference between consumers in Europe and the US. In order to save gasoline a US consumer must have the car be a hybrid. A European will simply buy the 1.6liter version of their car of choice, and equal a Prius MPG in many instances. There are options and we are all individuals (I’m not!)

Some people will buy the Volt and charge it with Solar, most will not, but it doesn’t mean their purchase was a complete waste of time, even if their carbon footprint has decreased only a tiny amount; They bought an EV. Even if its one that is widely seen as too expensive, complex and from a company everyone loves to hate, it sends a message. “Come on guys, this EV lark isn’t too bad”

Thats all we need right now.


2 thoughts on “How do we get there from here?

  1. Well said, sir. Excellent points.

    I would like to mention, however, that Mitsubishi is poised to bring the iMiEV to the American motoring public. They had a couple on hand at Mitsubishi Owner Day (MOD) in Cypress, California, earlier this month. Some friends and I had a chance to chat with a staffer about the iMiEV and there’s plenty to like.

    80 mile range
    80% charge via:
    – 110VAC ~ 6hrs
    – 220VAC ~ 4hrs
    – ???V charging stations ~ 30min

    The iMiEV is fully electric, with no ICE on board. At six feet tall, I was still very comfortable sitting in the backseat, even behind my six-foot-four Canadian friend Juan. Interior was spartan, but very nice, and I suspect they’ll gussy it up a bit for the USDM, as it is a Kei car, afterall. We didn’t get a chance to drive one or even go for a ride, but this gearhead found the iMiEV to be a very refreshing product.

    Pictures of the iMiEV at MOD in SoCal (RHD, JDM model) can be found at the following link in the little gallery mid-page. The iMiEV is a slick little car and, if the price is right, I could see myself using one as a commuter. Then again, maybe I should find an old Colt and do my own conversion, right, Dave?

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