This is the title and subject of a new documentary out this week. I haven’t seen it, nor do I plan to- it’s the kind of movie that makes me heave a mighty sigh. Why do we have to assign conspiracy to everything we disagree with or disapprove of?
Don’t get me wrong; from what I’ve read, this is no Michael Moore propaganda piece- the facts are accurate, and not artificially sensationalized. But facts are not truths. Nobody “killed” the electric car, there is no conspiracy to keep electric cars off the market- they simply are not yet a viable option for enough car buyers to sell them profitably. Nor does the nation have the infrastructure to support them if we bought them. Nor would they reduce pollution- they would merely shift it to different venues.
The key log in the electric car traffic jam is the question of infrastructure. We simply do not have the electric generating capacity to recharge millions of electric cars. Depending on size and performance, electric cars need between 12 and 25 kilowatt-hours to fully charge- let’s use 15 kwh for a low average. 15 kwh times 75 million cars (there are actually 400 million cars registered in the US, but only 75 million in use on any given work day) equals one and an eighth billion kwh... on top of what we’re already using! The electric grid doesn’t have even a fraction of that available- the only reason we’re not having rolling blackouts during the current heat wave is that people have learned from past blackouts and are turning their thermostats up and their large appliances off. I think an automobile qualifies as a “large appliance”. Nor are any more power plants being built or even planned- ironically, the same environmentalists who want us to drive electric cars are preventing us from building new generators.
Infrastructure means more than generating power- you also have to deliver it, and we can’t. Every “destination” facility- hotels and motels, convention centers, sports arenas, ball parks, amusement centers, museums, state and national parks, resorts- would need a recharge socket for every parking slot. After all, the entire point of these places is to draw crowds from hundreds of miles away- go to any Cincinnati Reds game and you’ll find the parking lot full of Indianapolis license plates; without a recharge socket, not one of those cars would be there. No tourist attraction could survive depending on only those within round-trip (25-35 miles) range. Each facility would require the electrical service of a major factory, which means tens of thousands of miles of high-tension lines strung through virgin countryside, something else the environmentalists are not crazy about.
The infrastructure question alone means that the electric car can never be the only car in a family; it would have to be a second car, used only for work and shopping trips. Especially in the suburban and rural communities- you’ll notice that all the rave revues electric cars get are from people who live in big cities, where everything is close together. This would keep sales so low that the price per unit becomes unbearable- according to Wikipedia, the cost of the EV1 (the car the movie was about) was $40,000 without subsidies, the Honda EV Plus $53,000, Ford Ranger EV $50,000 without subsidies. In addition, those prices do not include the taxpayer subsidized research that went into the cars mentioned above- I saw one estimate that the true cost of the EV1, including everything that was needed to take concept to street, divided by the number of vehicles actually produced, would have been $900,000 each.
This is why serious environmentalists are concentrating on hybrid and hydrogen technologies instead of battery powered cars. A hydrogen fueled internal combustion vehicle has all the advantages of a gasoline car, the zero emissions an electric car promises but doesn‘t truly deliver, (the power plant that recharges it, at least here in Indiana, belches coal smoke) and no toxic batteries to dispose of in hazardous waste facilities. And, as all the technology except the fuel tank is off-the-shelf, it would be priced competitively with the gasoline vehicle. Is it any wonder car companies are turning their attention there, rather than the EV1? No conspiracy, only reality.