What Ever Happened to the Electric Car?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Like a massive, steel framed Lazarus, it’s apparently about to rise from the dead. GM recently unveiled the Chevy Volt – an electric car. That’s a bit misleading as the car does have a gas tank and would use some gas but unlike most hybrid cars and SUVs currently on the market, the Volt will be able to travel up to 40 miles before the gasoline kicks in. Once it does, the car will continue to run for about another 300 miles. No word on pricing yet although some are expecting it to start around $40,000 according to the article. Chances are, as they become more readily available to the public (they’re expected to go on sale in 2010), the price will come down. How much remains to be seen.

I’m stunned that it’s taken this long. As many of you know, one of the first cars created was in fact, electric. In the 90s, GM (the same company that will be manufacturing the Chevy Volt) had introduced the EV1, an electric car and the subject of the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car”, with little or no fan fare. And we know what happened with those cars despite protests, begging, pleading and offers to buy the cars outright. They were destroyed. Don’t think that the oil and gas industry has influence? Check out the documentary.

I’m not only stunned but shocked and horrified when I hear chants at the RNC of “Drill, Baby, Drill” and talk of producing more coal (hyped as “clean” energy…yeah, right). These are the people driving the giant SUV’s and pickup trucks when they could easily get by with a smaller compact car. Or the ones that turn on air conditioners in their cars and homes if the temperature goes up a few degrees. I fully support their right to choose, really I do but continuing the west’s excessive reliance on fossil fuels is not the way to go about it.

We have the technology to ditch the petroleum products and use electricity to power our vehicles. Heck, we’ve had solar powered calculators since I was a kid! Rather than fighting wars on the other side of the planet under the guise of ousting dictators or bringing democracy (which frankly, is not always the best choice!) to the rest of the world when we know it’s all about oil and who controls it, we should be investing the billions (yes BILLIONS if not Trillions!) of dollars which are wasted overseas and spend them at home on education. Truly “clean” energy such as solar and wind power. Improving infrastructure. Eliminating poverty. Fixing the economy.

Sorry, I tend to go off on a tangent when I get fired up about something and this is one of those issues. Even more so because I live in Central/Northern Alberta, home of the Oilsands – one of the biggest instances of rape Mother Earth has ever had to endure and probably one of the dirtiest, inefficient ways of obtaining fuel.

Back to the “Drill, baby, Drill” folks. Yes, they should be allowed the choice of Hummer vs.Volt. I’m not asking for that right to be taken away. However, these types of larger vehicles are really not necessary unless you’re transporting armed troops through a war zone and the sides have been re-enforced with bulletproof shields. They’re a huge reason why we’re in the mess we’re in at the moment. They’re highly inefficient in terms of fuel. If you want to continue driving them, why not encourage the automotive companies, governments, and the public to demand better fuel efficiency, cleaner forms of energy, and … electric powered vehicles, INCLUDING your giant monstrosities? There’s absolutely no reason, other than greed and power on behalf of the oil companies and the politicians hiding in their pockets, that we need to be so reliant on fossil fuels. It’s become our life’s blood – the one thing that keeps us moving. Literally. Without it, our economy, our world would shut down. Our constant hunt to find new sources of oil and gas have led to the battles we’re now embroiled in and to suggestions of more offshore drilling at home as well as drilling in protected reserves in remote locations such as Alaska.

Would those who shout “Drill, baby, drill” so loudly be so enthusiastic if there was suddenly an oil spill that destroyed the source of their city’s clean water? Or their beloved family pets were coated with the gloop and unable to walk, swim, or fly (let alone eat or breathe normally)? Would they want their kids to swim in the community pool if it had a shiny layer of oil slithering along the surface? I think the answer would be a resounding no. And yet these are the same risks that we undertake each time we drill a new well.

Come on now, you say, that’s not a fair example. Alaska and the Ocean are nothing like the local pool and our pets are safe and sound in the back yard. True enough. But what happens if there’s a major spill in one of these protected regions of Alaska? Or a massive oilwell starts a fire that rages through the forests? An oil platform collapses or is destroyed by storms, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc.? The results would be devastating. Entire species could be destroyed not to mention thousands of acres of camping, hunting and recreational land. And what of the native populations in Alaska and Canada that use these areas or those adjacent to them? Northern Alberta has already experienced this (and continues to do so) with communities down river from major oilsands operations. It’s not pretty.

So, rather than “drill, baby, drill”, perhaps we should start crying out “plug in, baby, plug in”. Or ‘solar, baby, solar’. Wind turbine, baby, wind turbine (aka spin, baby, spin)? Kudos to GM for FINALLY bringing a form of their original electric car back to the market (if it in fact does go on sale…we’ll all be watching) but shame on you for getting rid of the earlier version in the first place. It boggles the mind to think how far ahead of the game we could have been if they had kept them on the market. Or in fact, Bush HADN’T stolen the White House away from Al Gore. Uh oh…I just got political.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

A major British investment firm is advising its investors to steer clear of the tar sands ventures. That's not a bad first step.

sp said...

bike, baby, bike!

I do think we're headed in the right direction when companies start to make an effort to clean up their act (so to speak). It's proof that the people do have the power.

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