back to article The Electric Car Conspiracy ... that never was

It's almost two years since the debut of Chris Paine's documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? The movie has been a success in US theatres and often comprises one half of a double bill with Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. But what the success of the movie tells us is more alarming than any conspiracy it purports to unveil: a …

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But what will they do on CSI-Miami?

Those guys go around everywhere in silly white Hummers and stop the crooks in only an hours time. They could convert to a battery powered goodie and do everything within the time it takes for the battery to be used up. Then they get a week to recharge it. Pretty simple, eh?

The problem is that nobody is realistic. People buy the vehicle that they want, for whatever reason they want. My mom has a Prius, and while she likes the vehicle for its economy, that isn't the reason she bought it. She bought it because she doesn't need to go to the [gas|petrol] station as often. If there was a Hummer that had a 100 gallon tank (US/UK it really doesn't matter) and would take her as far on a single tank of gas, she would probably use it.

I have a nice Ford Explorer and since my wife seems to want to fill it up when we go on trips it is quite necessary. While it takes about $65 (this week) to fill it up, one tank of gas will take it from sillycon valley to the "ELLAY" area, and it is easier than taking a plane to travel the same distance (who wants to check bags, and sit idle around airports for silly window dressing security??). Besides I get a vehicle at my destination without renting one.

Yes, some people will use electric cars and like them. Maybe even me for my 12 mile commute (each way). The big problem is that a vehicle in the USA is an expression of "freedom" and we don't want to give it up.

p.s. Don't get me started on 100 watt light bulbs. That is another rant.

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Flame

This author lies by omission

The fact is that there were more people clamouring to buy the EV1 than GM ever made cars; the same is true of the Ford Electric Ranger pickup, and the Toyota electric RAV-4.

The car makers *refused* point-blank to sell the vehicles; it was lease, or nothing, and when the leases expired, the cars reverted to GM's possession, with no possibility of an electric replacement.

The vast majority of Americans drive less than 50 miles per day; the vast majority of American families also have 2 (or more) cars. An electric commuter vehicle is ideal for economy (cost of operation is roughly one-fifth or less that of a similar-weight vehicle with an internal combustion engine, and may be even better with the current costs of oil products, eliminates pollution problems at the end-user point (it's easier to control pollution on a single, large plant than on millions of tiny ones), and never, ever suffers from a spilled-fuel fire hazard in a crash (no matter what Hollywood tells us in movies, it's almost impossible to make a gas tank explode, but spilled fuel burns quite merrily).

Electric auto makers other than the major are thriving. Of course, they actually sell cars, and don't field them in a deliberate effort to "disprove" demand.

Electric cars may also become a means of smoothing peak electric power demands on the grid; please see http://technology.newscientist.com/channel/tech/dn13000-electric-cars-could-act-as-batteries-for-the-energy-grid-.html

I am a charter member of the National Electric Drag-Racing Association, and I tried to buy every electric vehicle offered by the big auto makers in the past decade or more - and was refused for every one of them.

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Flame

It's all a waste of time

so long as environmental and other regulations continue to push industrial activity from the US and Europe to China, and the Chinese continue to build dirty coal fired power stations to support that increase in industrial actvity.

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Brian

Lot of rubbish posted in the comments, people need to go back to school and learn a bit of science.

Hydrocarbons are a very dense energy source but an internal combustion engine is not very efficient turning it into power.

The steam turbine power station does a better job and can be cleaner than an IC engine.

The EV1 was not a very good design as based on the then current technology.

They did the right thing in canceling it.

Todays batteries, electronics and electric motors have moved on beyond what is needed for a viable electric car. See http://www.pmlflightlink.com/archive/news_mini.html

Please see this web site on what can achieved today with off the shelf componets with no loss of usage. This car will carry 4 adults with some luggage and is based on a BMW Mini. Specs are 0 to 60 mph 4.5 seconds top 150mph

80 MpUK gallon ( we have 20 fluid ounces per pint US is 16 ounces ) when running the 20kw on board generator. Has about 150 horse power per in wheel motor total 600hp and a 20kw battery. Motors are the brakes as well.

Volvo are going to produce a C30 based on this technology, if they went to Jaguar and built the body in aluminium as well, it would be even better. Both are owned by Ford at the moment, who want to sell them. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water. If any US car company is going to collapse its Ford.

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Alien

Why are EV's bad?

Because many the politicians that pass the laws allowing them are in the paid pockets of lobbyists.

There is an interesting car company based in Canada - called ZENN motors:

http://www.zenncars.com/

Although it can ship to quite a few states and countries, it has been prevented by legislators here in most Canadian provinces through typical stalling tactics regarding regional road-worthiness regulations. These regulations were invariably writeten, and are regularly modified indexing studies funded buy... you guessed it... major automobile associations and petrol firms, eager to keep their sacred cows milkable.

Especially here in the province of Quebec - a province with abundant, inexpensive hydro-based electricity (we export to the states), where large auto makers have been shutting down their plants over the years, where the state-owned Electric company is a monopolistic entity, one would think a locally manufactured vehicle would get fast-tracked.

Not so - evidencing the deeply-entrenched and decades-old vehicular lobby.

Economies and innovations of scale will not happen until wider adoption sets in. Such wider adoption can only occur with innovation. Innovation from the private sector relies heavily on profits. These profits end up being stalled by endless litigation and legislation that the existing companies put in place to protect their own investments - understandably enough (capitalism works).

I(n democracies, people must make their voices heard above those of lobbyists. The issue lies deeper in the uninvolvement of the general populace and an overwhelming disenchantment of the democratic base both of the political process and a carefully orchestrated decline into ignorance of people's ability to influience government. This orchestration has occurred through the wanton collusion of government and corporations, who both wish to have as governable a population as possible.

Here in North America, this sedated and sedentary population has been properly mezmerized by the entertainment industry after beeing primed with ridiculously low education standards that discourage people from asking questions and educating themselves.

Why are EV's bad?

Because they empower the individual and not the lobbysists - they promote more freedom from the existing corporatocracy in the format of real CHOICE. A poster above said it very well - the existing power base is all about maintaining the status quo by absorbing all means of information dissemination (such as the Net Neutrality ... which gets woefully inadequate airtime), and additional freedom of movement or consumer empowerment (brought about by electric cars and the inevitable micro electro-generation that would follow).

Government, Oil, Car manufacturers, and even the electric companies wish to keep their monopolistic, monolithic, incestuous private slush funds operating as long as possible. This is why EV's are bad... for them.

To those who do not wish electric cars - more power to them. They have the right to choose. For those who wish to have a choice - participate in your government, write letters, inform your friends, preach to the unconverted to do the same, or nothing will change. Do not legislate change - participate, innovate and create something better by removing the roadblocks created by government incentives to pick-up trucks, to oil-based companies and to the 'suffering' petro-chems and sclerotic automotive 'giants' (formerly leaders), constantly clamorring for tax-payers monies in the form of incentives.

Okay, that is more than I wished to state.

/end rant.

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Europe<>North America

Comparing Europe with America is frankly ridiculous, and is very relevent to why EVs will never fly (drive) over here.

I live in Alberta - nearest city is Calgary, some 40 miles away. The next nearest? Edmonton, 4 hours up the highway. Next nearest after that? Regina, 6 hours away. Vancouver's 20 hours, repending on the state of the roads. Factor in the kinds of distances we do on a fairly regular basis, battery-powered cars just ain't an option!

I drive a 4x4, albeit a Jap one (I like a car with build quality)! The reason? Snow and ice 5 months of the year, and more importantly, once you get away from citys, many roads are gravel, not paved, so ground clearance and traction becomes critical. I need the weight and transmission to drive safely, regardless of any safety equipment added. 4x4 is means relatively poor fuel consumption, which I suspect is why there's only one hybrid SUV on the market here.

Lastly, the average temperature (day and night) here is well below freezing 7 to 8 months of the year. I would drain the batteries just to heat the car within 10 minutes!

I can't think of anywhere I've ever been in Europe which compares with the conditions you find in Canada or Northern US, with the possible exception of parts of Scandinavia.

Ignoring the idiots who MUST have an enormous engine to compensate for lack of sexual equipment, the market here is driven by two things - the need to get to and from places safely and reliably, regardless of road and weather conditions, and the fact that most people live a very outdoor-oriented life here. People actually do use their pickups for the purpse for which they were designed - around here, forcarrying the carcasses of deer they've been hunting. Can't imagine throwing a 700lb Elk carcass in a Prius, can you?

Horses for Courses, my friend!

Cee Tee

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The Electric Car

The TRUTH about electric cars is obvious from a bit of simple arithmetic.

One brake horse power equals 746watts.

What is the bhp of a typical small car? I would guess it is around 70bhp.

So to get an equivalent power in an electric car requires about 52 kilowatts.

This is one helluva lot of power to get from any battery. No matter which way you alter the balance between voltage and current, the battery to provide that amount of power is going to be so large and heavy that there is no room for anyone or anything in the car other than the driver.

THAT is the simple truth about why the electric car is a non-starter.

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None of this is technical

It is all political.

* The car makers were required to produce high % of zero-emission vehicles in CA by various dates. They did not want this, so they needed some sort of effort to show that they tried. The EV1 project was designed to fail.

* The GDP (used to measure the economy) is really a consumption figure that has little real relevance to the strength of the economy. Reducing consumption reduces GDP which does not look good. Thus, regulators have no real interest in reducing consumption: hummers are better than bicycles.

* The car manufacturers don't want customers buying frugal cars that last a long time. They want people to consume. Consumption is improved by makinbg crap cars that fall apart and need replacing and by preying on the bigger-better mentality of consumers.

* Advertising works otherwise companies would not be spending billions. That advertising tells peaople to buy Hummers to take themselves to work.

In short, technical barriers (battery technologies etc) have little to do with this.

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Unhappy

The pot and the kettle

I'm not convinced the author himself is impartial. At all. If you'll google him, you'll find out that he is well known for his anti-environmentalist opinions, is pro GM-food, etc.

He writes in a different article "Environmentalists instinctively reject or ignore technological solutions to global warming because they are bent on making people atone for their sins." and "They are resistant to geo-engineering solutions because putting an end to climate change would rob them of their raison d’être." What a load of crock!

Source: href="http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/3950/

He's associated with an anti-environmentalist group:

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=James_Woods

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=LM_group

This paragraph could have been interesting:

"The brilliant bespectacled battery engineer Alan Cocconi, who is featured in the film, has come up with a lithium ion battery that appears to store 463 kiloJoules of energy per kilo - an energy density better than nickel metal hydride batteries (250 kJ/kg) can ever hope for, but still 100 times behind that of petrol (44,400 kJ/kg). Perhaps battery researchers at Stanford University will get the difference in energy densities down from 100 to 1 to 10 to 1; but the fact is that oil-based fuel has more than profitability going for it."

But this is about energy storage, he doesn't mention how much energy is needed to power a combustion engine vs an electrical engine...

If you look at the complete picture, hydrogen is seriously less efficient than a battery:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/8/8d/Battery_EV_vs._Hydrogen_EV.png/753px-Battery_EV_vs._Hydrogen_EV.png

Consult Wikipedia for a more balanced review of the movie:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Killed_the_Electric_Car?

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Jobs Horns

Re: CSI-Miami Hummer

I'm glad you mentioned that. The first time I noticed the Hummers on the show, I said to myself, "nice product placement!". So I wasn't surprised to read (http://www.insidebrandedentertainment.com/bep/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000976529) that GM paid to get their vehicles on TV shows. "Asked whether his placement of the Hummer on CSI: Miami—one of the most dominant placements this year—actually sells vehicles, Norm Marshall of Norm Marshall & Associates in Sun Valley, Calif. replied, [IRONY ALERT!]

'I don't think so . . . you don't get that call to action. Not once has David Caruso jumped down from his Hummer and said, 'Get down to your local Hummer dealer!'"

One wonders just how much car-buying decisions are influenced by advertising in all its forms.

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Boffin

The Future

Unfortunately, the future is in pulse detonated engines. Fossil fuels will rule for at least 2-3 centuries.

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why does one car have to solve all problems?

Most families have many cars, they don't need high speed, long range, and large size in each one. Keep the petrol suburban for the long trips, but use a small electric car for the daily 50 miles commute.

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Heat

Only alluded to by a few, but of course most of the time in the UK we have heaters on in our cars, making good use of some of that 60% "wasted" energy.

In electric cars that energy is wasted elsewhere.

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Unhappy

Alas for the electric car

While I am in principle all for electric cars, they are not in any sense of the word a panacea:

1. They don't so much eliminate emissions so much as move them from the tailpipe to the power plant smokestack. In most cases that is a plus in terms of less pollutant output, but the electric car won't be truly green until reliable and uly large scale renewables or safe nuclear power is available. Loss of electricity in charging the batteries from your handy power plug increases the environmental footprint of the electric car.

2. Battery life on electric cars is not great. If you have to replace the batteries after 7-8 years it is a MAJOR expense, at least as big a financial investment as a major engine rebuild on a internal combustion engine. Most internal comubstion engine owners would not be happy if you told them they would need to pay for an engine rebuild 7-8 years after buying their car.

3. Batteries use all kinds of nasty environmentally unfriendly materials--far more so than the materials in an internal combustion engine.

4. Life throws all kinds of unexpected stuff at you, which an electric car might not cope with very well. Think of it in terms of things your average Reg reader might have to deal with. Commute to and from work, get home and all of a sudden you are called back to work because your network or some servers went down? Now you have to worry about whether your car has the juice to get you to and from work again without a recharge. Get a call to go over to some remote datacenter or DR site for whatever reason--same deal, does the electric car have to ability to even get you there?

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Europe<>NA? N/A

Actually, the comparison is disingenuous.

The MAJORITY of the North American population lives and commutes inside and around its cities. For the people living in 'remote' locations, such as Calgary, I am not recommending changing to the welectric car yet. For urban dwellers and coimmuters, faced with an increasingly taxed and inefficient (at times non-existant) public transit systems, the electric car already offers a far more logical solution (as a second car - see http://www.zenncars.com/).

Innovation is stifled by the existing corporatocracy in order to maximize its profits. It remains far cheaper (once a critical mass of cartel players is acheived) to legislate or buy out other innovators outright. I am advocating for the removal of self-regulation by the industry players (under the guise of de-regulation - themselves writing their own legislation), stopping the government representatives behooving to industry lobbyists in a mutual back-scratching scenario.

GM only embarked upon its VOLT concept, fast-tracking it into promised production after an INDEPENDANTLY funded 'for profit' company like TESLA-motors (http://www.teslamotors.com/) disproved the industry 'so-called' experts views:

* Electric vehicles can only have a ponderous and slow acceleration (Oh yeah?: 0 to 60 mph in <4 seconds...)

* They can only be ugly and unwieldy and will never have any appeal (check out their website for proof to the contrary (http://www.teslamotors.com/)

* Electric vehicle will never have an operable radius of more than 60 miles (Oh Yeah? Try 220 miles per charge)

And this is only with existing technology.

In the pipes are super and ultra-capacitors, promising 60% reductions in weight. there are items out in the market already, and are in the pipes as we speak to this effect (http://www.ultracapacitors.org/)

When gradual change happens over time because a company invests in real R&D as a percentage of its revenue (not profits), it grows with the discoveries it contributes over time. This is EVOLUTION.

When information is stifled (companies buying technologies, stifling production and innovation in favor of its older tech to protect itself), it faces extinction once these efforts fail (and they inevitably will). This is REVOLUTION.

One is short-term vs long-term gain. Eventually, SOMEONE is going to be left holding the bag, but all the participants in the industry at the top of the ladder are content with passing that bag off to their successors.

Gasoline-powered engines will remain a staple for many years to come until enough innovations prohibit the price to sustain a distribution scheme that is no longer profitable. That will remain years off yet, especially if you include government incentives to keep remaining far-flung villages and cities from becoming ghost towns until technology can catch up.

However, we cannot expect to shareholders and private companies to go gently into the night. they will lobby for safety tests, recycling services for all products into the vehicle (that they themselves do not offer), get the governments to impose additional taxes for this industry-wide damaging technology that threatens jobs, bring forth patent lawsuits and attempt buyouts, not to mention promulgate FUD in the form of 'imminent' alternative yet proven technologies such as the hybrid.

True capitalism has at its core an open and free-market economy where people have choices, because they have the freedom to innovate and offer potentially attractive alternative solutions to a free market. It is the strength of individuals unimpeeded by a tariffed, levvied and heavily regulated marketplace that exemplifies the 'free world'. The age of the electric car is nigh, despite it being almost fourty years past due - more the shame for all the efforts atempted by people to free us from the evils of the petrol industry. Twenty seven years ago, president Jimmy Carter addressed the nation and the American Congress in a speech called "Crisis of Confidence": http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/carter/filmmore/ps_crisis.html

One of the noteworthy quotes: "Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never."

and the other: "I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel -- from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun. "

Congress never went ahead with the five points the president made regarding energy independance, and the results have been crystal clear - "dependance on oil is inevitable and ressources must be secured at all costs" (Foreign as well as domestic and environmental policies have been endlessly created around this precept).

Should we all applaud the innovation taking place? Yes.

Should we all decry the stifling and ofttimes hostile environment in which it takes place? Absolutely.

Must we still live with today's realities? No d'uh!

There is no acceptable reason other than greed (social malfaiseance) that corporations (private industry) have not offered up a vehicle with ground clearance, good range, decent capacity, acceleration, at acceptable costs, where such a form of transport is required.

In almost fourty years since man has walked on the moon, over sixty years since the A-Bomb, there has been a true dearth of growth in the propulsion industry, and it has been through managed braking of the profitability and sharing of such ideas as Electric cars, as well as the real solar and aeolian power revolution.

Just because we have progressed and revolutionized research and information and the way it is promulgated through the internet, does not mean it will remain thus. Any time there is a revolution in the way things work, someone's pocketbook is getting dinged, and the industry is fighting back (read: http://savetheinternet.com/). the automotive and petrol industries will do the same - either by offering up sub-performance vehicles, generating FUD, to working hand-in-hand with government to restrict electricity generation, increasing its polution ratio (by funding coal or oil-based power plants), discrediting new technologies through either studies or attempting to destabilize the supply for the materials required for electricity storage, etc....

Those in power always fear and fight change. So do those who are comfortable.

North America has become complacent through inferior education, second-hand sports and entertainment, and it is not by accident, but by design.

Corporations and governments both despise the smart and informed consumer, as they will indeed demand "horses for Courses", instead of simply accepting the drivel and gruel they proclaim as "the best there is... or can currently... or be in the near future... :)"

Phew!

Another /end rant

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"None of this is Technical"

The failure of the electric car is indeed mostly based in corporate and boardroom thinking.

It took years of struggling for Saturn to finally have one individual at GM turn around and agree that marketing pays off in the long run:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0KJI/is_3_119/ai_n18770102

If the big guys wanted to, they could sell us on Electric cars in an instant through innovation and marketing. The fact they have not speaks volumes, especially with regards to the left-handed way they have always sold their electric products. the documentary did not state this vividly enough, but every review and posting kept referring to 'future innovations' 'down the road' 'sometime in the next decade'... the undercurrent is always cryustal clear - stay away for now, we are not quite there yet, we will update this eventually. Stay tuned - put off buying innovation another few years.

If the graphics and computer industry worked on the same precepts, nothing would ever get sold - 'still working on the drivers' - 'ironing bugs out - just you wait until the next generation, we will get it right'.

Clarity.

The desire was not there because they did not wish to invest in R&D nor in the overhaul of production lines, upsetting the hierarchy, creating new departments, etc.... far better to rest on laurels and live off of government contracts and a protected customer base. There will be plenty of time to hand off this bag of poo to sucessors....

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Anonymous Coward

The last thing I'll toss out about this:

Diesel turbine + alternator+ electric motors on each wheel. There. Cheap, clean, fewer parts, and you get to feel good about driving an electric car. Plus, would be great low-end torque.

Can one of the smart guys do the math and tell me if this is even slightly better than a conventional fuel injected diesel engine with turbo?

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Go

car-hauling locomotives

One very reasonable but badly overlooked solution to part of the problem is overland ferry trains. People want their own car at the far end of their trip, and maybe for a few side-trips along the way. They don't necessarily want to drive the whole way, but they don't want to only go where there's an airport or train depot and have to rent a car on the far end or be stuck with crappy public transport systems.

If I could drive 20 miles to a train depot that has a loading ramp instead of a car park, get my car strapped into place, and disembark the train 1200 miles away in my own car, I'd probably travel that way. One big electric or diesel-electric locomotive pulling a bunch of people and cars is more efficient than a bunch of cars being driven. The train could even have metered (or included) electric outlets for electric-only cars.

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"It's all a waste of time "

Hardly.

The regulations that seem to push the industry from the West to the East are coming home to roost big-time in China. China has paid a ferociously high price for its economic boom, in the form of its environmental and pollution disasters.

The only reason for such an export of old industry is precisly because of the paralytic nature of advanced arthritic industrial thinking in the West. instead of investing into innovation and increased efficiency and skilled labour, lets simply cut costs by exporting old technologies to places which are no longer regulated, and see how long we can dangle the carrot of money before them 'ere they wake up and smell the roses.... or actuallly, their industrial waste and sludge lapping up to their noses.

Excellent article on China's emissions and the harm they do to themselves in the race for innovation and growth:

http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20070901faessay86503/elizabeth-c-economy/the-great-leap-backward.html

This has been spurred on precisely because of short-sighted thinking on the part of corporations who wish to maximize their profits on existing technologies at ALL costs (including both human costs abroad and globally, through pollution and economic destabilization, as well as 'jobs-at-home', which can no longer 'compete' using older, more polluting technologies.)

Thusly, it is hardly a waste of time to debate good corporate practices of investing into R&D and uncovering deliberate mis-management of public and governmental shams such as the GM ill-fated EV1 by the documentary "Who killed the Electric Car?".

Was it overly dramatic? Yes

Could it have been more structured and better written? Of course.

Was it important for this film to come out and influence people by informing them of Tesla Motors, and explain the desert-like climate of innovation regarding batteries, hydrogen and alternative fuels? Absolutely.

People SHOULD get involved in politics and become edicated and aware of the legislation passed by their representative and call them out on it. I would venture a guess that MOST people in Noorth America are not aware of the legislations their representatives vote on, either federally, state, county or municipally-wise. Distracted are they by all the jingle-jangle of cars going vroom-vroom, both driven and admired by buxom babes in slinky clothing...

Inform yourselves and rage against the machine that is the lobby - they invest money and time in getting their way with your elected officials. All we need to do is invest time and effort. Such a surprise then that our 'own' time is so precious to us - we should not have to get involved in politics - thats' too much like work or school. We need to have our leiseure time and unwind - catch the latest game (video, pro or college anything), movie, song or television reality drivel. You already elect officials to take care of that. Besides, it does not make a difference, does it?

And thus it comes to pass, that for truly great evil to come about, all it takes is for men of good conscience to do nothing.

Electric cars, Hybrid cars, Hydrogen cars, public transit systems that run on time adn are comfortable, and honest legislature - all these things are possible, but not without effort. our future is being stolen from us becasue of inactivity and lassitude, and precisely because people have come to beleive that 'Its' all a waste of time'.

Doubtlesly you come from the same population group that would gladly roll back all environmental laws, all unions, all human rights including the right to privacy, in order to be expedient. Always seeking the 'quick fix'.

This is precisely why and how the rights to privacy have been severely abrogated world-wide:

http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd%5B347%5D=x-347-559597

In the end, the only ones who benefit from such a mindset are the established 'fat cats' who constantly get wealthier and more weighty.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/29/national/29rich.html

There is nothing wrong with building wealth. The problem is when the broader population bases' wealth actually shrinks. http://www.monthlyreview.org/0204yates.htm

Discussion of ideas in a free forum regarding points of technological interest are certainly never a waste of time.

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Brian

The issue is not whether or not they did the right thing in cancelling the EV1.

The issue is that the EV1 was never intended to grow, evolve nor be a long-term project.

It was lip-service, pure and simple.

The filmmakers' commentary regarding praising the technology has only to do with comparing it to existing commercially-developped and distributed EV's 'out there'.

The film maker rightly demonstrates the complete lack of any visible effort (through marketing, innovation or proper, long-term R&D) from the major auto makers, despite their numerous 'high-tech' acquisitions. Your comment regarding steam-power is completely valid as well. There are many alternative energy sources to combustion (be it internal or otherwise) that have remained either on the drawing boards or undevelopped precisely because the major manufacturers do not wish to unleash a stream of competitors by promoting any technology they do not outright 'own'.

Can you imagine the potential disaster that faces all automotive makers if someone out there conceives a propulsive system that is not regulatable, using a power source that is readily available?

Scores of companies would spring up speedily to fulfill demand, and the old demand for existing inventories of cars would dry up like yesterdays dew.

Tooling up a manufacturing plant would no longer require huge investments, as it would simply become an assembly plant (the manufacturers have taken great pains to divest themselves of making everything), and only the heart of the engine would require a new manufacturing line. Their existing lines would fall dormant and the economic outlook would be dismal indeed. Hence the desire not to innovate, because they might actually become succesful, and imitatable, unless they had no competition.

Maintaining a stranglehold on the staus quo is supported by the Petro companies as well as other polluting manufacturers (who can always point to the IC engine as a major source of polutants) and even government, that does not wish to see its' citizens too upset (nor its tax coffers potentially slashed) by the social upheaval. Imagine if most of the gas stations simply lost their business virtually overnight, catering only to truckers and gasoline holdouts.

Nope - far better for everyone to remain in the dark ages of carbon emissions, and pollution.

Cats, dogs, living together, the end of the world, I tell you.

John Q Public - a.k.a. Ostrich-head-in-the-sand: "If I don't look at it and can no longer see the root of my fear, I am safe."

Sigh

Sorry.

I concurr with you that people should indeed educate themselves, and thank you for your linky, but it does not seem to wish to connect, sorry :(

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There's efficiency and there's efficiency...

Internal combustion engines hooked up to current drive trains only get a tiny fraction of the energy of their fuel into actual driving power. Modern IC engines get about 38% thermal efficiency, which can be pushed a bit higher in some vehicles, but is much the same across models. Coupling that to the wheels is where all the energy is wasted - less than 20% (less than 10% in many vehicles) goes into actually driving the car.

Hybrids do much better by getting rid of all the frictional and mechanical losses in the drive train. Electric motors have a lot of advantages and that's the major one. Thus the high efficiencies hybrids get and even higher efficiencies when recharging via regenerative braking becomes even more efficient.

So long as petrol engines are powering a ridiculous transmission system the 12,444 W.hr/kg of petrol is effectively only 1,244 W.hr/kg or less. Thus batteries are somewhat closer to petrol in effective energy density. With a hybrid things improve out of sight for petrol - though the effective density is still only <4,800 W.hr/kg due to the nature of IC engine thermodynamics.

An EV powered up by a solar array would win hands down in terms of fuel efficiency and that's the "Great Green Dream" of many people who want to survive the present Energy Crisis in style. A lot of people want to cut the Middle-East Oil-Noose from around their necks.

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Go

@oldsparks

So how do you explain all the electric cars that exist today? A quick google will give you info on plenty of electric cars that exist in real life... does your arithmetic explain that? Perhaps your calculations are flawed... could it be that's the TRUTH?

If I were to buy a new car it'd almost certainly be electric. I don't see anything else making any sense for my lifestyle, and as there are several million other people in the city I live in, I'd hazard a guess there would be at least few others out there with similar views...

I had a colleague who drove an electric car, he took a lot of stick for it, but at the end of the day, the arithmetic did stack up in his favour... He didn't pay congestion charge (8uk/16usd per day), he got a guaranteed parking space at work (which saved a fortune on parking), and he charged up at work for free (which would happily get him home, and into work the following day again for more free juice). That worked out at quite a saving.

Until I'm forced into needing something with a bit more range however, I'll stick with my trusty hybrid (pedal/electric) Sinclair C5 (they new how to make electric cars in 1985 you know ;) ).

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Linux

Adam hit it on the nose.

Amen!

" An EV powered up by a solar array would win hands down in terms of fuel efficiency and that's the "Great Green Dream" of many people who want to survive the present Energy Crisis in style. A lot of people want to cut the Middle-East Oil-Noose from around their necks. "

It appears Nanosolar will produce photovoltaics that I might be able to afford, that will be used to charge the new Volt. Excess energy will be fed back into the grid lowering peak loads in the afternoon.

I do not want to support Saudi Arabia funding the spread of Islam or funding other countries that hate us (USA in this case). Why would anyone want to fund both sides of a war? Why should sons, daughters, husbands and wives die so the USA and Europe can have stable oil prices? People thought slavery was bad, sacrificing lives in a war for oil stability to maintain a life style is just as bad or worse. We could electrify our transportation reducing oil demand and then only purchase oil from friendly stable countries.

Out with the oil, in with the electric grid. Drop the fuel cells, the hydrogen infrastructure alone will have a fantastic cost. Put that money for a hydrogen infrastructure in the electric grid as high tech switching centers, super-conducting long distance transmission lines, etc. The brownouts would go away, wind and solar could be utilized better. Sigh... I just wish there was more thinking going on.

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Go

Tossing in my 1/50 of a dollar....

For starters...I am a lifelong "petrolhead". I have several very-large-engined (7.1 liter and above) vehicles. I have drag raced, street raced, etc.etc. I love the sound of gas engines ('specially a properly tuned V8).

That being said....I live 17 miles from my job. In order to be able to commute I drive a car that gets 30mpg, cost 350 smackers, and is (suprisingly) of American vintage. I drive my other cars when the whim strikes, but have realized that I cannot justify using them as primary transportation when better options are available. Also, I am in the process of converting my 1956 beetle to plug-in electric...a very fun project for me as I enjoy the engineering and tinkering. This will replace my on-road commuter. Its also gonna be a "hillbilly hybrid" with a small removeable propane powered generator , should I need the range extended over, say, 80 miles.

Over the years, I have come to notice the problems associated with personal transportation. In America, at least in my neck o' the woods, I have noticed (and studied) that the transportation problems are something of a chicken and egg problem. Originally, towns and cities were rather compact and distinct from the more agrarian areas of the country. As such, commerce movement was limited to within townships (except of course where trains and ships were available). Electric (and steam) delivery vehicles become available, gas-burners not becoming widely available until 1910....even then electric and steam were sold side by side, in dwindling numbers, until the early '30s. The power and relative cheapness of gasoline powerplants in vehicles makes them the more attractive to auto manufacturers. With the prevalance of smaller and more personal vehicles hitting the streets, the streets themselves had to adapt. Thus, the U.S. starts planning an infrastructure around the growing numbers of the vehicles. This changes the landscape (much more literally than figuratively). What happens over the intervening decades is that you now have a society with more spread out centers of population requiring more travel for work, goods and service delivery, and recreation.

The chicken in this scenario is the need (and fashionable want) for more individualized transport. The egg is the infrastructure built to accomodate, which promotes another chicken of individuals needing personal vehicles to travel the increasing distances...yadda yadda yadda.

I would have to agree that mass-transit devlopement should be pursued and in my area it is promoted vigorously, but the non-individualistic aspects associated with it constantly hamstring it.

Fuel cell? If you read books other than those that promote it, then you end up with new infrastructure costs...plus some dubious claims of overall efficiently. Nice idea, all-in-all, and I hope developement will realize those lofty goals. Plus, there is potential for new industry.

Hybrids? I would think a dedicated engine-over-battery setup work be less costly and more scalable in the short and long run. I could be mistaken about this. Plus concerns about battery reconditioning and disposal have not been completely addressed. Not to mention depreciation in value over time. Personally, the batteries are not the largest problem...battery remanufacturing is a potentially a booming industry and batteries can be rebuilt with little (and in some cases, No) effects on the environment. The deprecaition arguement is utter bullshite....value is percieved and supported by those who go along with it. Is the imbued value of a vehicle truly dependent on what society decides is not up-to-date enough...or is the value reflected in the fact that it is actually a functioning mode of transportation, albeit 10 or so years old?

Pure electrics? Infrastructure augmentation, battery development, high finished product price. Plus, in the current phase of battery performance, maintanance and duration will have to be be kept in mind for prospective buyers.

From my standpoint, the electricity prices in my area are a plus towards me retrofitting my VW. I am also able to build this car in my garage, cutting costs to me dramatically. The existing vehicle still has tons of maintanace parts available. The newtech I will need to install is supported by several manufacturers.

Even after this long dissertation, there are those dubious of non-gas vehicle performance. That's fine. Go to evparts.com and check out the vehicles they have retrofitted. Even the super-duper off-roaders will find something of interest as they retrofitted an older model Land Rover which competes in various 100+ mile trail runs...climbing past other gas-fueled contenders and, on many occasions, dragging them out of harms way.

Another argument made is the visceral elements of driving electrics/ hybrids/ alt. fuel vehicles are not equal to their gasser brethren. Have any of you driven an electric vehicle? I know the TANGO is like being shot out of a cannon on acceleration while cornering like a race-prepped ferret. As arguments go, aesthetics are hardly a reason to promote the existing paradigm that is bringing about its own demise over a potential helpful step in the solution that may not sound like or look like a hotrod (but will more often than not spank your factory-built hotrod).

Efficiency gains in ICE (internal combustion engines) are still out there. The prob? Large scale manufacturers are strictly bottom-line. New technologies and methods of construction will not be implemented unless mandated by the gov. or the buying public. Another problem is the bullshite laws and rules implemented. for instance, California attempted to sign into law a mandate to improve base economy standards...even Schwarzengettothechopper touted the idea. Wanna know who stymied it? The federal elements of the EPA actually said that California had no right to put that law into effect for its own state to reduce emissions and raise mileage, separate of the rest of the union. Read that again.

But, if you are really looking (as a petrolhead) for a good reason to support expansion of alt. power vehicles, the solution is fairly straightforward. Alt. power increases....current fossil fuel consumption per capita falls precipitously. Anyone knows what happens next? FUEL PRICES DROP. Eventually the fuel prices drop to the competitive mean with other power schemes (and there will be many....there is no magic bullet) such that petrol will be an option rather than the standard.

Any fiscal conservatives in the house? Really? This is a field that promotes un-freakin-believable industrial potential. Wanna guess who I hear negative comments about alt. power industry from? See above. This is something that doesn't make sense to me.... if it's the almighty buck and the ever-present hand of the market that must be paid attention to above all else then it would seem to me this is a market to be explored, exploited, and advanced just like....say....oil. Just a thought. Any central planners in attendance? Howzabout developing more interurban areas insteads of developing the hinterlands? Less infrastructure costs to maintain AND urban sprawl could be (in theory, anyway) kept in check...thus, those who want to see unspoilt wild and the like would actually be able to see just that and not an unending row of cookie-cutter abominations that were installed because a developer needed to make a buck and didn't feel like paying the extra bucks-per-acre. Guess thats just the nature-loving hippie in me... fight the power ;) .

Are you still reading this? The upshot is that most arguments being put forth on this thread could be helpful if they weren't so myopic. We will be saddled with the current transpo problems as long as folks are still willing to over-simplify the problems and solutions. Several elements will be needed to be put in place to effect a solution. It can be done, it oughta be done. At least, thats they way it seems to me.

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Combustion engine efficiency

Too much to read, but I did not see the following before I stopped reading.

Your article points to the energy density of fuel, even compared to recent battery advancements, but this is not the full story.

Petrol engines are very inefficient. Though you might be able to get 20-30% efficiency (old figures) at an ideal rev range (such as in an hybrid car) in reality it operates over an range of less efficient speeds, and the act of changing the operating speed during travel probably uses an fair bit extra fuel to. Now, put that through and transmission etc and you maybe looking at an ideal rev range producing down to less than 10% efficiency. Now subtract for engines running at less than ideal revs, and braking (though an normal car could be designed with regenerative braking, they are not as well setup for it). So now the differences between the batteries are much less.

What answer for the internal combustion engine? I have lost track of the number of promising fuel efficiency technologies fro the internal combustion industry that have gone walk abouts in recent decades. These petrol companies want to be broke in 20 years leaving the rest of us to suffer. If all the technologies were put into hybrid engines we could look at efficiencies closer to 50% going to an electric power train that will preserve more than 80% of the energy (conservative) and these companies can be in business for far longer. Add to this an idea like using an bank of super capacitors (research going on for an major Australian car) or an compact battery like the one referred to, that can be charged at home and reduce fuel consumption. The other possibility is fuel cells, if fuel cells can be made sufficiently efficient, we can reduce the size and weight of cars.

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Paris Hilton

@Roland

I'm 6'something, and I have nearly a whole foot of headroom in my car...

Of course, the Citroen Berlingo isn't sold in the USA, so...

(It's too sensible: good fuel economy, compact, roomy inside, sliding doors for rear seat passengers, comes with a trolly for wine crates... )

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Brasche

"Case in point-local car dealer wants to sell you a "new" SMART car. The 07 year SMART car is the first to be reliable enough and safe enough to sell in the US. This local dealer doesn't tell you that they're selling "converted" older model SMARTS (converted at a premium so you're paying over $24 THOUSAND for the go-kart) instead of the 07s which will sell at closer to $14K. Take into account that the previous years of SMART were so unreliable and such poor build quality the company went out of business in Europe and was bought out by Daimler-Chrysler. This "dealer" (also selling ZAP street legal golf carts-read up on the shady activity that ZAP's in trouble for) fails to mention that little fact, hoping to lure people in who've seen the small press blitz for the 07's and sell them a vastly inferior and overpriced product."

Clearly you have no idea that this is all a fantasy of yours. Seek help.

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Jay
Stop

@ Unamerican...

All I would say is what happens WHEN oil runs out and Americans have to use alternatives? Or will their behaviour become more like the description given in the Matrix movie?

Agent Smith : I'd like to share a...revelation I had, during my time here. It came to me when I tried to...classify your species. I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but...you humans do not. You move to an area...and you multiply...until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to..spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is?

A virus.

Just a thought...

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Flame

They're all crap

They're all crap because electric cars need power stations to burn finite fuel or nuclear fuel to produce the electricity to charge the batteries.

Petrol/Diesel cars use petrol and diesel which of course is crap because we've soaked up a lot of it and at any rate we require oil to make plastic to make TV's and PC's and laptops etc.

Oh, and catalytic converters are made out of palladium which comes from one of the most polluted cities on Earth, Norilsk.

In Norilisk nothing grows for hundreds of square kilometers because of the sulphur and acid rain.

So - it is all crap!

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Gold badge

Electric motors are strong

Make no mistake, electric motors are strong. Fully engage a large electric motor and you'll snap any driveshaft.

The point is, why refine the combustion engine any further when in a few years there will be very little oil to burn?

Peak oil is coming and if scientists and engineers spent all their time looking at fuel cells and electric power then we'd be making more progress.

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Brian

My thoughts on the future and why the EV1 crushed.

The coming of the Hybrid and pure Electric car is following some of the basic rules of evolution and bussiness.

Never expect a truly inovative idea from an entrenched company.

Although Sony do say you should obsolete you own product before somebody else does.

Second, in evolution when a new animal/concept comes along that can exploit a new food/money source and it has the field to its self.

So expect lots of new small car compaines to spring up as they charge a premium for the product, they will not be very efficeint manufactures, then as the product cost falls normaly only about 7 big compaines will be left, plus some small nich players. It allways happens just look at PCs. Example Dell, HP, Apple and what happened to Xerox who invent it, even the old stooge IBM could not make it.

It will be some new companies plus forward thinking old ones that make it.

Maybe GM can do it, but Ford is bleeding to death and seems to lacks vision,

must being run by an accountant.

Cut and past this link into your browser, http://www.pmlflightlink.com/index.html

Has links to Volvo and a new company called Lightening which are producing a super sports car, looks a bit like an Aston Martin for 2008, 250mile range and costs about 5 cents a mile to run. PMLs own BMW Mini is just a demonstration of what can be done now, which is pretty good.

I think PML may be the Intel of the electric car and has shown what the drive train should look like, in wheel motors that do everything. What type of Battery will be the best, is still in the air but it looks like it may be a Silicon Nanowire Li-ion, at present there are Li's that have a good temperature range, capacity and don't burst into flames. We are at the VHS video recorder point, not the best system but will do the job.

So the practical hybrid/ pure electric car is here now, no argument, just will be a little time before it comes down to an afordable price for everyone and you may be buying from a company you have never heard of. The infrasturer is here to charge them, the performance is ok and the running cost is so low, they will be unstopable.

The EV1 was a good toe in the water, to see if there was a market but in bussiness opening up a new market does not mean you win in the end.

HP invented the hand held scientific calculator 18 months before Texas insturment and still sells them, but Casio is the market leader now.

So pulling back until the technology improved was a sensible move on GMs part,

don't open the market for someone else.

The future is allways here today but it normal takes 20 years to realise it.

An example is the cell/mobile phone, it has taken just over 20 years

for them to go from a large brick to being lost in the bottom of your wifes handbag and who had heard of Nokia. I predict most people will be driving

a pure electric or hybrid in 20 years time and fuel cells will be a dead duck,

to complicated to be worth it.

Mind you, the UK did have a hydrogen based economy in the late 1800s it was call town gas, piped into most houses, mostly hydrogen and made from coal, was farley safe, as any leak the gas floated up, only in the last 50 years electric has taken over but most people still use natural gas, for heating. Actualy its more dangerous as it pools if leaking and will blow a house to pieces, prefer the old stuf.

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@johnathan @roland

"Prius batteries are guaranteed for 10 years and cost upwards of £3k "

MY 2002 Prius had an 8 year 100K mile on the battery pack and Toyota has consistently quoted me replacement prices of US $2400 to replace it (includes labor). This is from the dealership (price is 2x the cost of the part and labor is 4x sanity safe limits) who always rips you off.

"This morning it was around -3 Fahrenheit (so would be roughly -20 celcius). Haven't done any research on how the batteries take this kind of temperatures. Does anyone know?."

I have gone out into my driveway and my Prius tell me that it is -14 deg F and it has started fine. I didn't even see the turtle light that tells me it is running without electric assist (turtle is on until the system warm up enough). I think some guy in North Dakota blogged about seeing it on a morning where it was like -36 deg F or some such. In Ohio it does not get this cold and so far I have never seen the turtle.

As for your problems a couple states over. I know that a large vehicle is not required for life in america. I lived in the backwoods of West "By God" Virginia and took a Volkswagen pickup truck on some of the most muddy, rutted and impassable dirt roads that sometimes would swallow big 4x4 trucks. I never got stuck no matter how bad the roads were, because I knew how to drive in those conditions. A VW pickup has the same clearance (including the oil pan that sticks down below the frame) as a normal Rabbit (almost none).

I have had no problems on highways and side roads with the Prius even when our fine people didn't bother to clear roads and my entire journey to work (only a class 2 snow emergency) on the interstate involved clawing my way through 6 inches (or more in places) of piled snow while trying to keep track of what was road by the distance of signs and guardrails.

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Coal gas (town gas) was not all that safe.

Brian

By Brian Lawther

Posted Thursday 3rd January 2008 13:57 GMT

"Mind you, the UK did have a hydrogen based economy in the late 1800s it was call town gas, piped into most houses, mostly hydrogen and made from coal, was fairly safe, as any leak the gas floated up, only in the last 50 years electric has taken over but most people still use natural gas, for heating. Actually it's more dangerous as it pools if leaking and will blow a house to pieces, prefer the old stuff."

What Brian has called "town gas" is actually better known as coal gas. A few facts:

It was (and maybe still is, in a few places) made locally, from coal. Each town had its "gas works" in which coal was heated in a furnace and the products captured. These are:

- Gas: a large proportion of hydrogen, but a *very* significant proportion of carbon monoxide, plus some methane and other odds and ends. (I can't be bothered to get out my school notebooks, and I'm writing from memory.)

- Oils: the liquid by-products of gas production could be fractionated to yield various useful liquid hydrocarbons.

- Coke: the solid residue after the coal has yielded up its more volatile compounds. This is almost pure carbon, with some other elements. It can be burned in stoves and was sold as a domestic fuel in its own right. It was also used in large quantities in the production of iron and steel.

The gas was held in those huge cylindrical gas holders (often incorrectly called "gasometers") that were part of every town's landscape, and piped to each home. The process was pretty efficient overall: almost all of the by-products of gas generation had commercial value, and when you cleaned out your coke-burning stove, you could spread the ash on your garden as a fertilizer.

Burning coal on a domestic fire was horrendously wasteful by comparison, and all those valuable chemicals went straight into the atmosphere as pollutants.

The main problem with coal gas was that carbon monoxide is a lethal and insidious poison even when mixed in low concentrations with air.

It kills by anoxia. When oxygen is inhaled into the lungs, it reacts with haemoglobin in the blood stream to form oxyhaemoglobin, a loosely bound compound that gives up its oxygen readily wherever this is required in the body to sustain metabolism. Carbon monoxide also reacts with haemoglobin, but forms carboxyhaemoglobin, which is stable and does not decompose, with the result that it gradually uses up all of the body's haemoglobin, leaving none to transport oxygen.

The body has no warning system for anoxia. [1] Instead, it has evolved to react to excess carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, which usually accompanies a lack of oxygen "in the wild", e.g., when holding one's breath or being strangled. Imperceptibly, anaesthesia creeps on, as the brain is starved of oxygen until unconsciousness supervenes suddenly, by which time irreparable brain damage may have occurred. [2]

"Sticking one's head in the gas oven" was a very common way of committing suicide in the days of coal gas.

Both carbon monoxide and hydrogen form explosive mixtures with air, so there is nothing to choose between coal gas and natural gas (which is mostly methane) in this respect, if they leak into a confined space. Coal gas (due to the impurities in it) has a strong characteristic smell, so leaks were more easily detected. An artificial smell has to be added to natural gas.

Notes:

[1] This is a useful argument against "intelligent design" as an origin for the human species. No intelligent engineer would design a system which is crucially dependent on a supply of oxygen for survival and not include a warning device for a lack of oxygen which is triggered *by the lack of oxygen* rather than by a secondary effect which is not always present. If God exists, then He is an incompetent engineer, which rather messes up His claims to be omniscient and omnipotent.

[2] First-aid tip: Arterial blood is bright red, since it has been oxygenated, and oxyhaemoglobin is a lighter red than haemoglobin. Veinous blood is darker, since it has been deoxygenated by the time of its return from the body's periphery. In the case of anoxia due to strangulation, smothering, drowning, etc., the victim's lips turn blue. However, since carboxyhaemoglobin is also a light red, in a case of carbon monoxide poisoning, the victim's lips will be bright cherry red. (Not many people know that!)

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Heart

@Jim

Sorry to confuse Jim, I was referring to the myth perpetrated by the lead additive company, that the new additives used to replace lead in leaded fuel would lead to an increase in benzene emissions, and hence increased cancer risk. This was peddled by the makers of the lead additive, and was a patently false, as benzene based additives are not required and there were other, safer alternatives (such as ethanol and MTBE) are used instead.

Although this is not the place to debate the pro/cons of catalytic converters, I suspect the they have lead to a net health improvement due to the reduction of photo chemical smog, and the slow but steady reduction in lead contamination of of out cities.

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Anonymous Coward

Energy density

People bang on about the poor energy density of batteries. While it is true that the best ones only poses about 1/100th of the energy density of petrol, it takes about a 120 kg of engine and a 35 kg transaxle to convert about 20% of that energy into the required rotary motion to propel a small vehicle. The electric car on the other hand can use a 35 kg motor and doesn't require a gearbox to convert over 85% of it's batteries energy to the required rotary motion. Including the total drive system wheight and efficiency radically improves the picture in the electric cars favour. In real world terms we have electric cars that will go 400 km on a charge. A more relavent detractor to the electric car is the time it takes to "fill up" the battery.

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Anonymous Coward

Brian

In reply to Coward. The battery is no longer the limitation in recharge time, as 10 minute to 80% ones are now availible, it is the peak current requirement.

Pushing 30 kw in to a battery in 12 minutes requires 30kw x 5 = 150 kw supply.

Thats a lot of power/current and think of 10 cars at once charging, but if that can be solved then all the technology is in place for electric cars, the argument is over. Just charging will be a bit slower, due to mains supply limitations.

Or just run the on board generator set, will still give 80mpg.

Forget hydrogen, to many manufacturing and supply problems.

It is now just packaging, you could have an electric tomorrow, if the car companies got of their buts and smelt the coffee.

The Chines are looking at this market,

so western companies better get a move on.

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Flame

Oh god, my eyes are melting

I can't believe i just read all these comments, i think i really need another holiday now.

We need something other than fossil fuels, does every one agree? They are going to run out, soon. Once we run out, your hummer will get extremely good mpg. It will only run down hill, but that's still great efficiency! Electric cars........ are a good start. I don't think they are the answer, but you have to start somewhere. You need a starting point, then you can improve. Don't even think about diesel being green, it isn't. New research is starting to show just how bad it is for the environment and for a human being's health. It contains nasty stuff, and when burnt and inhaled can bring about a human's downfall.

We need public transport to be good, on time and clean. (not that any of that is likely to happen any time soon) We have to let go of the idea of each of us having a shiny car. That's going to be hard (i love my car and the freedom that comes with it) but we don't really have a choice.

My final comment will be in response to this post:

By Will Leamon Posted Wednesday 2nd January 2008 15:12 GMT

Africa just called and asked if you, the Dutch, and the French wouldn't mind cleaning your shit up there before bitching about what the Americans do to their spot on earth.

Oh and the Americans said they would love to address this situation but still haven't quite cleared up the mess from 400 hundred years of slave economics that they were born with.

Cheers.

Erm, Will, do some history lessons please? Americans were quite happy to help out with the slave trade until the point the North realised it needed extra soldiers to fight on the front line in there pathetic struggle with the South. Then it was "Fight for your freedom!" to get slaves to enlist so they could be used as shock troops/meat shields. Please step down from your high horse before you make and even bigger idiot of yourself, k?

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For F***'s sake lets see a bit more imagination and will from our politicians!

IMHO the internal combustion engine is going to be arround for a long time yet. What is needed is some more imaginative solutions to green issues.

People need to drive to get to work, get the kids to school etc. Those in this situation are not going to vote for a Green party that is perceived to be anti-car.

Mainstream politicians think that increasing road tax, petrol tax and conjestion charging will make people drive less. For the vast majority of people who fall into the group described above it doesn't. They just pay up and keep on driving.

I'd like to see some of the vast fortune screwed out of drivers in tax spent on negating the effects of car emissions, such as building sequestration plants to remove pollutants from the air (or even planing trees).

Getting decent surfaces on the roads, getting councils out of the habit of digging up almost every road in a city as the financial year comes to an end so as to use up their buggets and bring traffic to a stand still. (Yes, CIty of Edinburgh Council, J'accuse) and an end to stupid no left / right turn systems that sheperd traffic onto the busiest roads would make a huge impact on emmissions.

Decent inner city parking would also help. Limiting waitimng times to four hours so that folk with full time jobs have to go out at lunch time and move there cars to a different area to avoid a ticket is just crazy.

On a larger scale an international initiative to irrigate deserts such as the Sahara and reverse desert expansion, could turn the desert into forrest / farmland which would provide jobs / food / income might even stimulate climate change in a more positive direction, such as kick starting the water cycle by stimulating natural rainfall.

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Anonymous Coward

It doesn't add up

I recently watched the movie and while there may be some "poetic licence" the thing that doesn't make sense is why GM and the other manufacturers only leased the vehicles and would not sell them. The former drivers of the EV1 raised US$1.9million to buy the cars from GM rather than have them crushed and they were knocked back. WHy? Even if the cars were not selling surely that money would help to recover the cost of manufacturing them? Also, why did all of the car manufacturers take the same action at the same time, i.e., crushing their cars? It doesn't make sense. The drivers were happy with the vehicles even with their shortcomings - why not let them have them? Finally, the few that escaped crushing were stripped of their circuitry. For what reason? It's not as if they were lethal weapons or something. I wonder whether the producers of the movie may be on to something.

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