Electric cars: why aren’t we talking about them?
The Economist (Charging around the city: How green and safe are they?) asks about the safety of electric cars on the streets of London. But to me, the big news is that there are electric cars on the streets of London! I mean, how cool is that? I saw a documentary last year called, Who Killed the Electric Car? (wee version here), that documented trials by (Ford? GM? I can’t remember which company) done in California of electric cars in the 1990s. The users were highly satisfied: the cars were just as peppy as regular ones, were nice and quiet, and easy on the repair side because the technology was much simpler than the internal combustion engine. The company then came and took them away, despite the users not wanting to give them up, and apparently scrapped them.
Cheap gas and the SUV revolution may explain the end of those trials, but now that climate change has emerged as a big issue, where are the electric cars? We only hear about hybrids, and nothing about electric cars, in the media and from our governments. Perhaps this is just the preferred alternative transition strategy for capitalism, one that allows Big Oil to keep selling oil, parts manufacturers to keep selling parts for repair. I’m not one for conspiracies, but this silence is just plain odd. If anything we should be engaging in a major industrial strategy push to make these things. People are not going to give up cars, so we need to change the engine.
Wikipedia has a good overview of the topic. There appear to be some challenges, but nothing insurmountable. If government came in and mandated that a growing proportion of sales starting in, say, 2010 had to be electric, with full phase-in 15-20 years later, and reinforced by a fee-bate system that taxed gas-guzzlers to subsidize the fuel-efficient ones, surely our smart engineers could iron out the design wrinkles.