Monday, June 21, 2010

Charge!

I couldn't help noticing when an ad for the new electric car from Nissan came up on my Facebook page, and I just had to follow the link to find out about it. I like the idea of an electric car; with a clean source of electricity (nuclear, anyone? but that's another discussion) and the right battery technology, good electric cars could solve a lot of our transportation-related energy problems.

But the problem is that the major car companies don't seem to actually want to sell electric cars. I can think of lots of good conspiracy theories to why that might be so, but we needn't speculate as to why in order to demonstrate that it is, in fact, true.

Let's start with the price of the Nissan LEAF. About $32,000. People's car, right? That's for a subcompact five-seater with a range of about 100 miles per charge. Nissan is trying to send a message, which is, basically, "don't buy this car." Anyone with an eye on their budget will get the message, and only hard-core eco-fanatics will pony up so much money for so little transportation.

And there's another message Nissan is trying to send: this electric car thing is just so difficult and complicated that we can't possibly make it viable in the marketplace.

But come on, people, this is old news! Not only did we have a working electric car twenty years ago, but the car companies, especially General Motors, used the same arguments and tactics to kill it. This is not as complicated as they make it out. Tesla invented the brushless AC electric motor more than 100 years ago, and Thomas Edison created an electric car that could be recharged using water.

The EV1, the General Motors electric from the late 80s, had a range of 80 miles using conventional lead-acid batteries. Is Nissan trying to tell us that, twenty years later, they can only get 25% more range?

Look, if the major car companies wanted to build and market a viable electric car, they could make one with sufficient range and at a reasonable cost. This is not an exotic technolgy like, say, hybrids or hydrogen fuel cells. Lets just all admit that if the electric car is to be a part of modern transportation, it is not going to come from any manufacturer you've ever heard of.

And when that car comes along, we'll just have to fight to make sure the big car makers and the Feds dont' get in its way. More on that some other time, and perhaps in some other blog.

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