The Electric Commentary

Monday, January 08, 2007

It’s rough getting old

I threw a little engagement party for my roomie and his fiance on Saturday. I cooked (read: opened some cans) a Mexican feast and blended some Margaritas. It's now Monday morning and I still have a slight headache. Gone are the days when I could stay out all night and still wake up at 8:00 am and run ten miles. I spent most of yesterday on my couch. I got to work on my 25 book challenge by putting a dent in The Singularity is Near. I also watch a faux-documentary called Who Killed the Electric Car? It tells the story of an electric car that GM made and sold in the 1990s, and then abruptly killed. According to the movie, they were affordable, produced zero emissions, were fast and cool, could turn invisible, and made anyone who drove them irresistible to hot babes. Like most movies in this genre, you have to put some effort into separating the fact from the propaganda. This movie made it difficult to do this because it included testimony from several A-List celebrity A-holes that I think are insane and consider every word out of their mouths to be fiction. Martin Sheen narrates. Mel Gibson appears sporting a Charles Manson beard. Interestingly, this weekend's NYT had this article about GM Unveiling it’s new electric concept car.

DETROIT - The company that supposedly killed the electric car will unveil a sleek new electric vehicle that someday could ease America's addiction to gasoline at the Detroit auto show. The Volt has a battery-powered electric motor that can run the car for up to 40 city miles on a single charge...

But the Volt is limited by battery technology and GM has no date for it to be available to the public. Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner was expected to announce Sunday that the company is committed to getting the Volt to market as quickly as possible.

GM officials stressed that development of the battery pack is critical to the concept vehicle reaching showrooms, and the technology likely won't be available until 2010 or 2012.

So basically, they have a new battery-powered car... but no batteries.

Anyway, it was an okay movie if you like the faux-documentary genre.

As long as I'm talking about movies, I feel it is my duty to tell you to not go see The Good Shepherd. Wow, that movie sucked. It has all the signs of a great movie-Bob De Niro directing his first film since the awesome Bronx Tale, Matt Damon starring and wearing cool glasses, Alec Baldwin in a supporting role, a couple hot chicks... But the end result was outright awful. There are like 15 different plots going on, all boring, and Matt Damon only says 15 words in the entire movie. It's three hours of too-long camera shots and random crappy operatic singing. It's a spy movie with absolutely no suspense. I seriously give it zero stars. It was that painful. Don't go see it.


  • It's great to see a major automaker finally moving forward on what small companies have been proving possible for several years (see Energy CS, CalCars and HyMotion). But while the announcement is exciting, GM still isn't giving any solid timeline on WHEN we can see these cars on the road or HOW MANY cars are actually going to be produced - at best they say 3-4 years if the battery technology is available. There is a demand for plug-in hybrids NOW - there are hundreds of cities, counties, utility districts and fleets already placing "soft orders" for such vehicles. Such early-adopters of these vehicles would provide test markets for GM to refine the technology and build public confidence and interest in these cars.

    I have to admit I'm a little concerned that they will use the announcement of these concept cars more to clean up their image than clean up their product line. There is a lot GM can do between now and when we may see these concept vehicles actually on the road.

    We all know increasing fuel efficiency is the direction automakers need to head – so let’s get past the hype of a handful of concept vehicles and look at what they are doing with the rest of their fleet. Overall average fuel economy from the Big 6 is worse today that it was 10 years ago and GM is still heavily dependent on its gas guzzling truck lines. In addition to that they are still fighting tooth-and-nail against increasing fuel economy regulations, suing states that try to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and in December argued before the Supreme Court that carbon from tailpipe emissions was not even a pollutant. GM is still planning to expand their Hummer line to become 25% of their overall sales. Consumers still have limited options to find fuel-efficient cars that are affordable, well-built, and fun to drive. There are plenty of things automakers can do today to increase fuel economy – and I'm tired of being shown distracting concept cars that we won't see for 3-4 years if ever.

    I've been working with the Freedom From Oil Campaign to make automakers honestly prioritize fuel economy and move beyond oil – check out what we do at

    By Anonymous Matt, at 1:22 PM  

  • Of course batteries are produced using an industrial process which spews actual pollutants into the air too. And of course they get their power mostly from coal-fired power plants, so they are debatably worse than gas-powered vehicles, as coal plants pump carbon and mercury and a bunch of other nasty stuff into the air.

    Which is not to say that battery powered cars are necessarily bad (especially if we build more nuclear) but they're not especially good either.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 2:40 PM  

  • I've always looked at the environmental cost of producing a battery as still being significantly better since it only happens once (or twice or thrice) as opposed to every time you turn on the car.

    By Anonymous Rashid Z. Muhammad, at 4:20 PM  

  • True, but you do have to charge the battery, and that energy comes from somewhere. I'm very much in favor of Hybrids rather than pure electric.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 4:50 PM  

  • At least the U.S. has tons of coal.

    GM designed an electric car about 15-20 years ago too, but it cost a ridiculous amount, the battery didn't last long (years-wise), something else I forget. It all comes down to a matter of cost.

    Also, nuclear is always spouted as an answer, but it's a pain to dispose of. Even if only because people go berserk whenever you try to ship stuff past them. Plus, they can't figure out how to make containers they are fairly certain will last long enough.

    By Blogger Scott H, at 10:20 PM  

  • On disposing nuclear waste.

    Perhaps the advent of commercial space flight could mean that eventually we could start sending this stuff to help (ha) power the mother of all nuclear reactors - the sun.

    We could queue it on the moon and launch big chunks from there where the amount of energy required for propulsion is much lower.

    By Anonymous Rashid Z. Muhammad, at 2:14 PM  

  • Actually, I wouldn't count on commercial space flight. The technology that would be useful for disposing of the nuclear waste in the sun would be a space elevator to get the stuff up to space cheaply without the possibility of launch vehicle explosion.

    By Anonymous Rod, at 3:59 PM  

  • By Blogger World Of Warcraft Gold(WOW Gold), at 12:45 AM  

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