The concept of forcing people to buy an electric car is a little too Orwellian for me. First, the suggestion that every other vehicle be electric, then people who like Fords will have to buy Chevys or Chryslers the next time. Then we'll be told what color it has to be and whether we can have blackwalls, whitewalls, or raised white letters. This whold concept is wrong. As soon as the electric car is practical and serviceable, they will sell well. Until then, we're stuck with the present technology.
What happened to the hydrogen car? No places to fill it up, and the fear that terrorists would make bombs from the stuff. What about natural gas? Some metropolitan areas and businesses run their fleets from it but it isn't practical for the masses because there are, again, few places to fill up. Maybe we'll see the Stanley return. My granddad had one and it burned coal or wood. Seems he had it retrofitted for natural gas or maybe propane because he didn't like the smoke. What about mass transit? The bigger cities have it but out here in the sticks, we haven't seen a bus in decades.
Personally, I'd love an electric vehicle. Locally, it would solve a lot of problems. The 100-mile range is what kills the idea. Let's see. . . 24 miles to my girl friend's house, 24 back. . . that's 48. Drive to town, then to a movie or the mall. . .if I miscalculated the charge, well. . . back to the old joke about running out of gas on a country road. If the electric vehicle were practical, we'd all buy them. The trouble is that they just don't do the job that most of us need.
It was interesting to note the Mouser poll about purchasing electric vehicles on the right sidebar of some of these pages. Relying on my memory, it was (rounded) 22% NO, 20% YES, and the biggest group was NOT NOW BUT MAYBE LATER at 34%. The remaining 24% would still consider it. This translates to an 80% acceptance rate, which tells me that as soon as the technology makes them affordable to buy and cost efficient to maintain, most of us will be driving them. Of course, this poll could be skewed because most of us are technical people and it isn't a representative cross-section of the general population.
I know I'm a dinosaur, but I'd still like to see electric passenger trains. Jets are fast but crossing the country in a Pullman is an experience to remember. If we could get the railroad infrasructure to work out a deal where they ran routes that let people load up their cars for excursions or worked with the rental companies to create vacation packages. . .I see a great market there.
David, I think the intention of the article was to be satirical - I don't think this is being proposed seriously. I absolutely agree with your point that there are many other options for reducing emissions and the focus on electric vehicles to the exclusion of other possibilities is is probably counterproductive. It would be extremely helpful if someone would lay out all of the options for reducing emissions in transportation in terms of cost and environmental impact. (Perhaps using the tools described in this article). Maybe if there were such a study, we would see lawmakers' priorities change in the direction of some of the things you mention.
With regard to hydrogen, it may the most abundant element in the universe, but gaseous hydrogen is extremely rare on the earth. Most of it is in the form of water or hydrocarbons. Separating the hydrogen from these compounds requires energy input, and, by the second law of thermodynamics, the energy you get out will always be less than the energy you put in. If you are getting the energy from fossil fuels, then you haven't really reduced emissions, you've just shifted them, and maybe even increased them. If you are getting the energy from a renewable source, good - but then couldn't you use it to charge a battery and get more bang for your buck?
When I was an undergraduate, I briefly worked on a hydrogen vehicle project. When I asked my professor these questions, his response was basically to tell me to shut up. I requested reassignment to a different project. I'm skeptical that hydrogen for transportation will ever really make much sense. Fortunately, the government seems to be catching on, since hydrogen vehicle research is no longer the funding magnet it used to be.
Which brings me to my last point - so many of our decisions about transportation and energy are driven by politics rather than science or engineering. California's electric vehicle mandate is far from the worst example. Corn ethanol never made any sense, except as a giveaway to farmers and agribusiness. And Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stopped high speed rail in its tracks (so to speak) in order to prove his anti-Obama credentials.
Hopefully, someday politicians will start taking these things seriously instead of playing games. After all, whether we are Democrats, Republicans, or something else, we all have to live on the same planet and breathe the same air (as much as we might sometimes wish we didn't have to).
Well, what I miss in satire I make up in dry humor. I thought about the satirical value of the piece, but having watched some of the other things I have seen mandated by our government, I wasn't really sure. Your point, though, so many of our decisions about transportation and energy are driven by politics rather than science or engineering,not only in the crosshairs, it is one of the most frightening concepts I have ever seen. Unfortunately, it isn't limited to just those fields. I fear I spent too many years working product liability and it has made me cynical.
There is so much FUD about EV which makes me think there could be big money behind much of the 'information'. As for $5K margin for not supplying a level of battery powered vehicles, I think this money could be used to encourage early adopters by passing along the money as a cash rebate on the EV purchased. This has the effect of rasing the price of ICE and lowering the price of EVs.
I have wanted an affordable EV since the mid 1970's and am pleased and fortunate to finally be able to purchase one. After driving a LEAF for 3 months, I look forward to getting in the car and driving again. I just wish it was designed and made in the US and the electricity came from LMFBRs. Technical progress is slow while political progress hasn't been discovered.
As energy efficiency becomes more and more a concern for makers of electronics devices, researchers are coming up with new ways to harvest energy from sound vibration, footsteps, and even electromagnetic fields in the air.
The government wants to study your brain, and DARPA wants to use similar information to give robots true autonomy beyond any artificial intelligence developed to date. Sound like science fiction? It's not.
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