Coming Full Circle on the Electric Car

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In 1914, Rauch & Lang built an electric vehicle, the Brougham B4. I recently saw an example of this on Chasing Classic Cars. It was amazing to see that back in 1914 electric vehicles were very popular and served as an alternative to cranking the engine or getting the steam engine to work.

According to Chasing Classic Cars, the popularity of the electric car began to wane when the electric starter was integrated into cars.

There is no doubt that technological innovation has brought us tools that have proved to be immensely useful. After all, I am not sure what life would be like without the computer or the internet.

What really came to my mind after learning about the 1914 Rauch & Lang was that we, as consumers, buy what automakers are selling. While market research conducted by the auto industry may show that we want SUV’s, what did the market research say before SUV’s became mainstream?

Cars and SUV’s seem to be getting bigger with each generation. Now that we have these massive cars, does it mean that manufacturers of everything else will create bigger products that are bigger and better, but will only fit in that newly enlarged car or SUV?

For the vast majority of us, do we need 300 horsepower engines that go 0-60 in less than 6 seconds? Don’t get me wrong, I love driving and love having that power, but what good is it if many of us are stuck in traffic or have to drive under the watchful eye of law enforcement.

As gas prices steadily increase, do we need more powerful engines, even though they are more efficient? The automakers seem to think so. What about this thought….we just need more efficient engines. Better yet, let’s go all electric.

The debate has begun about which is better, the Chevy Volt or the Nissan Leaf. The Chevy Volt was designed to combat “range anxiety” because in addition to the battery power, it has a conventional engine. On the other hand, the Nissan Leaf is pure electric. Truth be told, on most days, how many of us will actually exceed the Leaf’s 100 mile range? Of course, there will be occasions where you might want to drive between San Diego and Los Angeles where the Leaf’s 100 mile range will be inadequate, so I understand when people think the Leaf is a good idea, but the Volt suits their lifestyle better. What about keeping your existing car and using that as your long distance hauler.

Sure there are not enough charging stations just yet, but the infrastructure will come. With the amount of investment being made in electric vehicles, I’m sure the range will increase. But do we really need a combination gas electric vehicle? Is “range anxiety” just a marketing scam? Where would we be if GM had not crushed the EV1? We’ve come full circle in a sense. Now the question is how to move out of the circle and carve out a more sustainable path?

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About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

1 Comment

  1. We’ve still got a very long way to go before electric cars can compete with conventional ones. That’s the nature of fossil fuels – their high energy density. Great article all the same.

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