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interview > eberhard > eberhard 4

Eberhard 4 (2:15)
Topic(s): Auto Industry / Efficiency / Electric & Hybrid
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Eberhard

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I got interested in the idea of the electric car somewhere in 2002, just because I was looking for my next car. And I thought about getting another sports car and buying another car that gets crummy gas mileage in this era of Middle Eastern wars and global warming and so on, it just seemed irresponsible. And I thought about buying one of the electric cars that were around—you still had some of them on the market—although pretty much you couldn't actually buy one as it turned out, or even lease one if what you wanted was not available.

And so I started getting interested more and more in the idea and, you know, the obvious question that comes up is "is the electric car really more efficient, does it really produce less C02 over its full driving cycle, you know, well-to-wheel energy consumption, than a gasoline car or other technologies that are on the market, or does it just move the problem to the power plant?" And that was, you know, a perfectly legitimate question that people ask me all the time and that I was asking in 2002.

To answer that question was actually not that easy. I did a fairly detailed well-to-wheel energy analysis where I looked at how much energy does it take to convert, for example, crude oil to gasoline and then get it into the tank of a car and then how many miles to the gallon does the car get? With electricity, you can look the various source fields, you can look at natural gas, coal, and say, "okay, how much force field does it take to produce electricity and then how much electricity does the car consume per mile?" You can say, "ok, how much natural gas per mile is that car consuming?" and you can measure its energy that way. And you can compare all kinds of cars that way. When you do that in-depth analysis it's surprising; the electric are dramatically better than everything else on the market, not just existing cars, but way better than, for example, hydrogen fuel cell cars. Way better than, um, bio-fuel cars and it was a real eye opener for me.

The sanity check on that math—you know, I did a lot of math on that—the sanity check, that is cost. How much actually does it cost per mile to drive that car? And you know our car is something like a penny a mile to drive and compare that to whatever you drive; it's a really big difference in price. So that was the beginning. I started off by saying "does that make sense?" at least from a technological perspective. Does it make sense to start a car company is a totally separate question.

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