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Week of 6.9.06

Viewers Speak Out About "Who Killed the Electric Car"

Paul Scott, an electric car driver and advocate, responds to viewers' feedback on "Who Killed the Electric Car" (6/23/06)

Every study conducted to determine the "well-to-wheels" pollution of electric vehicles (EVs) vs. gas vehicles shows conclusively that even if charged from the national grid, EVs are much cleaner than gas cars.

The pollution from our electric grid is reason to work to clean the grid. It is not a reason to ban EVs. Why is it OK for you to use dirty grid power to run your homes, but it's not ok to use the same power source for propelling your car? EVs get cleaner as the grid gets cleaner. Gas cars only get dirtier as they age.

And EVs are the only vehicles that allow you to drive 100 percent pollution free. Most of us who have EVs here in California also have solar systems on our houses generating clean power that we use for both our homes and our cars. Using solar to offset $3/gallon gasoline is very cost effective. For instance, I have a 1500 sq ft home in Santa Monica with a 3 kW PV system. We generate enough power from this system to run our house and car for the whole year. Our bill last year was $48.95. This was for the house and car. We haven't been to a gas station in over 3 years.

There are EVs are on the road today that travel over 300 miles on a charge. However, you really only need about 150 miles of range to satisfy 95 percent of all daily driving. Anything beyond that can be accomplished with a "plug-in hybrid", essentially a combination of an EV with a hybrid.

"Who Killed the Electric Car" prompted many viewers to write in with questions and comments. We welcome and encourage your point of view! (6/16/06)

Dear NOW,

I just watched the show on electric cars and I cannot believe that you didn't once mention the issue of electricity generation! It's simple thermodynamics -- we don't get energy from nothing. "Electric" cars are ultimately coal, oil, or nuclear cars. Here in the northeast we have brownouts when everyone turns on their air conditioning on the same hot summer afternoon. What would happen if we all plugged in our cars as well?

There may well be advantages to centralized power generation (pollution control perhaps) over individual internal combustion engines, but all in all, electric cars are far from the panacea that NOW implied.

Howell Bosbyshell
Elverson, Pennsylvania.

Dear NOW,

Obvious question about the electric car: If it would have worked, why isn't it operating in Europe, where it costs as much for a liter of gasoline as it does here for a gallon? Ditto Japan. Neither place has any oil to speak of, particularly Japan. A conspiracy theory might work for General Motors and Ford, but what interest has Toyota or Hyundai in supporting Exxon and Shell? This isn't a criticism, mind you, and I wish there were electric cars, but it seemed a question just begging to be asked that I didn't hear Brancaccio asking.

David Richter
New York, NY.

Dear NOW,

Promoters of electric cars don't ever seem to discuss how the cars will work for people who don't have two-car garages where they can plug in. What about those of us who live in 'garageless' apartments, or who live in cities and park on the street, or who just live in small houses without garages or outside electrical access. I've long been interested in electric cars, but until the gasoline-electric hybrids, I didn't know how to make it work for me.

Wanda Junkins
Irving, Texas

Dear NOW,

I just watched your show about who killed the electric car. I intently waited to see if two aspects were ever mentioned. The first item was range. Very, very briefly it was mentioned that you could only drive from NY to DC. No note that you would have to plug it in overnight before you could continue with your trip. We are generally accustomed to more than 200 miles a day when we are traveling. If the car was used only to commute to work, fine, but for other travel we need a second car. The other item never mentioned was how do we make the electricity to charge the batteries to run the pollution free cars? Say that if by some miracle every car in America converted to electric tomorrow. We would still have to import the same amount of fuel to run electric plants to charge those batteries.

Raphael Coia
Newington, Connecticut

Dear NOW,

Your show about the electric car was very interesting, but the all-electric car was presented as if it were a pollution-free alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles. An important balancing factor was omitted, which is that most electricity in the United States is produced by combusting coal, which has serious pollution problems of its own, most notably its strong contribution to global warming. In addition, transmission losses cut the efficiency of the electric car, as do losses in charging and discharging batteries. Your story would have been more balanced if it had directly compared, say, the contribution to global warming of electric cars with that of gasoline-electric hybrids.

Alan Eckert
Santa Fe, New Mexico