California on verge of gutting goals for electric cars,
January 25, 2001 12:09 PM   Subscribe

California on verge of gutting goals for electric cars, Ed Begley Jr and the rest of California hangs collective heads in shame.
posted by jasonshellen (14 comments total)
Not that we would have the electricity for this these days, but I do think that we are in an interesting technological slump.

The automobile has been around for how long? We still can't buy cars with more than a 300 - 400 mile range and we are still burning non-renewable resources. Shouldn't California stick to their guns?
posted by jasonshellen at 12:15 PM on January 25, 2001

It was interesting to note at the end of that article the fact that electric cars are not that much cleaner than gasoline cars - and that California would derive far greater benefit from some kind of "buy back" program to rid their roads of pre-1980 automobiles that are the worst offenders.
posted by m.polo at 12:42 PM on January 25, 2001

First the dotcom implosion, then the failure of partial power deregulation, now this. Seems like all of Kalifornia's big ideas are amounting to squat. Emperor Norton has no clothes...
posted by MrBaliHai at 12:43 PM on January 25, 2001

I think it's a great idea to ditch electric cars in favor of gas-electric hybrid vehicles. If you read the article all the way to the bottom, you'll see that electric cars are just another Edsel, while the hybrids practically sell themselves.

The Toyota hybrid car gets 52 mpg (city!) has a 600 mile range on a single tank of gas. And runs almost as clean as a true electric car. All that for $20,000.

And this is bad news why?
posted by ratbastard at 2:09 PM on January 25, 2001

  1. Power companies push for deregulation
  2. Deregulation leads to power crisis
  3. Power companies get sweet taxpayer funded bailout to cover their asses
  4. Govt peddles long-term deals that give us power today, but screw taxpayers over in years to come
  5. Car companies use this corporate mess to kill regulations that would make a better, cleaner world
Well, I guess the corporations win again.
posted by fleener at 2:46 PM on January 25, 2001

Eh. It's not that simple, ratbastard. I'm a big fan of hybrids (I own a Prius: CAR! OF! THE FUTURE!) but they're still not true zero emissions vehicles. Plus, hybrids don't come anywhere near selling themselves, yet. I can't tell you how many times I'm asked whether or not I can take my car on long trips, whether I can take it to the car wash, whether it's even /safe/ to drive. Most people are very suspicious of electric and hybrid vehicles, and economic incentives are really the surest, fastest way to overcome that.

That said, a zero emissions rating doesn't take the grid into account, and in many regions, hybrids actually produce fewer emissions than their pure-bred counterparts. So.
posted by eamondaly at 2:49 PM on January 25, 2001

Why bad news? Because a hybrid car is still a car.
posted by gluechunk at 2:49 PM on January 25, 2001

Car wash? Huh? Do people expect that it will short out or what?

"Yeah, I can't take my car out in the rain... it kinda sucks."

I mean, do they not realize that normal cars use electricity, too?

Get a bumper sticker that says that your car has tendency to explode, often killing tailgaters.
posted by whatnotever at 3:35 PM on January 25, 2001

"Well, your car is constantly on fire while it runs."

"You mean, you have a petrol-powered television?"

and so on.
posted by holgate at 4:06 PM on January 25, 2001

And: the US really needs milkfloats.
posted by holgate at 4:10 PM on January 25, 2001

While we've strayed off-topic a bit, I'd like to throw my opinion on the original topic in here. Personally I think a better way to look at this problem is to decide what our goals are with this policy.

This 10% ZEV requirement seems a bit overbearing to me unless our goal is to sell more electric cars. But the real goals are to reduce emissions and save energy. Selling 10% ZEVs won't guarantee either of those goals. As consumer taste runs more and more towards bigger vehicles, like SUVs that expel much more pollutants than the average car, even if 10% of vehicles sold were ZEV it might not make a positive impact on overall emissions levels.

If we really want to reduce emissions levels and energy consumption, then the government (state or federal or local, whatever) should set standards that directly relate to those goals, and let the market hammer out the best ways of achieving them. If the government says, the average emissions level of all cars sold must be X. X probably should decrease each few years to further improve things. Then the auto companies can decide the best way to deal with the problem, with hybrids, or producing fewer SUVs, or whatever. If ZEVs are a part of their solution and the market can support that, great. If not, that's okay too. As time passes more and more vehicles may have to be ZEV or some other technology to meet the requirements.

But what's the point of a mandate that essentially says, as long as you sell 10% ZEVs, we could care less what the emissions are on the other 90% of your vehicles (I know that's not really the situation... there are many other emissions regulations in California)? If anything, this kind of government mandate sounds more like a favor to the companies that make components essential to ZEVs while simultaneously reducing the burden on the auto industry to improve their cars across the board. It's bad policy.
posted by daveadams at 8:41 AM on January 26, 2001

Article says "A decade ago, air board members jolted the auto industry and made national news when they required that 10 percent of all new cars sold by large automakers in California by 2003 be 'zero emission,' or electric."

Who says electric cars are zero-emission? That electricity has to come from somewhere -- namely from power generation plants that are by NO means zero emission. What's yer pleasure for the new power generation plants required when the world switches to electric cars? Nuke? or maybe coal-fired? Of all the people who've tried to sell me on the idea of electric cars, NONE has ever been able to answer my question whether a generation plant that can power X electric cars produces more, less, or the same emissions compared to X new gasoline-powered cars. There ain't no free lunch. Energy corrupts; unlimited energy corrupts without limit. (P.S. I moved to where I could walk to work.)
posted by jfuller at 11:15 AM on January 26, 2001

NONE has ever been able to answer my question whether a generation plant that can power X electric cars produces more, less, or the same emissions compared to X new gasoline-powered cars.

This surprises me. It seems like you should be able to get a vast economy of scale from generating power at a centralized power plant. I mean this not only in terms of price and efficiency, but also in terms of pollution; I believe there are a lot of pollution controls that are more effective for one centralized plant than a bunch of individual engines. Still, I wish I had some numbers to back up those beliefs.
posted by harmful at 11:55 AM on January 26, 2001

This surprises me. It seems like you should be able to get a vast economy of scale from generating power at a centralized power plant.

You would think so, but there are also vast inefficiencies in power-distribution. You lose a certain amount of power for every mile you send it over the wire so you have to massively overproduce. Chemical batteries also have their inherent inefficiencies; a good portion of the current you put into them to charge them is wasted as heat.
posted by kindall at 12:08 PM on January 26, 2001

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