Turning the U.S.S. Titanic
By Bill Moore
I had a very interesting conversation with a gentlemen in Italy yesterday, via Skype. He expressed both his astonishment and admiration for how relatively quickly America seems to be reasserting a leadership role in the development of electric car technology, a shift epitomized by GM's commitment to develop the Chevy Volt E-Flex electric car, which Co-Chairman Bob Lutz just reiterated at the Geneva International Car Show this week by telling the press, "Competitors who write this off as a PR exercise are going to be brutally surprised."
The gentleman in Italy likened it to turning the Titanic "on a dime."
Well, I don't know if I'd go that far. The Big OEM's like GM still have a long ways to go here as the surreptitious photos taken of the Volt by Darryl Siry indicate. What's actually under the hood of the Volt concept car is a bit disappointing, but then that's to be expected, I suppose. It is, after all, just a concept car and GM isn't going to give away any secrets this easily. That didn't prevent Ford from earlier pointing out that their Edge plug-in hybrid does, in fact, actually work.
What really brought home this incredible shift in policy was a hearing, also held yesterday, by the United States Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, now under the leadership of Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat.
The committee had called a very interesting panel of experts to testify on what the Congress needs to do to better foster the development of alternative energies and reduce our dependence on foreign oil imports. The panelists included: Elon Musk, John Denniston, Dan Reicher, and Michael Liebreich, the latter a business associate of EV World contributing editor, Josh Landess. Mr. Musk is the Chairman of the Board as Tesla Motors, the electric car company, which just announced it was locating its "White Star" electric sedan production in New Mexico.
Unfortunately, I only caught the very last of the testimony before the Senators started asking the panel various questions about government incentives, coal-to-liquid technology and where research dollars need to be focused. It was the very first question that prompted me to hastily and belatedly set up the digital recorder to capture Musk, Denniston and Reicher's response to Senator Bingaman's inquiry as to the state of battery technology. The Senator specifically referred to plug-in hybrids and electric cars.
The MP3 audio above is just over four minutes in length and begins about half-way through Mr. Musk's reply. He is followed by Denniston and then Reicher.
The fact that we are now hearing plug-in hybrids, electric cars and batteries being discussed in such high profile federal bodies is encouraging and as the gentleman in Italy noted, would be tantamount to turning the Titanic, maybe not "on a dime", but maybe a dollar. My thanks to Josh Landess for giving EV World a heads up on this committee meeting.