Ignore the Luddites and Big Oil, It's Time to Switch to Electric Cars

Zap Xebra owner Shereen Sarick of Aspen has a second car, but she can't remember the last time she drove it.

Published: 13-Jun-2009

By Robert Weller

Zap.

Shereen Sarick, of Aspen, solved her transportation problems in one of the most expensive cities in the world with a locally made car that runs on a battery. It also has made her a real “eco-citizen” of the world.

“I can get the three kids, their backpacks and the dog in, and it’s never not gotten me as far as I wanted to go,” Sarick said. Her ZAP Xebra’s range on one charge is 50 miles. Just in case, she carries a 50-foot extension cord, but she has had to use it only once.

Sarick does have a second car, but she can’t remember the last time she used it.

I have to shake my head when I think of all the problems electric cars could help dramatically reduce, including global warming, dependence on Middle Eastern oil imports and urban noise. Engineers are talking about setting up ways that electric cars could return power to the grid when they are not being used.

It looks like the oil industry is headed back toward heyday prices. They may be cutting their own throats. Even scooter sales are up dramatically. Oil prices rose above $72 a barrel Wednesday.

In this century, the Goliath American manufacturing sector seems to be full of Luddites — the name used for people at the beginning of the industrial revolution who burned down factories to save jobs.

It is a role some automakers have played since they wrested the market from electric cars around 1920. The first electric cars were made by a Scottish entrepreneur in the 1830s. By 1920, Texas crude had become available at cheap prices, and internal-combustion cars were much cheaper. Bus companies and automakers bought up many trolley companies, ripping up their lines and burning their trains.

General Motors began building electric cars again in the 1990s but leased all of them and recalled and destroyed them when California backed off on tightening air pollution standards. The story is told in the movie Who Killed The Electric Car.

Now, they are catching on again, with the big players finally getting involved and smaller companies popping up all around the world. Even Aspen has had a company — Aspen Electric Cars – for three years.

As usual, Japan is ahead in the production of both hybrid and electric cars among major manufacturers.

Tesla Motors, named after genius inventor Nikola Tesla, delivered its 500th Roadster this month from its Southern California base. Costs range from $7,500 to about $200,000. It will expand from two California stores to a total of nine. The first three new ones will be in New York City, Seattle and Chicago. Tesla also plans to open stores overseas.

Potential buyers may have to wait and may be required to pay for a place in line with some manufacturers.

Newer models will have extended ranges, matching or even surpassing internal-combustion vehicles, as battery technology advances. Delays may be caused by government red tape. Some consumers may not feel safe, though all vehicles will be crash-tested.

Obviously, if a monster SUV hits a small electric car, the lil’ car will be more heavily damaged. But many regular cars also would be crunched more than the colossus vehicle.

With many cities and countries requiring higher mileage, the future of the SUV as the industry’s cash cow is likely over. Certainly, many people bought them because it made them feel better than the hoi polloi, down beneath them in regular cars. It was like being below the salt in medieval days while your betters had it right in front of them.

Governments will be providing incentives. Electric cars are tax exempt in Denmark, and the country is providing windmills with electric charger plugs.

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