We interrupt the irregularly scheduled blog for a special feature. The Autoblog! You may remember a similar feature from last year's New Zealand blog. This one is a brief history of electric cars taken from Autoblog.com
Way Back When
Today, true EVs (remember gas-electric hybrids don't count) are as rare as mint 57 Chevy's. It wasn't always so. Before the advent of the electric starter, patented by Charles Kettering in 1915, electric cars like the Baker Electric and others were familiar sights on American roads. There were even electric delivery trucks. The first electric taxis came to NYC way back in 1897. In 1900, there were 4,192 cars produced in the U.S. of which 28 percent were electric vehicles. EVs were especially favored by women drivers who found the gasoline car's hand crank starting undignified and too physically demanding (no offense to our modern women readers). Charles Kettering turned the tide in favor of the gasoline and diesel vehicles with his electric starter. Easy starting and the longer range of the gas and diesel vehicle finally carried the day and the car buying public has never seriously considered EVs since. Electric cars were relegated to the enterprising hobbyist.
Not So Long Ago
The oil crisis of the '70s renewed interest in non-petroleum fuels, including electricity. Component manufacturers and cottage industry EV builders thrived. As the semiconductor and computer industry progressed, so did EV technology. Several of these early manufacturers and kit builders have stood the test of time. One such is long-time mechanic and EV builder, Mike Brown's Electro Automotive. His "VoltsRabbit" kit is designed for a VW Rabbit donor car. It turns the Rabbit into the Energizer bunny. I've driven one on several occasions and can attest to its decent (read: not embarrassing) performance and 50-60 mile range in favorable conditions. I have a friend who owns and operates one here in Cleveland, Ohio. But a DIY kit car is a far cry from a professionally engineered, mass produced vehicle. Enter General Motors.
GM to the Rescue
GM's futuristic EV1 two-seat electric sports car was trotted out to great fanfare in 1999. It was a bold move by the normally conservative auto giant. All EV1s were leased, not purchased. Special home charging stations were required to charge the vehicle most efficiently. Owner loyalty and enthusiasm was off the charts. Check out this site. The small sales numbers (remember we're talking GM here) were the announced reason for GM pulling the plug on the EV1 in 2003. Diehard owners (no relation to Sears!) practically threw themselves in front of the tow truck when GM canceled their EV1 leases. The revolutionary electric cars with 75+ mile range and zippy 0-60 times were unceremoniously repossessed and crushed at GM's Desert Proving Grounds in Mesa, Arizona. Kind of the EV version of a "scorched earth" policy. EV enthusiasts, history buffs and conspiracy theorists should enjoy the upcoming documentary movie "Who Killed the Electric Car?". Sony Pictures Classics has scheduled the general release for late June 2006. Take a break from the lines at the DaVinci Code for a tale of modern day, alternative fuel intrigue.
Okay, sorry about that perfectly random intrusion... now back to your regular programming....
Nori and I went to an Indian classical dance performance which was really impressive. I may upload a short video clip so you can get a better idea of what it is.
I ran into Radaghast the Brown yesterday, a briefly mentioned colleague of Gandalf the Grey from Lord of the Rings, and we played some chess over chai. By the troubled look on his face you'd think the very fate of Middle-earth, or at least India, rested on his shoulders.