Bomford, Andrew. “How Environmentally Friendly Are Electric Cars?” BBC News. BBC, 04 Nov. 2013. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22001356>.
This article addresses the assumption that electric cars are always environmentally friendly. It raises concerns about the “greenness” of electrical cars, including how electric vehicles and their batteries are manufactured, and how we generate electricity that is used to power electric cars. The article cites a study by Norwegian scientists that has concluded that “in some circumstances electric cars can have a greater impact on global warming than conventional cars.” This points to an important point when discussing electric cars and their environmental effects: we must pay attention to our electricity grid and how “clean” it is or isn’t. Both car production–including the battery because energy is needed to manufacture lithium-ion batteries– and of course in powering the car. In terms of powering electric vehicles, generating power through coal is the most polluting way to create electricity for the cars, and thus damages the environmental friendliness of electric vehicles. These ambiguous environmental effects may affect consumer adoption of electric cars.
Calef, D., & Goble, R. (2007). The allure of technology: How France and California promoted electric and hybrid vehicles to reduce urban air pollution. Policy Science, 40: 1-34.
The paper compares the emission-related legislation and regulations, especially those regarding electric vehicles, in California, U.S. and in France during the 1990s. This is closely linked to the Shnayerson book and provides another layer of background to the story around GM’s EV1. Also, a number of data used in the article will be helpful road signs to finding more up-to-date data along the same path. It also discusses meaningful lessons for future policy development regarding electric vehicles.
The article states that while the Californian legislation process (namely the 1990 California Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate, which required production of zero-emission vehicles of major manufacturers) engaged substantial participation from public, media, academia and interest groups and triggered much contest from the automobile and oil industries, the French process (the 1996 Loi sur l’Air et l’Utilisation Rationelle de l’Energie/Law on the Air and the Rational Use of Energy, as reaction to the 1994 ERPURS Project) was non-adversarial but also less publicized. The authors argue that the Californian version was more successful than the French one, but neither have been able to lead to mass production and consumption of electric vehicles.
Etacheri, Vinodkumar, et al. “Challenges in the development of advanced Li-ion batteries: a review.” Energy & Environmental Science 4.9 (2011): 3243-3262.
This article is written from the perspective of the electrochemistry community regarding the development of the Li-ion battery. The article explains the importance of the development of the Li-ion battery vis-à-vis the energy challenges the world is facing today. The development of batteries “that can store sustainable energy with long term stability, very prolonged cycle life” and that meets “environmental constraints” is essential to the widespread use of electric vehicles. In order to reduce gasoline use, the propulsion of cars must be based more thoroughly on electrical power. The challenge that the article discusses is how electrochemists can ensure that these batteries contain more energy. Only when the batteries providing cars with propulsion power are able to contain enough energy will transportation be freed from dependence on petrol. The article outlines the various advancements that have been made by the electrochemists to develop batteries that can support reliable long-distance driving for fully electric cars.
Garthwaite, Josie. National Geographic, “Range Anxiety: Fact or Fiction?.” Last modified 2011
The article reviews the history of range anxiety as well as some of the modern solutions that enthusiasts, governments, and companies are implementing to assuage consumer angst. One of the perils of electric car ownership is range anxiety, the feeling that a person driving an electric car will be stranded with a dead battery without a way to charge their car. Although most modern electric cars have much stronger batteries and reliable sensors for indicating low battery status, many consumers are still worried about this issue. One method to assuage this fear is the deployment of fast charging stations with a “level 3 charger” that can charge a battery to 80% in 30 minutes at 440V, opposed to standard charging at 240V. Over 6000 level 2 and level 3 chargers were to be deployed by 2012. But what good are the chargers if no one knows where to find them? Enter PlugShare, a mobile application dedicated to helping electric car owners find public recharging stations.
Hasegawa, Yozo. Clean Car Wars: How Honda and Toyota Are Winning the Battle of the Eco-friendly Autos. Trans. Tony Kimm. Singapore: John Wiley & Sons (Asia), 2008. Print.
While this book mainly focuses on hybrid technology, it does discuss electric cars as another viable option for ‘clean’ cars. Hasegawa describes Mitsubishi’s in-wheel motors, powered by a lithium battery, as being a very effective way of controlling the amount of power directed to the wheels. Additionally, the lithium battery appears to be the best battery to use for electric cars because it provides almost twice the driving distance of a NiMH battery. Many companies, like Panasonic or Sanyo, that primarily focused on making batteries for appliances are now putting research and development into making rechargeable batteries for cars. Hasegawa is very convinced that “strong clean-car strategies and the technology they generate will, sooner rather than later, become the key determining factor of success and survival in the automotive world” (viii).
Kirsch, D. A. (2000). The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History. Piscataway, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.
The author examines the history of the electric automobiles and makes three main arguments in this book: I) Internal combustion emerged as the dominant technology only after the fact, as a result of the path dependent evolution of the expanding automobile market; II) Other alternative developmental pathways were available, such as a functionally equivalent transportation system organized around third-party service providers; there were many possible answers to the question “what is an automobile?”. III) There is no such thing as an environmentally friendly technology: the scale of the automotive technology system is its most salient and potentially hazardous characteristic. Overall, the author claims that current attempts to reintroduce electric vehicles will not succeed, unless service providers and users are willing to change the historically/culturally-bounded notions of what constitutes an automobile (“the logic of internal combustion”).
Kirsch, D. (1996). Technology, environment and public policy in perspective: Lessons from the history of the automobile. Technical expertise and public decisions proceedings. IEEE International Symposium on technology and society, Princeton, N.J., 21 June: 67-75.
This paper details the history of the automobile and its environmental effects in the United States. Kirsch discusses the negative environmental effects of gasoline powered automobiles that had become the norm in the twentieth century, replacing horse-drawn transportation. The article highlights the fact that the technological alternatives to gasoline powered automobiles, steam and electricity-powered cars, would have caused a “different set of environmental constraints” had they been the norm. This argument has implications for understanding the possible effects of the electric car if it does one day become adopted as a mainstream form of transportation. This article also goes into the electric car industry’s “search for the Holy Grail,” which is the super-battery, and the history of “blaming the battery” on the part of both supporters and opponents of the electric car. Kirsch holistically studies six factors “that contributed to the resolution of the technological battle between steam, gasoline, and electricity:” infrastructure, relative technology opportunity, prevailing social and cultural norms, failure of organized interests, institutions of the state, and the role of historical accident.
Mom, Gijs. The Electric Vehicle: Technology and Expectations in the Automobile Age. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2004. Print.
Gijs Mom spends a large part of the book tracing the early development of the electric car. He discusses the early technological developments and how they fit into the culture of the time. Mom argues that though neither the electric car nor the gasoline car had a clear advantage over the other when they first came onto the market, the electric car proved to have better advantages than the gasoline car. However, cultural, structural, and systemic factors, some of which still persist today, allowed the gasoline car to move ahead in the automobile market (page 276). Cultural factors included the perceived femininity of the electric car due to its easy operation, and because men were the main car purchasers, they gravitated toward gasoline cars. Structural factors included the limited energy of the battery, though a positive aspect of the structure of the car was the flexibility in the structure of the car. Systemically, the electric car failed because of the necessary density of the infrastructure necessary to charge the car. Gasoline stations could be built much farther apart from one another than electric car charging stations could.
Motavalli, Jim. ” The Truth About Electric Car Safety.” Mother Earth News. Published Summer 2012. http://www.motherearthnews.com/green-transportation/electric-car-safety-zkcz12zalt.aspx?ViewAll=True
After speaking with Neil Schuster about safety concerns of electric vehicles, we were prompted to investigate more in the history of the safety and the reliability of the cars themselves. This long form piece of journalism describes the concerns that many consumers have about the safety of electric vehicles. Concerns started in fall 2011, when a Chevrolet Volt caught fire during normal operation. Although the National Highway Traffic and Safety Organization found no fault with the car design, consumers were concerned about the implications of electric vehicle safety at their initial debut. The author addresses concerns about batteries leaking flammable and corrosive fluids as well as the potential for electromagnetic fields, all of which do not have well-established procedures for emergency personnel. Motavelli argues, however, that the safety precautions with electric vehicles are internalized to consumers anyways (don’t smoke near your car, for example) and that many companies are proactively approaching national safety councils and first responders to teach them how to handle electric car accidents. These special groups will need to be trained on the ways of dealing with an electric vehicle accident, but Motavelli argues that most consumers can be assured that electric vehicles are not any more dangerous than their gas counterparts.
Peckham, Matt. “Lessons Learned from the Tesla Motors-New York Times Dustup | TIME.com.” Time. Time, 26 Feb. 2013. Web. 18 Mar. 2013. <http://techland.time.com/2013/02/26/lessons-learned-from-the-tesla-motors-new-york-times-dustup/>.
Although there is a lot of cooperation between governments, media, and electric car manufacturers, sometimes these groups butt heads. Recently New York Times writer John Broder published an unflattering review of the Tesla Model S, to which Tesla Motor’s CEO Elon Musk responded with a blog post decrying the review, saying that it was “fake”. Musk referenced data about the car’s usage, from the average temperature to the location and speed of the car when it was making circles in a parking lot. This caused quite the commotion on social media outlets, where many people chose to pick sides on the issue. This Time article comments on Musk’s introduction of data-driven analysis and question the usage of social media outlets to vent frustration at the outcome of the NYT article. The author claims that, while Broder may have been disingenuous, Musk was equally as bad as calling out Broder’s integrity in such a public forum. This article illustrates that, although cooperation does exist, often times the coexistence of different kinds of organizations leads to very different conclusions.
Shnayerson, M. (1996). The Car that Could: The Inside Story of GM’s Revolutionary Electric Vehicle. New York: Random House, Inc.
The book provides an insider story of GM’s EV1, the first mass-produced electric car of the modern era by a major manufacturer (1996-1999). Written in a fiction-style of narrative, it accounts for the development of the Impact (the prototype, 1990), how they overcame the technical obstacles (with prior experience and help of Alan Cocconi), how it motivated the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to mandate major carmakers to include emission-free vehicles in their productions (which led to these manufacturers developing such prototypes that later served as experience in the field), the beta-testing stage of the vehicle, and the debates and inconsistency inside the company itself (development vs. management). The book ends in 1995 with a happy ending, but three years after its publication, GM called back all the EV1s and destroyed most of them (They were leased out instead of sold) in 1999. In 2010 GM released the Chevrolet Volt, a hybrid car with a four-door design and reduced battery pack size compared to the EV1.
Wimmer, Engelbert, and Arun Muni. Motoring the Future: VW and Toyota Vying for Pole Position. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print.
This book discusses how Volkswagen will try to overtake Toyota as the number one car manufacturer in the world by comparing the production, research and development, and outreach of each company. In particular, the book speaks to our research about the components, production, and pros and cons of electric cars in the current car industry. Wimmer acknowledges the government and public interest in investing in alternative sources of fuel for cars given the concerns about environmental impacts of CO2 emissions and lack of security with oil resources. He also points out that a key advantage to electric cars is “their far superior energy utilization” because the electric motor is “far better at sending the energy [it has] saved down to the road and propelling the vehicle, being three times more effective here than gasoline motors” (242-243). However, there are two big obstacles to the reasonable expectations of putting electric cars on the market: high production costs and issues with the battery. The batteries are “too heavy, their life expectancy and range is low, and they are not yet particularly reliable” (244). Infrastructure for publically charging batteries is also underdeveloped at this stage in time, though there are several ideas for infrastructure and payment methods currently being developed.