Sunday, July 23, 2006

Who Killed the Electric Car?

It's been that kind of a summer. A summer full of environmental movies. Recently I saw An Inconvenient Truth. Yesterday I saw Who Killed the Electric Car?. The story of the EV-1, the movie explains the history of the car, the motives behind it, and its eventual demise. The finger for its demise is pointed a number of suspects: consumers who want big cars with long ranges; oil companies who want to control access to the fuels we use in automobiles and hence the profits; carmakers who don't want to be told by governments what kind cars to build; and government agencies who don't have the courage to lead or are hand-in-glove with the big carmakers and the oil companies.

The movie points out that big advances have been made in the science of electricity storage. Meanwhile, the technology that I confess I had been so hopeful for for so long, hydrogen fuel cells, is demonstrated to still be a long way off. There are problems with making it economical, placing the infrastructure to deliver hydrogen fuel to automobiles, and then of course, there's the problem of getting people to adopt the technology in the first place, which as the EV-1 demonstrated, is no mean feat. It's easy to see why the automobile manufacturers would be backing hydrogen fuel technology: it's going to take years to realize, which is just that much longer for them not to have to make any real changes; and for the oil manufacturers, it represents a fuel that they can still hold over our heads, something not readily available to the average person... unlike electricity, which comes directly to our homes through the electrical grid that has existed for a century.

But then, is electricity such a bargain in the first place? The movie doesn't directly addresses this with facts and figures. But I have to suspect, at least is an unqualified layman, that all things considered, it must take less electricity to get an electable car from point A to point B, than it takes to bring the oil out of the ground, transport it to a refinery, refine the oil, and deliver the gasoline to gas stations. I think on the whole, we come out ahead just using electrical cars.

All things considered, I will be keeping an eye out for a viable electrical car in the future. The movie made the point that the average car travels 29 miles in a day. The range of the EV-1 is in the neighborhood of about 100 miles a day, which would suit the needs of most people. It's also capable of traveling at 90 miles an hour, which is more than adequate for most driving needs. I think we all owe it to posterity to consider this alternative... if only it will be presented to us. The big car manufacturers are wrong in saying that there's no demand for this. That they do not want there to be demand for such cars is not the same thing as there being no demand for these cars; they just need to listen, rather than tell.


Just as an aside, this is a very first entry in my blog that I've actually dictated with my voice, using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8. I'm in love with the sound of my own voice. :)


Marcy said...

Hmm, I'm intrigued with the voice-recognition software. Is it expensive? I'd rather talk than type, myself.

Do you have to tell it to put the punctuation in? Or do you go back and edit it yourself?

Lone Primate said...

Hi, Marcy, welcome aboard. :) I picked up Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8 for $149 Canadian. Version 9 just came out for $199 US, but I'll take the bargain. Seems to work pretty well; I'm slowly training it. I have to go back and edit stuff for spelling mistakes even when I type, so why not just save myself the time and typing? I think as time goes on it will become more accurate.

Punctuation... they have an autopuncutation feature that will automatically insert commas and periods, keyed to your natural voice cues. I don't bother with it. I write a fair amount of fiction, and if I'm going to have to get in the habit of saying "open quote" and "semi-colon" and "exclamation point" anyway, I might as well be my own guide for periods and commas.

As far as editing goes, I'm really counting on it just to get my basic thoughts down quickly and easily. When I feel like I've got a good critical mass, I figure I'll go back and brush it up manually. The thing I find hardest is just getting rolling with the ideas. If I can just babble them out and rough it in, I feel I can finesse the broad strokes later.

L-girl said...

Voice-activated software was supposed to put Allan and I out of work. Fortunately, it either never developed enough, or wasn't worth the bother for law firms, since everything would have to be edited anyway.

I know lots of people with disabilities who use it, though, with great effect. Dragon seems to be the preferred app.