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Commentary: Who Killed the Electric Car – Again?

Battery cars might meet expectations – if they could get a reliable source of power.

by on Aug.03, 2011

GM's EV1 was ahead of its time but more modern battery cars, like the Chevy Volt, may face the realities of a failing electric grid.

Who Killed the Electric Car?  Forget the movie of a few years back that pointed its finger at General Motors for crushing up all the old EV1 battery-electric vehicles.  The filmmaker recently released a sequel that actually praised GM for launching the new Chevrolet Volt plug-in.

In fact, I have a Volt parked in my driveway this week, tethered to an extension cord sucking up juice.  As I reported some months back, it’s a pleasant vehicle to drive and does pretty much what the maker promises.  When it can get power, that is.

The Inside Story!

I started this commentary a bit more than a week ago while sweltering in the 100-degree heat.  No, I’m not a glutton for punishment.  My home/office air conditioning was out – ultimately for four days – due to the latest in a seemingly endless series of blackouts courtesy of our local utility, DTE.  The computer still worked, thanks to an instant-on generator I had installed two years earlier.  At the time, I went for a system that wouldn’t be able to power my entire home because, heck, how often does the power go down?  During just the first six months after installation, it turned out, the answer was 13 – a baker’s dozen blackouts that ran anywhere from a half hour to several days.  Things haven’t improved much since then.

Which brings me back to electric vehicles.  Had I been driving the Volt a week back, I’d have been out of luck.  Well, stuck driving it in conventional mode.  A Nissan Leaf would’ve been stuck in the driveway entirely.  And that may reveal the single biggest concern about the current push for battery power.  True, the first generation of electric vehicles have their problems – high cost, limited range – but the real concern is the national infrastructure.  The grid simply isn’t ready to support a flood of electric cars all sucking off the energy teat.