Driving With The Stars
February 27, 2013 by John Myers
“If I am your president, the first thing I would put into motion is that 10 years from the day I take office, no new car made in America is run on the internal combustion engine.” — George Clooney as Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Morris, in the 2011 movie “The Ides of March”
Many of the biggest names in Hollywood were out in full force Sunday at the Academy Awards. Many adopt highfalutin causes the way Madonna and Angelina Jolie adopt children. An important cause among the rich and famous is saving the Earth. Movie moguls’ and stars’ favorite tools for saving the Earth are electric cars, such as those that were on display at Global Green USA’s annual pre-Oscar party.
Lots of B-list stars were on hand at this year’s event, including Ed Begley Jr. from the early 1980s TV show “St. Elsewhere.” Begley arrived in his black Chevy Volt.
Greencarreports.com reported: “Stars and green cars are nothing new–several have admitted to owning Toyota Prius in the past, while others have been spotted in Tesla Roadsters or Fisker Karmas.”
Excuse me, but I don’t like to be lectured how I should live my life from multimillionaires whose abuse of sex and drugs would prohibit their entrance into the gates of Sodom or Gomorrah. Besides, it is much more interesting to learn the opinion of one of the largest car manufacturers, Toyota, than it is to hear drivel from people whose basic job is to look good while pretending to be someone they are not.
Last fall, Toyota cancelled mass production plans of a soon-to-be launched eQ, which was to be a pure-electric variant of the Scion iQ.
“There are many difficulties,” Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s vice chairman, told Reuters in September, breaking ranks with other car companies that, for mostly public relations reasons, feel compelled to build and sell electric vehicles, also known as lemons.
Uchiyamada said, “The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge.”
Want a second opinion? Read this story published on Feb. 22 in the National Post under the headline “Electric Vehicles ‘20 To 30 Years’ From Mainstream Use.”
The Post interviewed Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, which outlines future trends for automobile manufacturers.
Rather than just focusing on the fact that batteries still have not come up with a reliable way to move people over any reasonable distance, DesRosiers criticized the lack of infrastructure to recharge electric vehicles while they are on the road.
“It isn’t getting the charging station out there, and it doesn’t matter how sophisticated the charging station infrastructure is,” he told the National Post. “You don’t have the battery technology developed enough to be able to quick-charge in a matter of five or 10 minutes. We could be decades away from that.”
DesRosiers concluded: “You can build a case for electric vehicles, but they’re 20 or 30 years out before they have any sort of volume.”
While DesRosiers is critical of the lack of EV service stations, The New York Times took dead aim at the electric car itself this month in a scathing test drive report. Published on Feb. 8, the headline in the Times read “Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway.”
It took John Broder five times longer to drive the Tesla Model S from Washington, D.C., to Boston than it would have taken him to travel in a conventional car. In addition, the trip was riddled with angst, including technical problems and emergency stops to charge the battery. It ended with the total failure of the car, which had to be put on a flatbed truck (a process made more difficult because the car’s parking brake would not release). Per “Tesla’s range-maximization guidelines,” Broder set the cruise control at 54 mph. The speed limit was 65. The $101,000 car had to go slow because its batteries were seriously running out of juice. Recharge times took up to an hour when Broder was able to find places on his carefully planned trip, which included troubleshooting calls with Tesla technicians in California.
Predictably, there has been a backlash by the Greens, and Tesla went so far as to criticize the driver while vindicating the car. It’s not the car’s fault; it’s the driver’s.
Personally, I do not want to spend a fortune on a car that cannot go as fast as my first car, a 1972 Ford Pinto. Whose genius did this start with? A famous celebrity who has gainfully played the role of President of the United States for the past four years.
The federal government has invested in the effort to find a solution. Three years ago, Steven Chu, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and secretary of energy, proudly announced a $465 million loan to Tesla as part of an advanced vehicles program intended to cut fossil fuel use and address global warming.
The loan to Tesla would “begin laying the foundation for American leadership in the growing electric vehicles industry,” Dr. Chu said.
On Feb. 1, Chu announced that he will not serve a second term as head of the U.S. Department of Energy. Apparently, Chu sees the end of the road is coming for his polices, and he wants a quick getaway. My guess is that he will not be taking it in a Tesla.
And don’t expect President Barack Obama or the first lady and their entourage to be traveling in electric limos. For one thing, such vehicles are too heavy to be moved by a puny electric engine. Even if the horsepower existed, it would not be reliable or safe transportation. They are what the rest of us should drive, however.
Yours in good times and bad,
Myers’ Energy and Gold Report