“The future of the electric automobile depends on the development of a practical battery with a useful range, something that so far has eluded engineers. One using nickel metal hydride may be the answer. This is a new battery, which is non-toxic, environmentally green, and requires no maintenance. The nickel metal hydride battery satisfies almost all the requirements for an intermediate battery for electric vehicles set by the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium, a Department of Energy-headed group consisting of Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, and the Electric Power Research Institute.” (Kennedy, 2008, p.51)
In recent years, many top car manufacturing companies in the United States have started manufacturing cars that utilize electric power as opposed to gasoline. Manufacturers such as GM, Nissan and Ford have already announced their electric car models which will hit the roads in the near future. GM’s Chevy Volt which debuted in January of 2007 is described as a sleek, environment friendly car. It is designed as an ‘extended-range’ electric car that, “after charging its battery pack overnight via a standard wall outlet, can be driven up to 40 miles powered by electricity alone. That’s just about the maximum distance 78% of Americans drive in a given day, according to a 2003 U.S. Bureau of Transportation survey. For drivers travelling beyond that range, a gas generator kicks in to power the electric motor. In that scenario the Volt will get around 50 miles per gallon, compared to 46 mpg for the Toyota Prius, the Japanese automaker’s existing game-changer” (Kennedy, 2008, p.51). Ford has also announced its Focus line of electric cars that are due to be inaugurated in 2011. Nissan is slated to release its EV-02 model in the near future as well. The EV-02 is “capable of charging overnight from a 220-volt outlet, the EV-02 will probably have a top speed of about 85 mph and a 100-mile range. The boldest claim is that it will cost no more than your average compact car, which is less than $30,000”. (Fletcher, 2009, p.17)
Developments such as these are encouraging in terms of the future of our environment. But given the recent global economic crisis some of these plans may not come through. Already, the news of GM’s bankruptcy is a major setback for the prospect of electric car. Added to this the powerful oil companies in the United States have deployed lobbyists in the House of Representatives and the Senate to enact legislations that are favorable to their industry. Such pressure tactics could further setback the electric car future. Already there have been instances when electric car marketing efforts were rolled back and terminated due to pressure from vested interest groups. The documentary film ‘Who Killed the Electric Car’ records this event, where toward the late 1990s, an array of electric car and hybrid models were recalled from the automobile market due to pressure from oil companies and other vested interests. (Bradley, 2000, p.24)
Given the gravity of environmental problems that we face, policy makers have to remember that issues such as environmental degradation, polluted air, global climate change, neo-liberal capitalism, etc are all intricately linked to one another. Hence a radical alternative economic model to the prevailing neoliberal globalism should be sought out and implemented. At the centre of this new economic model would be the principle of sustainability, which would embrace and promote renewable energy sources while at the same time relegating the stature and consumption of oil. Until such a drastic transformation comes about in the near future, the future of our environment and our species, let alone the future of electric car, is at jeopardy.
“Alarm in ‘Electric Car’; Some Optimism, despite Cool Public Industry.” The Washington Times 21 July 2006: D02.
Ayres, Robert U., and Ed Ayres. “A Bridge to the Renewable Energy Future: Renewables Are Coming Fast. in the Meantime, Here’s a Largely Overlooked but Potent Way to Minimize Fossil Fuel Use and the Damage It Causes.” World Watch Sept.-Oct. 2009: 22+.
Bradley, Robert L. Jr. “Electric and Fuel-Cell Vehicles Are a Mirage.” USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education) Mar. 2000: 24.
Fletcher, Seth. “Electric Cars Charge Ahead.” Popular Science Aug. 2009: 17.
Kennedy, Sean. “Plugged In: Can General Motors’ Innovative Electric Car-Coming to You as Early as 2010-Live Up to the Hype? Sean Kennedy Looks under the Hood of the Chevy Volt.” The Advocate 6 May 2008: 50+.
“New Battery for Electric Cars.” USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education) Aug. 1993: 13.