Electric Cars: The Drive toward Fresh Air

By Bacard, Andre | The Humanist, May-June 1994 | Go to article overview

Electric Cars: The Drive toward Fresh Air


Bacard, Andre, The Humanist


No tune-ups. No corroded mufflers. No oil spills. No smog. Imagine a world without gasoline cars. Envision a planet with electric cars purring quietly and cleanly along our roadways.

What is the up-to-date status of electric cars? To answer this question, I visited US. Electricar, Inc., at its head, quarters in Sebastopol, California. U.S. Electricar has assembled roughly 50,000 electric vehicles since 1946. Sebastopol is a rural town north of San Francisco. As I entered the town, I was greeted by a sign: "Sebastopol: Population 7,000. Nuclear Free Zone." Sebastopol is celebrated mainly for its Gravenstein apple orchards and its relaxed life-style. I half expected to see horse-drawn carriages carrying its citizens to and fro.

U.S. Electricar gave me and a few high-school students a tour of its facilities plus a test ride in one of its electric cars. For years, the company's niche was retrofitting Ford Escorts and similar car models for electric propulsion. This means that U.S. Electricar replaced the gasoline engine, alternator, and supporting parts in a regular automobile with an electric engine. I surveyed one of their refurbished cars. Under the hood, I examined a few batteries, an electrical control box, and many wires. The engine area looked simpler and less congested than in my Toyota. Next I opened the trunk. To my surprise, it was a standard, roomy trunk. I had expected the trunk to be crammed with batteries, but it turns out that the batteries are stored mostly under the car. Remember that an electric car does not have an exhaust pipe or a muffler.

Five of us climbed into the car for a test drive. It was a cold day, but the engine started immediately. The car accelerated smoothly, even more gently than a conventional automatic transmission. As we motored up and down residential streets, one passenger noted, "This sounds like a spaceship." The engine emits a quiet whirling sound. It's easy to hear other cars, singing birds, or the radio, as the engine is so quiet. One challenge was to turn left and accelerate uphill into fast-moving traffic. The car performed beautifully. It can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in roughly 14 seconds. We continued onto a high, way, where we blended into the traffic flow at 55 miles per hour. "This car will make it," said one of the high-school kids, a car buff. "People have to like this car." I quite agree. Whoever has the idea that electric cars are glorified golf carts is simply misinformed.

Why doesn't everyone drive these cars? That is the question all five of us asked as we drove through town. Let's put this question - and possible answers - into historical, technological, and economic perspective. I am, of course, expressing my views - not necessarily those of any company.

Electric cars are, in fact, an old idea. They have been around for a century. At the turn of the twentieth century, 38 percent of American automobiles used electricity, 40 percent employed steam power, and 22 percent consumed gasoline. The world's fastest cars were battery-powered. In 1990, the First National Automobile Show was produced in New York. At this show, electric cars were praised for being "noiseless, odor, less, and free from smoke." Electric cars remained popular until the 1920s; even Henry Ford's wife, Clara, preferred to drive her clean and simple electric car.

Gasoline automobiles (and the internal-combustion engine which burns gasoline) took over the auto industry for three primary reasons: (1) in 1901, vast oil reserves were discovered in Texas; (2) in 1912, a viable electric starter for gasoline engines was introduced; and (3) Henry Ford decided to mass-produce gasoline-burning cars. Technologically, we still buy gasoline-powered cars because they provide high performance and can go long distances without refueling. Politically, we purchase gasoline cars because the auto industry from Detroit to Tokyo has high-performance lobbyists who can refuel political campaigns. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Electric Cars: The Drive toward Fresh Air
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.