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"America's Car Show" Host Says Electric Cars Are D.O.A. Here On The Auto Channel - Originally Published 7/4/2010


SEE ALSO: Electric Vehicles-Solution or Diversion?
SEE ALSO: Electric Vehicles Unlikely Ever To Offer A Viable Alternative

Tom Torbjornsen, host of "America's Car Show" radio program answers questions from his listeners. (Listen to Tom's radio shows every Saturday and Sunday right here on The Auto Channel)

I hate to say ‘I told you so,’ but about three years ago I wrote an article entitled An Extreme Exercise in Futility. The article chronicled my adventure of riding in an electric powered Toyota RAV4 SUV. For my closing statement, I wrote:

“Battery powered vehicles with present battery technology are not a feasible form of transportation for the average consumer and, at best, they are an “Extreme Exercise in Futility!”

Let’s revisit the article briefly. My experience riding in the electric car was compliments of Denner Astyk, the Director of Repair Operations for Western New York’s DOT (Department of Transportation) facility in Orchard Park, NY. The RAV4 had all the amenities, such as ABS brakes, power steering, heated electric mirrors, heated electric seats, air conditioning, delay wipers, and AM/FM stereo cassette (virtually everything you would expect of a vehicle today). It had a stated driving range of about 70 miles before the battery would need recharging. This EV (Electric Vehicle) was extremely stable and “tight” on the road. And what a strange experience to hear no engine sounds! We decided to take the RAV4 on a 35-mile round trip. The RAV4 had respectable power; it was able to accelerate to 55mph from a standing stop at a reasonable rate, and it maneuvered well in traffic. It had even climbed inclines at a pretty good clip.

My skepticism about electric vehicles actually started to diminish when reality struck! (Allow me to side step for a moment to make a point.) For those of you who do not experience winters like we do in Western NY, you might not understand the basic NEED for heaters and defrosters. For example, have you ever faced ten inches of snow at six in the morning and (after locating your car) discovered that below the snow, your car was encrusted in two inches of ice? The need for an effective heater and defroster is obvious! Now that we all agree on this point, I shall move on with my story.

As I stated earlier, we were riding in a battery-powered vehicle that had many electrically powered options. So what happened to our stated driving range of 70 miles when we used these options (sparingly, may I add). You guessed it! A major decrease in mileage range! Because of the weather conditions that day, we needed to use the heater, windshield wipers, and headlights (I call that ‘reasonable use’). We settled for just the heater and skipped the rest. Even this energy draw resulted in severe decrease in the mileage range! To add insult to injury, the heater put out (at best) lukewarm air, so we decided to shut it off to conserve our precious energy and get us back to our destination. Perish the thought of using the radio or cassette player, seat heaters, electric mirrors, windshield wipers, or headlights. Then there are the necessary functions like the power steering and ABS brakes, all battery powered. So what happened to us? Luckily we did not stray far from home. This $46,000 vehicle carried Denner and I only 35 miles on 75% of a full charge! So much for the projected 70 mile range! I concluded that even the most stark, card carrying, tree hugging, environmentalist would not buy this vehicle for a paltry $46,000.00. These vehicles simply are not practical!

Fast forward to today.

The following press release from the Associated Press came out the week of April 21, ’03. For the sake of space, I will give you only the opening paragraph.

“SACRAMENTO, California (AP) -- State air regulators have weakened the nation's toughest auto emissions regulations, favoring cleaner cars over pollution-free vehicles that automakers have failed to mass produce. The California Air Resources Board voted 8-3 Thursday to call for large numbers of cleaner gas-burning vehicles, thousands of gas-electric hybrids and 250 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the next five years. The old rules, which effectively required automakers to produce battery-powered electric cars, was put on hold last year by a federal court. It would have required 10 percent of cars for sale this year -- about 100,000 -- be non-polluting. While the battery-electric vehicle showed promise when the first rule was passed 13 years ago, the board's latest vote officially endorses the fuel cell to power the nonpolluting car of tomorrow.”

The article goes on to further substantiate C.A.R.B.’s position and why they backed off on the ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) mandate with respect to battery powered vehicles.

The facts are that the battery technology is still in its infancy. The Manufacturing cost of these vehicles is much higher than Americans will pay, and the infrastructure for public/private charging stations is nonexistent! Face it: electric powered vehicles belong on a golf course! As I have stated in the past, at this point hydrogen powered fuel cells and hybrid technology are the most promising solution to lowering tailpipe emissions.

Okay kiddies, together (as Mr. Rogers would say): “Can you say electric cars are D.O.A?” That’s right, let’s all say it together again kiddies: “ELECTRIC CARS ARE DEAD ON ARRIVAL!” Hallelujah! Finally someone(s) in Washington and in the socialist state of California are seeing the light!

‘Til next time…Keep Rollin’

For more articles by Tom Torbjornsen, visit AMERICA’S CAR SHOW web site:

Tom Torbjornsen is an automotive expert of 37 years. An automotive journalist in good standing with the IMPA (International Motor Press Association), Tom is the Repair and Maintenance Editor for several websites.