I recently had a poll regarding what people's opinions were on the "car of the future". I do realize that it's likely that our SOV mode of transportation may be at an end, or very likely, supplanted by an admixture of personal transportation (car, bicycle, foot) and public transportation.
I also recently watched, Who Killed the Electric Car, and learned a bit about the viability of the hydrogen fuel cell and the marketing machine behind it. Hence the poll. I wanted to get an idea of what people's impressions were of the alternative vehicles on the horizon.
So, I was a little saddened to see that a good 31% of respondents (out of 112 at this writing) thought that hydrogen fuel cells (HFC) were the way to go. Not that I can say anything negative of those who voted that way - that's not my intention and, frankly, up until a few weeks ago I didn't know squat about any of this. Which is why I feel like sharing this movie with y'all.
Car manufacturers have basically killed off their electric vehicle programs, citing that the battery technology was insufficient. Unfortunately (or fortunately), this is incorrect. The battery technology exists, it's just not being used by the major manufacturers. Why, you ask? Because Chevron (Cobasys) owns the patents to the battery technology and has been mostly unwilling to sell the batteries.
Another reason cited by the car manufacturers was that they claimed there was no demand for their electric cars in spite of having waiting lists. The actual reasons are probably still debatable, but let me share at least what I picked up as the reasons why car manufacturers and big oil don't like electric cars.
Actually, let me back up and just mention why car manufacturers like Honda and General Motors even developed them in the first place. California. Back in the 90s, California passed the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate. Several car manufacturers started making electric vehicles to meet this mandate, leasing them to consumers to "test" them out. In the meantime, California was being sued by big oil, car manufacturers and the Bush administration so they couldn't enforce the mandate. As a result, the state's air resources board backed down on forcing manufacturers to produce a ZEV if they wanted to do business in California.
Subsequently, the car manufacturers killed their electric car programs and then went about recalling the vehicles they had leased out as part of the program and destroyed them all (save for a few that went to museums). In spite of the fact that the people leasing the cars were willing to purchase them outright.
Now, why doesn't big oil like the electric car? Well, there are still trillions of dollars of oil profits to be made, so why encourage consumers to stop buying it? With electric cars, energy can come from a myriad of sources, least of which is oil. Makes sense, no?
And, why don't car manufacturers like electric cars? What difference does it make to them as long as they can sell them? In order to sell cars, manufacturers have dealerships. And dealerships make a big chunk of their profits from.... maintenance. That's right. Well, with the electric car there's little maintenance. No oil changes, no complicated machinery. Just pump up and rotate the tires every now and again. I'm sure there are other reasons, like being in bed with big oil, but suffice it to say, they seem not interested in electric cars for a variety of reasons.
Damn, this is getting long.
Anyway, HFCs are being pushed as the next bestest thing by car manufacturers and the oil industry. Why the hydrogen fuel cell? Well, perhaps oil companies can supplant their profits by switching over to this "new" energy source and replacing their gas stations with HFC fueling stations. This makes the consumer still dependent on big oil (or big hydrogen?) for transportation rather than just charging up your car at home.
Of course, this assumes that the technology will ever become available. Ha ha ha. I'm kidding, right? No, we're still looking at a technology that is potentially decades off, if at all. In the meantime, let's all buy some more gasoline until we run out. Or until the profits run dry. It's a case of bait and switch.
There are a lot more details that I'm obviously not covering. If you want more information about all this and aren't impressed by my slip-shod reporting, I urge you to watch the movie or read the book, Plug-in Hybrids (I haven't read it but it's worth checking into).