Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Washington Post shows pro-electric car, anti-business bias

I used to read articles and think I was getting the truth. I used to think I was getting an honest unbiased view of the topic at hand. Why did I think this? Because the news media told me so. Then one day I knew more about the automotive industry than they did and the fig began to lift. More and more I saw things being slanted, overlooked, misrepresented or out right lies in seemingly mundane articles on cars and the industry.

The last straw was the media driven witch hunt on GM's side saddle gas tank pick up trucks. It came to an end when Dateline was found to have falsified their safety tests of the trucks. Seems that the trucks everyone in the media knew to be unsafe weren't leaking gas and exploding when wrecked and so Dateline reacted to this discovery not by breaking a news story that the media is on a witch hunt after trucks that are actually quite safe but instead loaded their test trucks with TNT and blew them up with remote triggers to prove they were unsafe. Now I can't find an article in the main stream media that isn't full of lies and bias.

In the latest piece to get me fired up we have want seems to be a simple article on GM ending the EV1 electric car program but it might as well have been written by a committee made up of battery industry wonks and envirofacsits. I'm going to rip this apart Misha style...

Instead of roaring with power and guzzling gas, his car whispered along on rechargeable batteries. But make no mistake, Dibner's all-electric GM coupe could zoom away from a stoplight with drag-strip speed.

BULLSHIT. The EV1 does 0-60 in 8.5 seconds. For those of you that are not "into cars" that puts the EV1 in a league that is only slightly faster than your average minivan. The EV1 is almost a full second slower to 60mph than a V6 equipped Chevrolet Malibu and 2 full seconds slower than the Nissan Altima 3.5. Exactly how can you say a car that would get smoked by midsized family sedans has, "drag-strip speed"? You are either a liar or completely uninformed on the topic you are writing, both condemnations of the Post.

He was saving money on fuel, causing no pollution and "driving the coolest, sexiest, most interesting car on the road," said Dibner, a bassoonist with the San Francisco Symphony

causing no pollution? Again... BULLSHIT. There might not be a tailpipe to sniff but that electricity didn't come from heaven. It came from a big ugly nuclear/coal/fuel oil power plant creating loads and loads of pollution. And what are you going to do with the batteries? Lead/Acid, Ni/Cad, Potasium/Sulfur, Lithium, etc. You'll have 50 times the car batteries to throw into land fills than today. Sounds like no pollution to me! Also note the quote heaping praise upon the EV1 by an owner.

Automakers say that electric vehicles cost too much to manufacture and that batteries will never provide as much driving range as a full tank of gas... But scientists who have spent careers working on batteries say the auto industry is retreating just as progress in battery technology is finally pushing toward a breakthrough.

Here the author paints the picture that right as things are getting better they are pulling out. But there have been scientists claiming the the "Battery Breakthrough" since the end of WWII. In 1990 when CARB (California Air Reasources Board) created the ZEV law. A law that stated by model year 2000 car manufacturers where to have 3% of total sales be ZEV's (Zero Emission Vehicles: which CARB only classified as electrics) with it going up to 10% by 2003. They stated that their law was going to force auto makers to make the long awaited, "Battery Breakthrough", in effect attempting to mandate technological advance.

Some of us still believe in electric drive and pure battery power," said Robert C. Stempel, the former GM chairman and chief executive who helped start the EV1 program. Forced out in the early 1990s, Stempel now runs a company that develops batteries and alternative automotive technology.

Nice. A quote from Stempel who was forced out of GM in a boardroom coup, has an axe to grind and is working for the battery industry. Any interviews with current GM staff? Of course not.

The EV1's rear wheels were set closer together than the front, creating a teardrop shape with little wind resistance. Combined with new lightweight materials and electronic controls, the design overcame battery limitations to result in a vehicle that could go roughly 100 miles on a two-to-four-hour charge.

Overcame limitations? BULLSHIT. Sorry but a car that can only go 90 miles in perfect conditions on a flat surface at a constant speed and then needs hours to refuel seems awfully God dam limited to me. And what's with "roughly 100 miles"? The reality is that it got about 75 miles on a charge in the beautiful weather of southern California. In the north in cold weather with the heat on you'd be lucky to get 30 miles on a charge (that's why they were never sold outside of fair weather SoCal). Yet the author states "roughly 100 miles" implying much higher numbers. I wonder what the author would have said had the EV1 been able to run 101 miles, "well in excess of 100 miles" perhaps?

It also had no gears to shift and delivered full power instantly, so the EV1 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds -- comparable to some Mustangs and performance cars.

BULLSHIT As I stated earlier mundane family sedans can eat an EV1 up and yet now it's on par with "some" Mustangs and performance cars. Those "some" Mustangs must be the gutless 4 cyl. models from 20 years ago and there is not a performance car that is 8.5 seconds to 60mph. Your name can be Ferrari but if you are that slow to 60 you are not performing well enough to be a "performance car".

Car companies -- and the oil industry -- fought California's electric-car mandate "every way you can think of," said Jerry Martin, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board.

Nice. A quote from a bitter member of CARB that had the hubris to think they could "mandate" technological breakthroughs and needs to point the blame. The ZEV law didn't fail because it was a bad idea... NO! It failed because the evil automotive and oil industries stopped it. I'm still waiting for a quote by someone that doesn't have a vested interested in making the EV1 look like an angel. Waiting...

"There is that whole collection of business interests that certainly don't want to see the gasoline-powered car disappear," said historian Charles Hyde, a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. "I have a gut feeling that if electric cars really became more and more viable, you'd suddenly start to see gasoline prices really go down, to keep people in tow."

Nice. Now we get a flat out conspiracy theory quote. And just who in the hell is Charles Hyde and what the fuck does he have to do with this debate? I didn't realize electric cars where a field of study by historians.

"My wife and I both loved that car. It was the best car we ever had, for sure," said former EV1 driver Tom Dowling, 66, a retired bank worker from Folsom, near Sacramento.

Nice. Yet another quote by an EV1 adoring owner. Still waiting for that non EV1 loving quote. Just one.

But GM executives viewed the cars as a liability. One industry official said each EV1 cost the company about $80,000, including research and development costs; leasing them out at $350 a month was a money-losing proposition. Building the EV1 was "so prohibitively expensive that to continue to market them at that level was financially untenable," said Chris Preuss, GM spokesman

WOW! Looks like I got my one quote. Oh, and that $80,000 price tag for an EV1 doesn't include the $1 billion spent in development.

Burns, the GM research chief, said the company simply can't wait around for battery technology to improve. While there may be thousands of people who would be happy to overlook an EV1's limitations, he said, "you've got to get on a pathway where you can be thinking millions and tens of millions of vehicles."

Oh no, 2 quotes that counter the slant. Perhaps I was hasty to judge.

"Lithium [ion batteries] will eventually be found to be the good substitute for gasoline-powered cars," MacCready said... Lighter and more durable than their predecessors, lithium ion batteries have not yet been scaled up to car-battery size, but AC Propulsion has found a way around that. The San Dimas-based company, whose founder, Alan Cocconi, developed electric drive technology for the EV1, has built a car called the Tzero that's packed with 6,800 tiny cell phone batteries.

6,800 cell phone batteries? That's what, $250,000 in consumer costs based on current cell phone battery costs. That's so pie in the sky it shouldn't even be mentioned.

"I think the battery technology is already there, as far as being practical for a typical commuter car," Takamura said. "It is really more of a costing issue. Without people actually going out there and buying it, you can't get the volumes up enough to bring down the cost."

Here is the last quote, from a guy trying to market and sell electrics in India, and while he is right that an electric can be fine as a commuter car (in warm climates only like Southern Cal or India) he is omitting the fact that they are simply not capable of distance travel. How many people out there have a car for commuting and a car for visiting the folks? Most people need a car that will do more that go back and forth to the store cause they can't afford a different car for each day of the week.

This piece paints the EV1 to be a fast car (lie) A car without a limited range (lie) That we are on the verge of the big "Battery Breakthrough" (lie) That the EV1 produced no pollution (lie) That CARB and it's ZEV mandate where defeated by a cabal of big industry powerbrokers (lie) GM stopped making the EV1 cause they where bleeding money on it. (true) That a little extra mass production of already mass produced Lithium/ion batteries will make them drop 1000% in cost so it only costs $270 for you car's battery and not $270,000 (drug induced dream) That everyone involved in this is a real big supporter of the EV1 and electrics except the bean counters at GM (slant)

Now I'm not going to go a rant about electric cars. The point of this exercise was to show how amazingly awful our mainstream press is and to offer this food for thought, if they can't get an article on electric cars right how can we expect them to be honest on Iraq and the war on terrorism?

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