My Second Argument for Passenger Rail: The Electric Car

Now, with the change in administrations, we’re being told that the electric car is going to be our salvation … as well as the salvation of the Detroit “Big Three” … General Motors, Chrysler and Ford.

Okay. …???

I have a few questions that I’ll preface with some news about a new electric car that was widely publicized last weekend.

This electric car which is being manufactured in southern California, is a three wheeled vehicle which will “go as far as 100 miles on a single charge”. (Then it will have to sit for 8 to 10 hours to be recharged.) It will go from 0 to 90 (mph) in 10 seconds … real zippy. And, it can carry (up to) two passengers, three golf bags and several briefcases (a quote). And that 100 miles per charge is with a full load (all of those items and people listed above).

Okay … well … that’s great.

I live in Charleston, SC and … if I want to go to Folly Beach, Kiawah Island, or Seabrook Island … or even Sullivan’s Island or the Isle of Palms, I can do the round trip. But, what if I want to go to the beach at Edisto Island … about 52 miles away? Oops!!

I guess I’ll have to spend a few hundred dollars to get a room and plan for an overnight stay … or carry the camping gear and stay at the state park there.

If I decide to go to Columbia which is about 115 miles from Charleston, should I carry my camping gear and plan for an overnight trip … and where am I going to “plug in” to recharge? Maybe they’ll install an “outlet strip” at the truck stop on the way there … and I’m not talking about a shopping outlet.

Myrtle Beach is 90 miles away … definitely plan for an overnight … at least. Savannah is 110 miles to the southeast … definitely an overnighter, again, but I can stay at the KOA at Point South to “charge up” and … I hear they have a jacuzzi.

Well …, have I made my first point?

Next …

Has anyone out there bought a replacement battery for your cell phone … or better (worse) yet … for your camcorder? That cell phone battery currently costs about $30 to $40 … and that camcorder battery may set you back over $100. Hey … replace that battery in your laptop and you’re looking at several hundred dollars.

Can you imagine what a battery pack for an automobile will cost? A simple battery (lead acid) to start a conventional automobile will set you back anywhere from $60 to more than $100. What will a nickel cadmium, metal hydride or lithium ion battery that is large enough and powerful enough cost that will power a car? And, they will have to be replaced. And, as the sophistication increases and lack of “memory” decreases, the number of potential recharges decreases and the cost increases.

This electric car that was showcased last weekend will sell for $25,000 to $40,000. How much of that cost is the battery? Something to think about …

And …

Where is all of this electricity going to come from? How is it going to be generated?

Well, disregarding that bolt of lightening that just struck you in the ass, electricity doesn’t just …”poof” … appear.

It has to be generated … from coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power plants.

Hey … wait. “They” say it’s going to be generated from “renewable” sources. Like what … wind, solar, hydroelectric? The environmentalists want “green” sources of energy … sure. Except, they just don’t want it in their backyard … or yours either … if they can see it … or hear it … or if some blind bird might fly into it … or if the power transmission lines might interfere with the migratory path of a desert turtle … or if it inconveniences the salmon. So, what’s left?

And …

How much “more” electricity are these electric automobiles going to require? Has everyone forgotten about “brownouts”? What’s going to happen one summer day when everyone in LA comes home, cranks down the thermostat on their air conditioning and plug their 50 or 100,000 electric automobiles in?

And …

If there are currently about 100 million gas guzzling automobiles being used now, is everyone, in one fell swoop, going to trade in their gasohol burner and get an electric car? I don’t think so. For one thing, a lot of people simply won’t be able to afford them. Second, for a lot of people, an awful lot of people, they are simply impractical.

Unless …

Yes, unless, we have some alternative, convenient and economical form of intermediate and long distance transportation.

And, I don’t think air travel can, or ever will be able to, handle the increase in volume that would ensue from a change from using automobiles for intermediate and long distance travel. Period.

The only logical extension of converting to electric cars is a massive reimplementation of passenger rail … a logical conclusion which is blaringly and evidently lacking in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The funds which have been “vaguely” dedicated to “mass transportaion” and “rail” amount to little more than 1% of the massive spending bill. Maybe it will be part of the next trillion or two the Obama administration and Democratic Congress will eventually spend.

If I’ve made any errors here, someone … please … enlighten me.

By the way, most of the electric cars that I’ve heard about only get about 60 mile to the charge …

Well, scratch a day trip to the Isle of Palms, Kiawah or Seabrook … just too close to call

And General Motors making an electric car …

I don’t think they could make one cheaply enough or charge enough to get out of the debt hole they’re in … well maybe if they charged $100,000 per car.


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