Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Electric Cars Redux


The name Detroit Electric has resurfaced once again. Most people around today would not remember that electric cars once roamed the earth.

"Detroit Electric (1907 - 1939) was an automobile brand produced by the Anderson Electric Car Company in Detroit, Michigan. Anderson had previously been known as the Anderson Carriage Company (until 1911), producing carriages and buggies since 1884. Production of the electric automobile, powered by a rechargeable lead acid battery, began in 1907.

For an additional $600.00 an Edison nickel-iron battery was available from 1911 to 1916. The cars were advertised as reliably getting 80 miles (130 km) between battery recharging, although in one test a Detroit Electric ran 211.3 miles (340.1 km) on a single charge. Top speed was only about 20 miles per hour (32 km/h), but this was considered adequate for driving within city or town limits at the time."

"As improved internal combustion engine automobiles became more common and inexpensive, sales of the Electric dropped in the 1920s but the company stayed in business producing Detroit Electrics until after the stock market crash of 1929. The company filed for bankruptcy, but was acquired and kept in business on a more limited scale for some years building cars in response to special orders.

The last Detroit Electric was shipped on February 23, 1939,[citation needed] (though they were still available until 1942),[1] but in its final years the cars were manufactured only in very small numbers."

"Notable people who owned Detroit Electrics cars included Thomas Edison, Charles Proteus Steinmetz and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. who had a pair of Model 46 roadsters. Clara Ford, the wife of Henry Ford, drove Detroit Electrics from 1908, when Henry bought her a Model C coupe with a special child seat, through the late teens. Her third car was a 1914 Model 47 brougham." Henry Ford bought an electric car? Amazing.

"7 February 2008
In a joint announcement, the US electric car pioneer and China Youngman Automotive Group have said they are reviving the 100 year-old electric car brand Detroit Electric for an automotive joint venture to bring new vehicle technologies to market by 2009, and beyond that the possibility of bringing new manufacturing and ‘green collar’ jobs to California."

"On September 2, 2008 Detroit Electric announced plans to progressively roll out affordable electric vehicles worldwide by the end of 2009. Proton cars are to be used and tested in order to validate Detroit Electric's technology and explore the potential to collaborate to create a range of pure electric cars.

Detroit Electric has to date integrated its electric drive systems into Proton's Lotus Elise and two Proton passenger cars. [4] Detroit Electric hoped to collaborate with Proton to sell electric cars for the Southeast Asian market or to use Proton's existing manufacturing platform to produce electric cars under the Detroit Electric brand.

The company planned to roll out 30,000 electric cars by 2010, as he demonstrated their performance at a Proton test circuit in Shah Alam, west of the capital Kuala Lumpur.[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit_Electric

In case you think that the early electric cars were slow and cumbersome read this.

"Just prior to 1900, before the pre-eminence of internal combustion engines, electric automobiles held many speed and distance records.[9]
Among the most notable of these records was the breaking of the 100 km/h (62 mph) speed barrier, by Camille Jenatzy on April 29, 1899 in his 'rocket-shaped' vehicle Jamais Contente, which reached a top speed of 105.88 km/h (65.79 mph).[10]"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit_Electric

Over 65 miles an hour. Remember that the roads at the time could not handle those kind of speeds. They were mostly dirt roads that turned into mud roads.

Which brings us to the EV1 by GM.

"The EV1 was the first modern production electric vehicle from a major automaker and also the first purpose-built electric car produced by General Motors (GM) in the United States.

Introduced in 1996, The EV1 electric cars were available in California and Arizona in a limited (3 year/30,000 mile) "lease only" agreement.[1]

This was because the EV1 and its leasee were to be participants in a "real-world" engineering evaluation created by GM's Advanced Technology Vehicles group, as well as market analysis and study into the feasibility of producing and marketing a commuter electric vehicle in select U.S. markets.[2][3]

The EV1 was discontinued after 1999, with all examples subsequently removed from the roads in 2003 by General Motors and crushed, except for a select few kept for educational purposes or as museum pieces. The car's discontinuation remains controversial.

In late 2003, GM officially canceled the EV1 program.[15][16] GM stated that it could not sell enough of the cars to make the EV1 profitable. This, combined with the fact that their parts and service infrastructure costs required to maintain the existing EV1's for the state legislated minimum of 15 years, would mean the existing leases would not be renewed and all the cars would have to be returned to GM's possession.

According to GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, his worst decision of his tenure at GM was "axing the EV1 electric-car program and not putting the right resources into hybrids. It didn’t affect profitability, but it did affect image."[17] Wagoner repeated this assertion during an NPR interview after the December 2008 Senate hearings on the U.S. auto industry bailout request.[18]

According to the March 13, 2007, issue of Newsweek, "GM R&D chief Larry Burns . . . now wishes GM hadn't killed the plug-in hybrid EV1 prototype his engineers had on the road a decade ago: 'If we could turn back the hands of time,' says Burns, 'we could have had the Chevy Volt 10 years earlier.'"[19]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_EV1

Imagine, if GM had the courage to continue to improve the EV1, where we would be today. What gas crisis, what foreign oil grip on this country, what pollution problem?

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