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Plugged Into Pros, Cons of Electric Cars

January 29, 1995

Michael Schrage's "Marketers Own the Electric Vehicle's Future, Not Engineers" (Jan. 19) is typical of the political approaches to battery-driven cars, which will not help with what is a problem in basic chemistry.

When gasoline and air burn in a cylinder, the transfer of electrons and energy is quick and remarkably complete. Putting a few gallons of gasoline in a tank is fast and easy, while the air supplies itself.

Not so with a battery. The same electrons must go through an "oxidizing" reaction, but the oxygen and the fuel must both be within the battery, and the oxidation goes slowly through some "electrolyte."

People selling electric cars seem to feel that this problem will go away with some breakthrough by a great salesman. The free air gives the gasoline vehicle a very big head start that will not go away until you invent a different kind of electron.

The market for electric "non polluting" cars, which still add to our pollution, will not be created by politicians or marketer salesmen, but will be replaced by development of truly low-polluting cars. I like the developments in natural gas burners.


Woodland Hills


The universal accolades by drivers of such electric vehicles (EVs) as GM's sporty Impact prove that EVs are certainly able to "capture the public's imagination," as Schrage contends.

Last year, I had the good fortune to take about 2,500 people--federal, state and local officials; CEOs; business people; housewives; college kids, and farmers--on short but convincing test drives in the stylish yet silent Impact sports coupe. Everywhere I took the car, be it the very rural or very metropolitan, people unanimously reached the same conclusion: The car was a thriller.

I saw the non-believer accept the EV as a viable, exciting mode of transportation. Everywhere I took the car, people were grateful for the opportunity to drive it, and often inquired about sales price, where to buy one and when. I really had to work through all the excitement of the crowds to be able to tell people about Edison's role as a fuel supplier in the electric transportation world.

As Schrage writes, EVs were produced in the early 1900s, but manufacturers failed to understand the lifestyle of the people who would drive them. Well, my experience indicates that auto manufacturers have learned their lessons and the EVs being built today cater to the customers' needs.


Electric Transportation Analyst

Southern California Edison Co.

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