Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Electric Cars
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Electric Cars

Katie Huston - August 23rd, 2007
When Garth Ward steps on his accelerator, he can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than 10 seconds. His 20-mile commute used to cost him $18.75 per trip. Now, he’s paying a mere 37 cents.
Ward, a resident of Garfield Township, is the proud owner of an electric vehicle – a Corbin Sparrow. “People don’t realize I move down the road for a penny a mile, and the only thing I have to do is plug it in and fill the windshield fluid,” he says.
The three-wheeled, one-seater Sparrow looks like it drove straight out of a Pixar movie. It doesn’t burn a drop of oil. It can travel 40 miles on one charge, reach speeds of 80 miles per hour, and go from 0 to 60 mph in less than 10 seconds. It fits two bags of groceries. And it’s quiet. “You hear the tires on the ground and the brakes. There’s nothing else to listen to,” Ward says.
His Sparrow can be recharged at any electrical outlet. “Everyone’s porch becomes a gas station,” he says. When he charges his car at home, his energy comes largely from a wind turbine in his backyard.
The car’s a real conversation starter. “The profile of it coming down the street really stops people. When I go for a loaf of bread, I better plan at least an hour,” Ward says.

Made by Corbin Motors in California, 285 Sparrows were manufactured and put on the road between 1999 and 2002. Ward paid $9,000 used, for his car. Today, Corbin Motors has gone under; Myers Motors has adopted the design, but the vehicles, now called NmGs, will set you back $24,900.
If you want to buy an electric car in America, your options are limited. Today, it seems, electric vehicles are either an elitist commodity or little more than a golf cart.
If you only need your car to travel short distances at moderate speeds, you could look at a “Neighborhood Electric Vehicle,” known as an NV. According to the Electric Drive Transportation Association, estimates showed that up to 76,000 low-speed, battery-powered vehicles were in use in the U.S., up from about 56,000 in 2004. While they may be great for in-town drives, their 40-mile range and top speed of 35 (regulated to only 25 in most states, including Michigan) limits their feasibility.
There are electric cars that go faster and farther, but they’re a lot more expensive. Besides the NmG, two options are currently on the market in America. A Tesla, which has a top speed of over 130 miles per hour, and a range of 200 miles, costs $100,000. The ultra-narrow Commutercar Tango, which can reach 150 miles per hour and go 160 miles before a recharge, will set you back $105,000.
“What practicality is that for me, the common homeowner?” asks Ward. “They’re overbuilding it for the one guy who can afford it.” Today, the electric cars on the market are sleek and glittering vehicles that focus on acceleration and speed, not the needs--and pocketbooks--of average Americans, he says.

Electric cars are nothing new in America. They may look and sound futuristic, but 100 years ago, there were more electric cars than gas-powered cars on the road. With the advent of automatic starters, cheaper oil, and mass production, the internal combustion engine eclipsed the electric car in the 1920s.
In 1990, California passed the Zero Emissions Act, which required two percent of vehicles sold in 1998 and 10 percent of vehicles sold in 2003 to be “zero emission vehicles.” Automakers began to produce electric cars aimed at the average consumer. General Motors’ EV1, released in 1997 and 1999, could travel 75-150 miles on one charge and reach speeds of up to 80
miles per hour.
Other vehicles were introduced: the Ford Th!nk, Honda EV Plus, Toyota RAV4 EV, Ford Ranger EV, and Nissan Altra EV.
In 2002, however, carmakers sued the state of California, which repealed the Zero Emissions Act. They removed all these cars from the market, and concentrated their resources instead on developing hybrids and fuel cell technology.
Auto companies say there was not enough demand for the vehicles, and that they were too expensive to produce. People wanted a car that could travel an unlimited distance, they claimed.
Safety is also a concern. The Tesla has airbags, as did all of the cars introduced in the late ’90s, but discontinued when the Zero Emissions Act was repealed. However, many electric vehicles, including Ward’s Sparrow, do not (technically, it’s not a car.). And automakers have yet to create an electric vehicle that can be used year-round in cold climates. During the winter months, Ward’s Sparrow waits for the snow to melt.

Critics of electric vehicles also argue that 55% of America’s electricity comes from dirty, coal-fired power plants, which means electric vehicles are not truly “zero-emission” vehicles.
However, many people -- Ward included -- believe that automakers are wary to invest in electric cars because the alternative technology could dramatically reduce their profits -- not to mention the profits of every other facet of the auto industry, including parts manufacturers, mechanics, and the oil industry.
“What about the guy who fixes the transmission? What about the guy who pumps the gas?” Ward asks. “If everyone that could, drove one of these, it would drive Michigan into an economic slump it could probably never recover from.”
Although he lives in the auto state, Ward had trouble finding an electric car that would meet his needs; his only options were NVs or do-it-yourself kits. When he heard about a Sparrow for sale in Washington state, he drove all the way across the country to
pick it up.

Americans want electric vehicles, but they want more practical options, says Ward. “There’s no support out there for it because people look at this car and say, ‘Gee, I don’t want to go 40 miles; I want to go 200 miles,’” he says. “They’re gonna want it to haul their families to Sacramento and back in a weekend at 100 miles per hour.”
The auto industry shouldn’t feel threatened, he says, because electric cars will never replace all our transportation needs. “Just because we invented the car doesn’t mean we shot every horse,” he says. “Just because we invented the electric car does not mean all the gas guzzlers will go away.” Petroleum-powered cars will still be needed to transport heavy loads.
But, he says, “People have sports cars they just use on weekends. People have different ties for different days. I don’t see why people don’t have different cars for different purposes.”
If we put our resources into developing electric vehicles, he says, we could offer practical and affordable alternatives to conventional cars, but petroleum-based technology pushes electric cars to the back burner. “The reality of moving cars down the road without gas is right in front of
our faces.”

For more information about the rise and fall of the EV1, check out the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?”
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