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RETHINKING ELECTRIC CARS – PART 11.

When Americans think energy they think oil. They think cars.

Cars. America’s passion. We’ve built an economy around them. Now, it seems the rest of the world is following down the same, well, road.

Car manufacturers love their business. Their products can get them great praise, even as works of art. Their customers can become outspoken fans, loyal to their cars at least while they own them. (At trade-in time, most people switch brands.) Car making is an industry, a business, but it’s more than that. It’s almost like they play in a perpetual contest. It’s like each new model is an entry in a design or engineering competition where the prize is success in the marketplace.

Car making can be painful as well. A model which an car maker might have thought sure to succeed, can turn out to be a dud with drivers. Then there are external forces that can nearly put car makers out of business. Economies can suddenly go sour killing sales. Worse, the blood of life for cars – oil – can skyrocket in price, turning buyers away from showrooms. The volatility of gas prices are a constant thorn in the side for car makers. They’re fed up with the ups and downs of gas. They’ve been bitten once too often.

Car makers are under pressure, as well, to build cars and trucks to run on something other than gasoline or use much less of it. The U.S. government has mandated better fuel economy and wants to raise the bar further. California, which is bigger than most national markets by far, (a market automakers can’t ignore) wants to reduce car emissions down to zero.

Then there are picky buyers. Many don’t like the nation’s addiction to oil. They don’t want cars feed that addiction. Others, often the same people, worry about the environment. They too will make their vehicular choices accordingly. Younger generations pose yet another challenge to car makers. They’re not quite as loving of cars as their parents. A smart phone is more fun and it’s a whole lot cheaper. Younger generations also know cars’ contribution to global climate change. They’ll have no part of that. Other buyers don’t care about all of the above.

For now, the best alternative is to go electric, even if it takes years pry drivers away from oil. Ten years ago car companies shunned electric cars. Now many are embracing them for many reasons:

— Electricity is the ultimate universal alternative fuel. The electric grid is powered by many fuels or energy sources. If the supply of one source gets too expensive or unavailable, another energy source is waiting in the wings to take its place.

— The fueling infrastructure is mostly in place. The power grid is everywhere. All that’s really needed is a connection between car and grid.

— No tailpipe, no tailpipe emissions to worry about. The grid that recharges a car might be filthy. That’s not the car makers worry.

— Compared with conventional cars, electric vehicles are inexpensive to develop. An existing conventional car can be adapted to electric drive. Electric cars have fewer parts that translates to lower development costs.

— Electric cars are exciting in their own way. They’re different, cutting edge. The future. Build the cars of tomorrow today.

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