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Charged up about electric cars

Teen columnist



When my chemistry class watched “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, I was surprised to learn that electric cars have been around since the late 1800s.

I was even more surprised that I’d never heard about 78 electric vehicles being crushed just four years ago, especially considering this era of environmental consciousness.

Schools in Tucson are winning Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design awards.

Local radio commercials urge people to do their share and visit government-sponsored Web sites such as www.loseyourexcuse.gov.

Downtown, the Tucson Children’s Museum has a whole exhibit devoted to interactive games that teach kids about energy and how to save it.

“Going green” has even been declared a trend among the nation’s celebrities.

If a car that ran solely on electricity for 60 miles was introduced today for a modest $35,000, it would probably be more popular – and just as, if not more, helpful – than reusable grocery bags, organic food stores and recycled blue-jeans building insulation.

So why have cute canvas bags declaring “I’m not a plastic bag” survived and caught American attention, while GM’s EV1 electric car faded away, quickly and practically anonymously?

The EV1, released mainly in California in 1998 as part of a program that only allowed leasing, ran on pure electricity. Depending on the type of battery, the car could be charged to 80 percent in anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes.

But by 2003, the program was stopped and all the cars were taken back and crushed. From there, a storm of conspiracy theories, angry bloggers, and even a movie followed, but all of it was highly unpublicized.

The EV1 was named “doomed” and “dead on arrival” and essentially forgotten by the few who were involved.

So what if the EV1 program was a “failure”? Instead of “try, try again,” we’ve got a “try it once and then abandon it” attitude.

Instead of further developing electric car technology, we’ve decided to start from scratch with controversial alternative energies that we probably take longer to argue about than to research and finally incorporate into our lives.

Perhaps the EV1 was a nervous, shaky step, but it was a forward step in our campaign to cooperate with Mother Nature.

Since the idea of an electric car disappeared, though, we have been so tentative with everything else – we hash it out over emission laws, ethanol and nuclear energy, all while making no progress whatsoever.

The EV1 had its ups and downs but, hey, it worked. People were using EV1s and integrating them into their lives.

Others, mostly people who have never used EVs, complain about the pitfalls, particularly in battery storage.

But to me, a little more research, development and marketing are more than worth zero emissions and less oil dependency.

After all, the first steam engines were incredibly inefficient, but they were used, and soon James Watt’s steam engine revolutionized Europe and brought on the modern day industry.

Imagine where we’d be if the steam engine was given the boot, like the EV1. Who knows – the electric vehicle could have just as big an impact. But not if we forget it.

Teen columnist Emily Hu is a sophomore at Catalina Foothills High School. E-mail: emily2_468@hotmail.com

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