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Madman’s shocking opinions about electric vehicles

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Posted: Friday, April 13, 2012 3:00 am

Night shifts in the Lodi News Sentinel lunch room are where great debates are won and lost. While the press crew enjoys pleasant conversation like weekend plans and the weather, we also argue about everything.

There are very few subjects that are safe, but subjects are usually of the pop culture variety. Movies, politics and cars are subjects I can’t let slide by without interjecting my opinion. If I don’t set these guys straight … who will.

The other night we got into a big verbal tussle over plug-in electric cars and the manner in which they are developed. The fellas seem to think that car companies need people to buy early electric vehicles ( EV ) in order to improve them. I think these early adopters are paying for hopelessly impractical conversation pieces. In true madman fashion, I took to the internet and found an example of plug-in EV impracticality.

Men’s Health Magazine is sponsoring a cross country road trip utilizing the Ford Focus plug-in EV. This earth day, April 22nd, the Men’s Health Focus EV will head off from New York on its way out west to Los Angeles. This trip is made by thousands of road-wise travelers every year and could be considered fun. Think about all the cool sights and interesting people you could meet along the way. The drivers of the Focus EV - on the other hand - will be able to form lasting relationships on their trek. They will have plenty of time to bond with strangers during the four hour charging sessions that will take place about fifty times. Due to the lack of public charging stations, many of these charge stops will be done at private residences. Practicality does not seem to be the plug-in EV’s strong suit.

I do however wish the Men’s Health team good luck on their arduous journey. Men’s Health is sponsoring the cross country trip in order to raise awareness for the “Carry the Load’ foundation. “Carry the Load” raises money for US service members families who have lost a loved one in combat.

“The roof is on fire… we don’t need no water,” I forget the rest of the lyrics to that catchy tune; but the folks at GM’s tech center may remember. Earlier this week General Motors tech center in Warren Michigan went up in flames while they were doing research on a prototype battery pack. A spokesperson for the fire department said the hazardous materials team identified the fire source as a lithium battery pack that was undergoing “extreme testing.” A GM official made a point to say the battery was a prototype and not in use in any current GM vehicle. Better they blow up during research and design than on Lodi Avenue on the way to pick up dinner.

I feel as though I have bad mouthed EV’s enough for one day, how about news of an EV that is not completely useless. Electric car maker Tesla built a high performance EV back in 2008 making barely a ripple in the sea of automotive news. The car was based on a Lotus two-seater and was the subject of a lawsuit after it made an appearance on the BBC’s “Top Gear.” Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear hated the car and was accused in the Lawsuit of making false claims about the Tesla’s reliability.

I am sure Tesla builds a great electric car, but the thing is I hate electric cars. I want a company that makes real cars to take a stab at building a performance EV. German car maker Audi has stepped up to the plate with the Audi R8 e-tron. Even the name is cool … e-tron. It sounds like a video game or a futuristic space weapon. The e-tron looks like a run-of-the-mill R8 super car with a few subtle differences, like a smooth front end. The e-tron will have a radiator in order to cool all of the sensitive electronics, but the radiator grille will have an electronically actuated cover. The cover will improve aerodynamics when air flow is not necessary. Motors… the e-tron is packing one for each of its four wheels which are controlled by a unique electronic control that uses “Force Vectoring” to distribute power. This control system allows each wheel to act independently in order to enhance performance.

Audi’s performance figures and engineering are solid, but electric cars sound like a Norelco shaver gone ballistic. Rudolf Halbmeir from Audi’s acoustic engineering division is hoping to remedy this rather annoying chink in the e-tron’s armor. Rudolf is a musician who writes beautiful songs and plays several instruments so coming up with an EV soundtrack should be an easy task. We will all be treated to Rudolf’s “Synthetic Sound Signature” later this year when the e-tron is officially released.

EV’s are currently the worst way to get around this side of public transportation. While the Chevy Volt has the right idea, I honestly believe EV’s without battery backup will eventually leave their owner stranded. Technology will march on and EV’s will improve…t is only a matter of time. Unfortunately for EV enthusiasts, when technology finally catches up, we will all be flying to work like the Jetsons or even better “ beaming” to our destination.




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