Contrary to popular belief, all useful information does not emanate exclusively from the United States.  Likewise, governments other than ours can, on occasion, be as guilty as ours in suppressing useful information that is inconvenient for governments, not to mention advocates of and special pleaders for suspicious causes. Not So Fast the Electric Cars, Buried Study Says

Contrary to popular belief, all useful information does not emanate exclusively from the United States.  Likewise, governments other than ours can, on occasion, be as guilty as ours in suppressing useful information that is inconvenient for governments, not to mention advocates of and special pleaders for suspicious causes.

Thus it was that while Americans were busy holidaying, the Financial Times (FT) reported that the government of French President Nicolas Sarkozy was busily burying an inconvenient study – analyzing options for cleaner and more efficient mass-market cars -- commissioned by that very same government.

The study was conducted by Jean Syrota, a former French energy industry regulator.

According to Paul Betts and Song Jung-a of FT, the study “concludes that there is not much future in the much vaunted development of all electric-powered cars.  Instead, it suggests that the traditional combustion engine powered by petrol, diesel, ethanol or new biofuels still offers the most realistic prospect of developing cleaner vehicles.  Carbon emissions and fuel consumption could be cut by 30-40 per cent simply by improving the performance and efficiency of traditional engines and limiting the top speed to about 170km/hr [105 mph]....

“Overall, the Syrota report says that adapting and improving conventional engines could enhance their efficiency by an average of 50 per cent.  It also argues that new-generation hybrid cars combining conventional engines with electric propulsion could provide an interesting future alternative.

“By combining electric batteries with conventional fuel-driven engines, cars could run on clean electricity for short urban trips while switching over to fuel on motorways.  This would resolve one of the biggest problems facing all electric cars – the need to install costly battery recharging infrastructures.  The report warns that the overall cost of an all-electric car remains unviable at around double that of a conventional vehicle.”

A single, buried French report cannot and should not curtail the development of electric cars.  But it should be a cautionary note to all governments (California among them) rushing to embrace, with taxpayer money, the automobile panacea that could in reality never amount to more than a niche product with negligible impact on energy or transportation needs and considerable impact on consumer and taxpayer cost.

Not a week after FT reported on the buried French study, other news reports indicated that 14 U.S. companies had formed a coalition to seek $1 billion in U.S. government funding to develop batteries for electric cars.  (You may have read that all free-market principles having now being discredited, the government will be responsible for all venture capital.) 

That’s your money, as the ad slogan says.  Call and let us know how far it gets your electric car across Route 66.

January 08, 2009
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