Thursday, July 1, 2010

Some Historical Perspective

TEXT OF LETTER (December 23, 2002):

To the Editor:

The Column notes that fuel cell technology, while promising, is unlikely to be viable for decades. We have just taken possession of our new Toyota RAV4 EV, an all-electric car that we will charge with power generated from our rooftop solar panels.

Our new car will easily accelerate up to 80 miles and hour and travel 100 miles on a single charge. Installing a charger at work would give the car a traveling range of 200 miles. More than enough for most folks.

The column says we must cut our dependence on foreign oil. I strongly agree that self-sufficiency is a laudable goal. However, while auto companies go on searching for their fuel cell holy grail, we'll be cruising the streets and freeways of Southern California in a 100 percent pollution-free vehicle using technology that's been around for over a century.

Paul Scott
Zan Dubin Scott
Santa Monica, CA , Dec. 23

I was going through some old papers and came across the letter above that Zan and I wrote to the NY Times back in December of 2002, just days after taking possession of our brand new Toyota RAV4 EV. We had responded to an article about hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars that were all the rage during the early Bush administration. We were so new to the EV world that we didn't know a fight had been brewing for some years over the controversial Zero Emission Vehicle mandate that had forced the auto companies to build electric vehicles, a fight in which fuel cell cars played a pivotal role.

Within two weeks of this letter, we'd organized our first event drawing some 50 EV drivers to our quiet street in Santa Monica. That's when we started meeting all these other activists, some of whom had been working on the issue for a few years. In our naivete, we thought a few protests and a concerted letter writing campaign would suffice to save the EVs from destruction. Boy, were we wrong!

The crucial California Air Resources Board (CARB) meeting of March 2003 stunned us. In spite of overwhelming support by the drivers of these EVs, the Board acquiesced to the demands of the car companies to kill the battery EV in favor of this promising new kid on the block, the fuel cell.

George Bush proclaimed in his 2003 State of the Union speech, “With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen and pollution-free.”

When I heard George Bush say this, it occurred to me that a child born before the Civil War was able to drive a battery EV since that technology dominated the cars of the 1890's. Well, the kids born in 2003 are now seven years old, still a ways from driving age, but much has happened in the intervening years. Virtually all the car companies have announced plug-in vehicle programs (Honda, where are you?), and we're on the cusp of seeing thousands of Leafs and Volts on the roads.

Just this week, Tesla held a very successful IPO becoming the first electric vehicle company to do so. And on Wednesday, Zan and I were invited to see the gorgeous Fisker Karma at the local Santa Monica Fisker dealer. In this picture, newly minted Phd., Shannon Arvizu ("Miss Electric"), joins us in celebrating the moment.

So, as the oil continues to gush into the Gulf, billions continue to gush out of the country to buy oil, and our Congress continues to gush over oil companies' largess to their campaign coffers, the only good news is that, with each spin of the Earth, we get closer to the day when we no longer have to participate in all of that.


  1. Verrrrrry interesting, but at the moment still kind of sad.

  2. where did you move? -- jean bornell
    Santa Ynez still thinks like Davy Crockett -- but 32 a week are diagnosed with cancer in Santa Barbara County...someone in a key position will finally put 2 and 2 together...why aren't ALL those fishing boats in the Gulf of Mex solar powered...

  3. When the sun don't shine
    and the car won't drive
    and the people don't go
    to the store no mo

    We got to LIGHT THE FIGHT
    for the right to light
    WE GOT TO light the fight
    for the right to light
    for the RITE TO LITE!

    Doin the Edison date
    only a century late...

    as Rocky Mountain Institute says
    Executive Summary -

    207 reasons why it benefits
    to be distributed utilities-
    decentralized grids.

    Protect solar access
    in the new age of urban infill pleeze!
    Why not have a national or state by
    state solar access protection law?

    We're late! We're late!
    For a very important date!

    Katy O'Gin

  4. Poignant as usual Paul!

    Just had another conversation with a bunch of friends the other night about this topic and it is very discouraging that despite all the real technology out there, it is still difficult at best to get regular folks engaged in the idea that it is us as individuals who must change our expectations first. Most folks seem hopelessly stuck in the world of horsepower and traction control, never realizing that all that wizz bang nonsense is just put out there to distract the buying public from the simple fact that the modern automobile is really anything but....

    Joerg Polonius

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