EV / ZEV Broken Promises: EVUK and The Daily Telegraph - Part II
EVUK's Exchange of (semi-friendly) Fire with the Daily Telegraph's Andrew English
Click here for Part I
(Warning: This section is called 'Rawstuff' for good reason.
This is where we say exactly what we believe - no frills, plenty of rough edges..gloves right off (it makes it easier to get the knives out...).
Panglosses and those of a sensitive, pin-stripe or corporately correct disposition - read on at your own peril !)
To recap: following the publication of his article "Feeding the Dragon", Daily Telegraph motoring correspondent Andrew English sent us the following response to a letter-to-the-editor we'd submitted the previous week.
(Our exhaustive reply follows on below.)
Email from Andrew English, Daily Telegraph:
All fair points I agree - and if you look at our cover story "Feeding the Dragon" from last Saturday, (Motoring Oct 30) you will have seen our views on the rapacious tactics of the motor industry in China. Specifically about fuel cells, I should correct you on the manufacturers' claims, if not the media's excitable soothsaying. Only at the very beginning of the research (Mercedes-Benz fuel-cell van in the mid-1980s) were there claims that we would be driving the things on our roads within 20 years. Nowadays, manufacturers are a lot more cautious, the most bullish being General Motors that says it wants to make a million fuel-cell cars a year profitably, although it, too, refuses to be drawn on a date.
From last year when we wrote about the first on-sale (although it was in fact leased) fuel-cell car, the Honda, which is in operation with Los Angeles City Hall, the number of fuel cells in trial operation around the globe has increased hugely. That doesn't, however, bring the future any nearer and when interviewed three weeks ago in China, some of the world's leading fuel-cell engineers were saying that the date of their whole-scale adoption is at least 30 to 40 years away.
If I had to put my finger on the reasons for this receding adoption date, I would say that the main problem is the hydrogen supply line (where it comes from, how to store it and how to get it to customers). A few hydrogen highways are being mooted in Canada and California, but the day you can readily fill up with the stuff is a long way off. There is also the issue of where all this hydrogen comes from. The easiest way is to steam it out of natural gas, but while that is a cleaner resource, it is not renewable. Electrolysis could provide the hydrogen, but where will the electricity come from? Even a simple fag packet calculation shows that if America used its electricity supplies to electrolysise hydrogen fuel for a complete replacement fleet of fuel-cell cars, it would use the entire resources of the US grid - there would be no electricity left for anything else.
In addition, the profitability of making cars is possibly at an all-time low, while the competitive demands of the industry are at an all-time high. This means firms are reluctant to try to force through environmental changes that affect their bottom line and their share-holder value. They're all b*stards, I know, but they and their shareholders cannot be expected to go bust to save the planet.
I could write equally long things about electric cars, but the problem is that consumers have shown themselves time and time again to be unwilling to take the penalty of an all-electric battery vehicles, with their greater weight, smaller range, higher costs and relatively short battery life. You and I might be willing to buy the things, but there aren't enough of us to make it a profitable option.
Both nascent technologies are trying to get their unit cost down to around $50 a kilowatt, but they are a long way short of this and petrol and diesel technology is well below this figure and getting farther away. GM's small-block V8 engine (to name one big gas guzzler amongst many) is estimated to have an equivalent cost of about $25 per kW.
All the skilled engineers working for car companies on environmental projects are looking for governments to legislate against the current reciprocating piston engines in urban areas to make the battery and fuel-cell cars competitive - there is some progress on this in California, although it has recently dialled back from its greatest commitments. Meanwhile the accountants at those same car companies are looking to stem a rising tide of prohibitive legislation against the afore mentioned petrol and diesel engines. Swings and roundabouts...
As a punter looking to have an impact on the environment, the hybrid Hondas and Toyota Prius are perhaps the best routes, although the as-yet unimported Volkswagen three-litre (3lit/100km, or 94mpg) Lupo or Audi A2 models are also alternatives.
Response to the above from EVUK Editors:
- While we very much enjoyed your breath of fresh air "Feeding the Dragon" piece ("Carmageddon spreads to China") - a better title perhaps?), your subsequent email to us seems a whole lot less refreshingly cynical and enlightened - especially as regards battery EV's..(BTW: I use the word 'cynical' here in its true, positive Diogenes sense ie. truthful, fearlessly outspoken, disillusioned, idealistic).
We should point out that, unlike our BEV-hostile media, at EVUK we're only interested in real EV's - that is long-range advanced BEV's like the Toyota RAV4 EV, the Gen II EV1, the Nissan Altra, Mercedes A-Class electric, the 340 mile/charge Horlacher Sport, the 374 mile/charge Solectria Sunrise, the Ford e-Ka etc.
Yep, real EV's - the kind that 99% of the UK/European and probably global population have for some..er..'strange reason' never heard of. So we're not talking about the low-range 50 mile/charge(max) EV's (Citroens, Peugeots, G Wiz etc) that the UK media has almost always limited its reporting to.
So while we appreciate your lengthy response - we have no hesitation in telling you that we - and most informed battery EV-watchers worldwide - naturally reject out of hand most of the, oh dear, yawningly familiar, astonishingly naive(for a seasoned journalist..) hand-me-down comments that you trott out about EV's - especially your stock-in-trade remarks about alleged low consumer demand for them.
So why on earth do you and so many auto-industry apologists keep parroting this herd-trap myth that "consumers don't want EV's" when carmakers, the media and politicians have worked tirelessly to ensure that most consumers outside California - in $5-a-gallon Britain and Europe for instance - don't even know that real EV's actually exist or ever existed ?!
Just why do you guys keep lovingly repeating this 'received spin' - aka total tosh?
What? Consumers in 5-Euros-a-gallon Britain didn't and don't want real EV's like the RAV4 or Mercedes A-Class?! What naive, par-for-the-course nonsense Mr. English!
Repeat: Thanks largely to the silence and complicity of our media, ninety nine percent of consumers in 5-Euros-a-gallon Britain/Europe never knew that advanced battery EV's like the Toyota RAV4 ever existed!!
Do you really believe that this consumer ignorance was just happenchance?
Or that our media did not fall over themselves in the rush to bury and ignore(aka suppress..) Sir David King's 2002 advice( Interview - Independent UK) that the Internal Combustion Engine should be phased out("banned") and replaced as soon as possible by electric and fuel cell alternatives?
Click above photos for buried treasure! A couple of very well-hidden ZEV / WMD gems...
Oh dear Mr English - you'll be telling us next that you also belong to that majority of now utterly discredited mainstream media journalists who actually believed for more than a nanosecond - or at least pretended to believe - all the Bush-Blair emperor's-new-clothes lies, baloney, transparent tosh about WMD's in Iraq - despite the always overwhelming(though relentlessly under-reported..) evidence that the two would-be emperors Bush and Blair were dancing around stark naked from the start.
"Saddam has not developed any significant capability with respect to WMD" - Colin Powell Feb 2001 TV footage
- is this the most scandalously suppressed, potentially war-stopping TV footage of all time - or what? But it is sadly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the media's sorry record of corporate complicity and embedded silence coupled with a chronic refusal to state the obvious. The same media that uses cowed, cop-out words like "mistakes" and "failures" when they should be talking about "lies, lies and more damned lies".)
Also - and this again is extremely familar - you deliver your arguments and information rather oddly - in an amusingly patronising style(no offence - we'll have no problem responding in similar style..) - as if you automatically presume for some reason that we do not have an encyclopaedic, meticulously acquired knowledge of the global EV / ZEV scene (and the very real blocking role played by the media, politicians, oil companies, carmakers...) built up over that past 15 years or so.
My impression is that you have not dipped into our website much, if at all?
I would suggest for example that you might like to get up to speed and glance through our little 'exchange of fire' with the Washington Post's motoring correspondent Warren Brown at:
as well as our "(S)top Secret" piece at:
Why on earth you would feel the need to "explain" to us(of all people!) the very real problems facing hydrogen and fuel cell evangelists - I can't imagine. Again, if you were familiar with our website, you would be aware that our knowledge of the subject is second to none - and we are not afraid to point out any and every FCV/hydrogen hurdle/myth frequently and loudly.(Question: did you ever report for the Telegraph on the EU's 'CEPLACA' study into the, of course, massively under-reported toxicity of platinum?)
You brush aside the media's pre-2002 reports pledging "fuel cells by 2004" as if reporters had simply plucked their predictions out of the air.
You talk about "the media's excitable soothsaying".
Nonsense. The media's reports were based on what "excitable", wildly over-optimistic or disingenuous carmakers were telling them.
We were acutely tuned in to what was being reported at the time - from 1997-2002 - and totally refute your shift-the-blame spin on it I'm afraid.
Part of the reason for the "fuel cell cars by 2004 / fuel cell cars just around the corner" hype was, of course, to kill off interest - and investment - in battery EV's - and the carmakers' on-message media servants have relished the job of totally misrepresenting, rubbishing and under-reporting battery EV technology ever since.
Perhaps you did not read the "fuel cell cars by 2004" archive links we included at the end of our letter to the Telegraph? (Note: informed EV-watchers actually don't need archives as reminders - unlike the media and, sadly, unlike the majority of the public - we don't forget pledges and promises...).
Here's a very typical quote from the Channel 4 link, anno 2001:
"There's a race on among all the major manufacturers to get the first fuel-cell car to market. Honda appears to be in the lead at the moment with a promise for 2003, but General Motors and DaimlerChrysler aren't far behind: GM says it will have the technology 'market-ready' by 2004."
This Channel4 piece is, I repeat, typical of almost all fuel cell reporting pre-2002 - reporting based on interviews with, and press releases issued by, carmakers themselves.
The reality is that leading carmakers and their loyal media messengers told us incessantly until around mid-2002 to expect fleet fuel cell vehicles by 2004 and sales to the public by 2006-7. That was the received wisdom as well as as the broadcast and printed wisdom - fact!
Promises/pledges were indeed broken by the carmakers and now, post-hype, our ICE-blinkered media is too woefully cowed and complicit to roundly rebuke them - and too corporately correct even to publish sharply critical letters-to-the-editor like our own recent submission to the Telegraph's main/non-motoring readers' letters section.(Remember: the key question in our letter was: why are letters like these never printed? And of course the letter was not printed...)
It's not surprising of course: as we've accurately pointed out on our site - the mainstream media is now even more completely whored out to the car advertisers and to the "keep things as they are" ICE and oil lobbies - than ever it once was to the tobacco industry.
Just try watching one hour(plus next day repeat) a week of the BBC's rampant, lush "public service"(ha!) Top Gear ICE-idolatry - then try finding any programme in the BBC's..er...public service TV schedule(BBC1-BBC4) devoted to eco-innovation, alternative energy, sustainable lifestyles and saving this bl**dy planet. From BBC1 thru BBC4 you will find nothing.
It's clear that Top Gear is even more completely prostituted and defiantly devoted to the Infernal Combustion Engine and to the fossil-fuel lobby than...any of the more recent product-placement/ICE-reinforcement Bond movies!
And now the BBC pumps this Top Gear bilge out for two hours a week - the very same "Kyoto-committed" (yeah - right!) BBC that loves to blame the US for all the world's environmental ills.
Yes Siree - our media, anno 2004, is in effect little more than a wholly or partly-owned marketing subsidiary of the auto-industry whose role is to sell and celebrate the ICE and to perpetuate, reinforce and "normalize" the fossil-fuelled mindset that goes with it.
And now this incestuous carmaker-media relationship has been catastrophically exported to China of course. Chinese Carmageddon? You'd better believe it!
You conclude your Telegraph article, encouragingly, with the words:
"Sometimes I really hate the car industry."
-Well it sure is a pity you don't have the editorial freedom, inclination or courage to say that you also hate or despise the media - in other words the carmakers' loyal-to-oil, take-the-money-and-smile, ICE-blinkered accomplices.
Why on earth would you not also "hate" - or at least publically and roundly rebuke - most of your fellow journalists? Why do you not point the finger at all those ICE-fundamentalist TV presenters of the Clarkson-clone variety?
Returning to battery electric vehicles:
"..consumers have shown themselves time and time again to be unwilling to take the penalty of all-electric battery vehicles, with their greater weight, smaller range, higher costs and relatively short battery life. You and I might be willing to buy the things, but there aren't enough of us to make it a profitable option. This means firms are reluctant to try to force through environmental changes that affect their bottom line and their share-holder value. They're all b*stards, I know, but they and their shareholders cannot be expected to go bust to save the planet."
Oh dear Mr. English - we are indeed disappointed that even you appear to have fallen hook line and sinker for that hoary old bit of carmaker-excusing spin.
What? Carmakers are quite willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in endless gadgets and sexy upgrades and then market and promote them for all they're worth - yet have always steadfastly refused to contemplate the idea of marketing or even publicizing real, long-range, high-performance battery electric vehicles like the RAV4 EV (or other real EV's like the Mercedes A-Class or Ford e-Ka etc etc ) in those parts of the world where they know full well there would be a huge market(with consequent economies of scale and downward price-pressure) ie. in those countries where:
a) petrol costs not $1-$2 dollars as in the US - but around $5 a gallon and
b) populations are far more eco-aware.
Why - and this is a rhetorical question 'cos we sure as heck know the answer - were real EV's like the RAV4 EV publicised and made available almost exclusively in a country - the USA - where petrol sold for a dollar in 1997 - and still costs less than two dollars - but kept well off the radar of European consumers?
Yes - let's focus on the RAV4 EV and the silence of the media: as in the US this car was hugely popular with everyone in Jersey, UK Channel Islands, who drove it!!
EVUK's Moira Govan with Jersey police and their trusty Toyota RAV4 EV
We know this first hand and from our meetings and conversations with the police and car hire company that used them there.
Rental customers, tourists, adored the car - as we do ourselves of course.
That's a 100% approval rating Mr.English.
Yet Toyota refused to let the car out of its island "exile" or "quarantine" and, aided and abetted as usual by a near-silent media, refused to let the advanced battery EV 'contagion' spread to mainland UK or Europe.
You say the public doesn't want this kind of car?
Hardly anyone in Britain Europe ever knew it existed!
If you had stood with a clipboard in any UK high street in,say, 2001, and asked people right off the bat:
"What do you think of the RAV4 EV and the electric Mercedes A-Class?"
.. you'd have stood around for months before anyone knew what the heck you were talking about! Yet you repeat the nonsense - this learnt-by-rote received spin - that "consumers didn't/don't want battery EV's" !!
Toyota got unqualified approval for the RAV4 EV in Jersey - so why didn't they take the car to Birmingham, Oxford, Edinburgh and - most importantly - why didn't they market and advertise the car and invite their 'marketing assistants' (aka motoring journalists) - all the way from Top Gear to the Daily Mirror to test-drive and promote the car with slogans such as:
"1 p a mile to charge up!" and "Ultra-low rmaintenance costs" or
"Forget £3.50 a gallon and £2.50+ to the Chancellor - with the RAV4 EV you may never need to visit a petrol station again!!" etc etc.
Why didn't the media in Kyoto-committed Britain roundly rebuke or challenge Toyota when they announced it would not be bringing the RAV4 EV to Europe despite rave (get it?) reviews from everyone who drove it?
And why hasn't anyone in celebrity-besotted Britain ever heard from the mainstream media that the RAV4 EV is Tom Hanks' favourite car?
Or that Hanks is also backing AC Propulsion's efforts to mass-produce affordable, advanced battery-powered, long-range Toyota Scions?
In contrast hardly a day goes by without Schwarzenegger and Hummers getting a gratuitous mindset-reinforcing mention somewhere in the media.
It must surely be clear to you that carmakers, politicians and the media outside the US/Japan did - and are still doing - everything in their power to contain the Califorian EV / ZEV 'contagion' - to prevent it spreading and to keep the public's ICE-blinkers firmly in place?
No, we've seen all the evidence, thankyou: major carmakers(and their fossil-fuel-addicted political, media and oil company co-dependents) patently don't want consumers to want battery EV's - period!
They never have and probably never will...
(Please note: although we have ended many sentences in this email with question marks - the questions are largely rhetorical. In other words, responses in the form of "insights" and "explanations" from mainstream media journalists are not required.)
- For all of you who, like us, are far more interested in what the media leaves out than what they leave in, keep a regular focused eye on the UK's leading media-watch website MediaLens. Also highly recommended: FreeSpeech TV.