FORWARD DRIVE by Jim Motavalli


The Race to Build ``Clean Cars'' for the Future
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Why should we hate the conventional automobile, with its infernal combustion, and pay heed to alternative-fueled cars?

Journalist Motavalli (editor, E magazine) counts the reasons.

It is not exactly late-breaking news that gasoline-powered cars are grotesquely polluting and inefficient beasts, and Motavalli

is confident that their miserable days are numbered. He sees a future driven by fuel cells; if the hydrogen powering them can be

produced by renewable energy sources—the earth’s own heat or light or tidal energy—this will form a neat zero-emissions loop.

True, no such fuel cell is currently viable, and car makers are reluctant to cut into their profits by tinkering with something that

isn't broken. While he’s awaiting further developments, Motavalli outlines the history of the automobile industry in the US, the

ways—legal and illegal—it went about making this a nation of car junkies, derailed the trolley system, and sought to undermine

the electric-vehicle movement. In a well-researched profile, he cogently and accessibly details the state of the alternative-car

world, the near misses and brilliant failures of the electric car, the potential of hybrids using a fusion of internal-combustion and

electrical systems, and the prospects for the fuel cell, particularly now that the big automakers—not wanting to be caught with

their pants down as they were in the mid-1970s by the oil crisis—have started to fund research. Those looking for an alternative

at hand will be disappointed, for ultimately Motavalli has nothing to endorse but prospects; and while the obviously intelligent

author keeps his story moving, there are stretches where the writing is as flat as a heart monitor with bad news.

Sincere and brimming with information on clean cars, yet unlikely to inspire many new converts to alternative fuels

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 1-57805-035-9
Page count: 272pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2000