An update on how the electric car is poised to emerge as the preferred, climate-friendly transportation of the future.
Fialka (Sisters: Catholic Nuns and The Making of America, 2003, etc.), a former writer for the Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau and founder of the online environmental publication ClimateWire, breathes new life into a topic that seems to perpetually run hot and cold: the production of clean-energy automobiles. With an inquisitive journalistic slant, the author integrates the electric car’s early beginnings into its current market resurgence. Of particular interest for readers not aware of the electric car’s enduring, seesawing struggle in the marketplace, Fialka offers a swift history reaching back to the development of early-20th-century hybrid models through subsequent decades, when innovative pioneers like Wally Rippel and Hans Tholstrup measured the power and performance of their energy-efficient inventions with prototype road racing. To their credit, manufacturing behemoth General Motors also investigated the feasibility of electric-car development even as the technology became plagued with endurance challenges and home-charging snafus and as gas prices slumped in the 1980s, making combustion engine–powered transportation more attractive. A decade later, Fialka took interest in the Clinton administration’s proposed idea for an electric-powered “Supercar,” which then positioned Al Gore’s climate change initiative directly against vehicles spewing harmful carbon dioxide emissions. The launching of the Toyota Prius and other breakthroughs in battery and fuel cell–driven technology further ushered in a new, ever durable era in electric automation—though progress was fraught with engineering challenges and competitiveness with the hyperlucrative oil industry staunchly “set in its ways.” Still, Fialka, along with pioneering innovators like Tesla’s Elon Musk, firmly predicts a true electric automobile (and motorbike) resurgence in 2016, manufactured by brand-name automakers and heavily endorsed by environmentalists. “In the end,” however, as he notes, “it will be consumers who wave the checkered flag.”
An inspiring industrial comeback story infused with possibility.