Electric cars are South Valley’s future

Belgian race driver Camille Jenatzy broke speed records with

Last month, I got a glimpse of the future of transportation.
That future is clean and green … and electric.
On July 27, my 14-year-old friend Calvin Nuttall and I spent
time at the Plug-In 2010 exposition at the San Jose Convention
Center videotaping the latest trends in electric vehicles (EVs)
Last month, I got a glimpse of the future of transportation. That future is clean and green … and electric. 

On July 27, my 14-year-old friend Calvin Nuttall and I spent time at the Plug-In 2010 exposition at the San Jose Convention Center videotaping the latest trends in electric vehicles (EVs). Nuttall, who’ll be a freshman at Morgan Hill’s Sobrato High School this fall, is editing this video to produce a show about EVs scheduled for broadcast on South Valley’s public access TV stations in late August.

Whether you’re ready for it or not, America is undergoing a transportation revolution. The technology foundation for this revolution is being built now. The problem is, it’ll take five years – and maybe as long as a decade – for the American public to get comfortable with EVs.

One car that will help Americans make the electric leap is the Chevy Volt, an EV that got star status at the Plug-In 2010 expo. Nuttall and I saw hoards of people surround the sexy-looking car and, like Hollywood paparazzi, click away at it with their cameras.

I predict the Volt will serve as a transition vehicle. It’ll help Americans overcome the psychological discomfort in going electric. Drivers can plug the vehicle into a regular 110-volt home outlet for 8 hours to gain a 40-mile charge. A combustion engine provides an additional 300 miles. That’s important. Most people drive less than 20 miles a day so they’ll rarely use the gasoline option. But if they want to make a long-haul trip – say from Gilroy to Los Angeles – they have the petroleum-powered wheels to get them there.

The year 2015 will be a turning point for electric vehicles, analysts told me. Between now and then, the “early adapters” will get the EV market momentum going. After 2015, the market will accelerate as ordinary American consumers start to embrace electric cars and trucks.

When manufacturers reach a critical mass in production quantities, the sticker price of EVs will drop down to an affordable price for the average American family. That will create a industry renaissance for our nation’s car makers. As the auto business revs up its EV production, our national economy will accelerate with it – and generate jobs.

That’s the promise. This promise is possible – with one major caveat. Between now and 2015, our national leaders must advance the EV future. To turn the ignition key and restart America’s economy through electric cars, we must significantly enhance EV battery technology.

Some analysts want the U.S. government to invest $10 billion in an Apollo-like project to stimulate R&D for advanced batteries as well as the supporting infrastructure to quickly and easily charge up these batteries. I propose calling this initiative “Project Franklin” in honor of Ben Franklin, the kite-flying Founding Father who discovered electricity.

Just like the Apollo moon mission stimulated profitable new technologies and industries – including many in Silicon Valley – so will Project Franklin stimulate profitable new clean-tech innovations beyond EVs. As the price of large-storage batteries plummets and energy efficiency improves, people will install these devices in homes and businesses to charge up using sun and wind power. The $10 billion we invest on Project Franklin will pay multi-fold dividends in creating new jobs and industries – and saving our environment. It will also save American blood and dollars in preventing wars with other nations over declining fossil fuel reserves.

Advanced battery innovation is the key to creating a 21st century electric car market. EVs have been around for 110 years. In 1897, a fleet of New York City electric taxis carried passengers around the Big Apple. And in April 1899, Belgian race car driver Camille Jenatzy broke speed records by going 65.79 miles per hour in an electric-powered vehicle. Unfortunately, over the last 100 years, battery storage capability has never been sufficient to let electric cars compete with gasoline vehicles. That can change. And Silicon Valley can lead that change.

With the EV market about to go into high gear, South Valley government and business leaders should consider getting in on this lucrative economic opportunity. It’s the perfect time to start inviting electric carmakers to checkout our region. EV factories in Morgan Hill, Gilroy or San Benito County will generate local revenue and jobs as they make our world cleaner and greener.

Electric vehicles are America’s future. The world is now being forced to transition away from petroleum power. We must wean ourselves off old oil-burning dinomobiles, and accelerate our economy with volt-powered vehicles. During the next decade, the South Valley will get charged by the change.

Watch for Calvin Nuttall’s show “Electric Cars Now!” on MHAT-19 (Morgan Hill Access TV, cable channel 19 in Morgan Hill) and CMAP-20 (Community Media Access Television, cable channel 20 in Gilroy, Hollister and San Juan Bautista).

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