A History Lesson on the Electric Car


Detroit — History offers some inconvenient truths for the green industry.

At the Big Government/Big Auto-sponsored “The Business of Plugging In” electric-vehicle conference this week, general-turned-green-activist Wesley Clark heralded plug-ins as “that next big thing for America. It could be in electric vehicle technologies.”

Or not. Though Big Utility (a co-sponsor of the conference) also stands to gain from government mandates for electricification of the auto, DTE Energy CEO Tony Earley gave conference attendees a welcome history lesson.

He reminded them that Detroit’s favorite son, Henry Ford, had worked for an electric utility before he saw the possibilities of the internal combustion engine. Earley explained that electrics made up 80 percent of the vehicle market in the early 20th century. Electrics were preferred for their ease of starting (no hand crank). By 1914, Detroit itself became the first city to have an entire fleet of electric taxi cabs (an eerie echo of politically correct efforts to electrify urban cab and bus fleets today).

But, continued Earley, Ford’s revolutionary cars changed all that (in part, thanks to the electric starters that replaced the cranks). Electrics disappeared because gas engines were cheaper, had better fueling infrastructure, and “people needed to travel greater distances.”

So what has changed in 100 years? Nothing. Except politics.

In the 1970s, explained Earley, electric vehicles resurfaced as some (read: political elites) “became concerned about oil dependence and emissions.” Today, those concerns have been joined by global warming. Which is exactly why utilities like Earley’s DTE Energy have signed on to the fiction of global warming.

Because without it, there is still no market for electric vehicles.


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