Cars of the Future

Monday, October 01, 2007

Vijay Vaitheeswaran has spent a decade covering environmental and energy issues for the Economist. In ZOOM, he and co-author Iain Carson get inside the global race to build the car of the future, tracking auto industry pioneers as they race to create machines that can run on clean energy sources.

Purchase ZOOM: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future at

Weigh in: Are you willing to pay more for a car that runs on clean energy sources?


Vijay Vaitheeswaran

Comments [12]

Naftali M from NJ

Back in early 1980's, a friend of my friend claimed that with current technology he can make cars with over 100 mpg basically increasing the efficiency. He mentioed that government would not allow him to mass produce that, which I believe that, since the world economy will suddenly go off balance because of reduction in oil consumption.

Oct. 02 2007 11:51 PM
jd from nyc

if anybody wants an entertaining break from this conversation, see the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", and also most definitely read the book it's based on.

It's the story of how the redline train system that was supposed to be built in California, was stopped by Judge Doom, a characterisation of the presiding judge in the actual court case that decided in favor of the oil and car companies, in this case I believe the car company was GM.

not quite the pathos of Chinatown, but yet, it all reeks of the same sort of evil..

Oct. 02 2007 12:56 AM
Dyami Plotke from Bay Shore, NY

Plug in cars. Doesn't that just transfer the source of polution? How does the polution generated by a coal fired generator in order to power an electric car (when it's plugged in) compare to that produced by an efficient gas engine? I suspect that becasue of economy of scale the coal plant is relativly cleaner, but when discussing electric cars, we're just fooling ourselves if we say they're pollution free.

Oct. 01 2007 07:32 PM
eric fluger from jersey city

if you live in a city and park on the street, where do you plug in a plug-in electric car?

Oct. 01 2007 12:39 PM
eric fluger from jersey city

the guest's description of the microcomputer revolution strikes me as a bit rosy.

progress does not always go in a straight line.

much of the progress of the last fifteen years or so in the microcumputer world has involved re-implementing and re-inventing older mainframe and mini-computer technologies in new (arguable better) ways.

this invites questions about what todays auto industry dinosaurs may know that is worth retaining during coming upheaval.

can we avoid tossing babies along with the bathwater?

Oct. 01 2007 12:37 PM
Smokey Forester from LES

Currently the oil from Jatropha curcas seeds is used for making biodiesel fuel in Philippines, promoted by a law authored by Philippine senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Miguel Zubiri. Likewise, jatropha oil is being promoted as an easily grown biofuel crop in hundreds of projects throughout India and other developing countries. The rail line between Mumbai and Delhi is planted with Jatropha and the train itself runs on 15-20% biodiesel. In Africa, jatropha is being promoted and is grown successfully in countries such as Mali.

The plant can grow in wastelands, fertilises the soil that it grows in, and yields more than four times as much fuel per hectare as soybean; more than ten times that of corn. A hectare of jatropha produces 1,892 liters of fuel (about 6.5 barrels per acre).

Oct. 01 2007 12:37 PM
Chad Harris from Ridgewood, Queens

Aren't rivers cleaner because big factories have been sent to Mexico and China? I don't think the Clean Air act has done anything. In areas with facotories we have pollution.

Oct. 01 2007 12:33 PM
eric fluger from jersey city

geothermal energy isone of the more promising alternative energy technologies and as it provides a constant supply indendant of weather it may become an important ingredient in a clean energy mix (and an attractive alternative to fusion plants).

geothermal involved deep drilling. there is an extensive base of knoweldge and experience with deep drilling in the oil industry. is there any chance of oil companies being enticed into re-applying that knoweledge to geothermal? what would it take? how would that affect long range prospects for major share-holders (like pension funds)?

Oct. 01 2007 12:28 PM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

Don't the oil-producing countries have an vested interest in undermining alternative energy solutions?

Oct. 01 2007 12:24 PM

Could you ask your guest: To your knowledge, how accurate was the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car"?

Thank you.

Oct. 01 2007 12:23 PM
RC from queens

Charlie Maxwell the senior analyst at Weeden and Company says that hydrogen is at least 30 years away because:

1>Hydrogen has to be made because it does not exist in Nature. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to break hydrogen off of whatever it is bonded too.

2>Transportation and storage is a problem because once Hydrogen is un-bonded it does not stay un-bonded for a long time.

3>Ethanol - if we are talking corn, the production of ethanol causes pollution

If we are talking about sugar, Diane Fossey the gorilla conservationist just talked about how the rain forests are being cut down for the creation of bio-fuels. Now I understand that the rainforests are important for our environment as well.

4>Wind and Solar can only add another 2% to our energy needs in the next 20-30 years.

I hope Mr. Vaitheeswaran can answer these.

Oct. 01 2007 12:16 PM
Eric Cato from B'klyn

Yes, however I would like to go all electric and the choice is still pretty limited

Oct. 01 2007 12:08 PM

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