(This outrageous article slamming EVs was published in the Wall Street Journal on January 20th, 2000. I typed it up without authorization so the EV community could have a chance to respond, because the Wall Street Journal is a subscription based web site and this text should make the rounds online...Reading such short sighted drivel makes me feel like it's the end of the world and we may as well just pack it in and let the planet die! They ran this piece right against their masthead, as if to "instigate" controversy generating angry "reader mail". They made it "really" easy to find their mailing address: WSJ 200 Liberty St, NYC 10281. According to this article, if you're an EV enthusiast, you're also a communist! Enjoy. Remy C. ET Ed.)

Th!nk Again About Eco-Cars
by Diane Katz & Henry Payne

DETROIT - This week the annual North American International Auto Show, a $300-million spectacle of new models and concept vehicles, will draw 800,000 car-loving consumers and 6,400 journalists from 61 countries. So why are auto makers rolling out models that no one would want to buy?

From Ford Motor Co., for example, comes Th!nk, the industry's first "environmental" brand. It's offerings include a $27.000, two-seat electric car with a 50 miles range: a two-speed modified golf cart (with cup holders); and a 24-volt bicycle that company officials swear will scale a San Francisco hill on a single charge.

General Motors Corp. is offering two versions of its Precept sedan - a diesel-electric hybrid and a fuel-cell model that reportedly ranks as the costliest car ever produced. And Toyota is showing its Prius hybrid that currently sells in Japan - with the help of a $3000 government subsidy.

Automakers know this isn't what the public wants. Powerful and roomy sport-utility vehicles, light trucks and minivans now comprise nearly half of all new vehicles sales. Indeed, auto show spectators are flocking to such offerings as Ford's three-ton Equator and two redesigns of its Explorer; GM's crossover Avalanche and a new 7,000-pound, 6.5 liter turbo diesel Humvee-1; and Toyota's jumbo V8 Sequoia. For every eco-car the Big Three have headlined, they have rolled out at least three more SUVs.

So why offer so many eco-cars? Because the auto-industry isn't catering to consumers but to environmental bureaucrats, who blame the internal-combustion engine for global warming. Never mind that some 98% of auto emissions have been eliminated in the past three decades. Automakers now face crippling files unless they fulfill sales quotas of zero-emission vehicles in some of the nation's biggest markets, including California and New York. Even if the quotas are met, they will have negligible impact on carbon dioxide emissions - but they may well reduce driver safety by putting smaller (and hence less crashworthy) cars on the road.

Nevertheless, billion of dollars annually are being invested industry/governmental consortiums like the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. William Clay Ford Jr. boasts that his company now spends half its R&D budget on low-emissions vehicles. Much of the money is wasted. GM, for example, invested more than $350 million in its EV1 electric car before quietly announcing last week it would stop production for lack of consumer interest. They couldn't give the things away. And no wonder: Who wants a car that needs to be plugged into the wall every 50 miles for an eight-hour recharge?

Or take the Toyota Prius - please. This fall Autoweek magazine took a Prius up to New Hampshire to mark the centennial of the first (steam-powered) car to climb 6,000-foot Mount Washington - and to see how far alternate fuel cars had come. Just two miles up the mountain's steep 7.6-mile road, the Prius had to stop to recharge its batteries. Yet, while Toyota can barely meet demand for its new sport utility vehicles, company officials are determined to bring the Prius to the U.S. market this year to demonstrate their green pedigree.

It is no accident that the new "environmental mobility" is gaining the most ground in socialist economies. The Norwegian government provides a $5,000 subsidy for each Th!nk vehicle purchased, and Ford hopes to expand the line to Vietnam and China, where the governments will underwrite a costly network of refueling stations.

Congress earlier rebuffed President Clinton's proposal for a $3,000 subsidy to buyers of zero-emission vehicles. But automakers have not lost all hope. Dodge, for example, is demanding a federal subsidy to market its hybrid Durango. Meanwhile, millions of consumers are shelling out tens of thousands of dollars of their own money to buy conventional vehicles they actually want to drive.

Ms. Katz writes on automotive and technology issues for The Detroit News editorial page. Mr Payne is an editorial cartoonist and writer for the News.

(The following reply was published in the Wall Street Journal Letters To The Editor section on January 26th, 2000. Remy C.)

New York

The Little Eco-Car That Thought It Could

In response to Diane Katz and Henry Payne's Jan. 20 editorial-page essay "Th!nk Again About Eco-Cars," let me first set the record straight about the Toyota Prius hybrid car's climb up Mount Washington, as reported in AutoWeek magazine. The first attempt failed because the driver was not operating the car properly. He didn't confess to driver error until the sixth page of the article. On its second attempt, the Prius cruised up the mountain without missing a beat, and the author noted the "the car is forgiven; it didn't fail to climb the mountain in one go. The driver did."

Although the Prius won't be introduced to America until this summer, it has been on sale in Japan since 1997, where more than 30.000 have been sold, proving to us that it is a practical vehicle for everyday use.

The Prius is also a starting point, as serious first effort to build the kind of environmentally responsible vehicle that operates seamlessly while providing all of the performance and comfort that customers have come to expect in a modern automobile.

Mark Amstock
National Prius Marketing Manager
Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.
Torrance, Calif.

FYI: Description of driver error.
From page 22 of December 6, 1999
Autoweek magazine.

"Speaking of not-so-smart, we'd been charging up the hill, depleting the batteries. Prius can make a tortoise-like, steady Eddy climb to the cloud-enshrouded peak of Mt. Washington without stopping, if only the driver chooses the other of the two drive modes that manage its automatic (actually planetary) transmission.

The programming behind the "B" setting we chose initially creates a sort of artificial "engine breaking" effect by turning the motor into a generator whenever the driver lifts the foot off the accelerator. But the load of making a fairly rapid ascent (the recommended 20-3- mph) meant that as the car climbed, it kept trying to recharge the batteries even as they depleted, diverting engine output from the task of keeping the car moving.

Better to take advantage of the dual powertrain by selecting "D", the drive setting, in which, on the batteries are depleted, the car resorts to gasoline-power only. All the engine output goes into moving the car, postponing any effort to recharge the battery. We demonstrated this ability the next day, climbing without stopping to recharge. So the car is forgiven; it didn't fail to climb the mountain in one go. The driver did. On the other hand, it didn't exactly charge up the hill effortlessly the way a Corolla would have."

(I'd like to thank the staff of Autoweek for promptly faxing Electrifying Times the full text of this clarification. Remy C.)