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Forward Drive: The Race to Build "Clean" Cars for the Future Paperback – June 26, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

Few consumers have been attracted to "clean" cars--those powered by something other than traditional internal combustion engines--because they aren't satisfied yet with critical factors such as appearance (too odd), cost (too high), dependability (too uncertain), and performance (too limited). The times they are a-changing, however. A host of catalysts, including new legal requirements and shifting public opinion, is finally driving automakers toward relevant alternative technologies that actually date back 160 years. And Jim Motavalli, who travels an unusual professional route as both syndicated auto columnist and environmental reporter, chronicles the buildup and potential payoff in his intriguing book Forward Drive. "The information I came across ... described a personal transportation revolution that was becoming tantalizingly close," he writes. "Here, at last, were vehicles that promised to not only greatly reduce pollution but also to perform better, be more reliable, cruise farther, and last much longer than anything the public had ever seen." Written for those "who'd somehow failed to get their engineering Ph.D.s," it absorbingly examines the history of such vehicles, the impact of gasoline automobiles, the pioneers who already utilize alternative power, the large and small R&D operations, the political and financial forces under which everything operates, and the broader picture of sustainable transportation. --Howard Rothman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Despite Motavalli's position as editor of E: The Environmental Magazine, this is not a polemic describing the horrors of gasoline-powered cars. To be sure, Motavalli is firmly in favor of moving toward more fuel-efficient, less-polluting autos, but he is pragmatic enough to realize that such a change is not going to occur at the snap of some environmentalist's fingers. In his cogently written, well-researched account, Motavalli argues that market forces are ushering the U.S. into a clean-car era. Improvements in technology involving batteries and fuel cells, along with global warming, dwindling oil reserves and government mandates such as that of California's Air Resources Board, which calls for 10% of an automaker's fleet to be zero-emission by 2003, are all merging to create a market for electronic cars. But the most important factor driving increased domestic research into non-internal combustion engines (hybrid cars that combine gasoline with alternative power sources as well as hydrogen-propelled cars) is the fear that Detroit could be blindsided by the introduction of clean cars by foreign manufacturers, which American car makers believe could do the same damage to their market share as Toyota and Honda did when they began selling fuel-efficient autos a few decades ago. While Motavalli addresses environmental issues, his straightforward account is more likely to appeal to car enthusiasts who want the inside track on the status of electronic vehicles. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Sierra Club Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (June 26, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578050723
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578050727
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,081,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jim Motavalli writes on environmental topics for The New York Times, CBS MoneyWatch, NPR's Car Talk, AOL, Mother Nature Network and (Hearst). He is author or editor of six books, including Forward Drive: The Race to Build Clean Cars for the Future, Feeling the Heat: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Climate Change, and Naked in the Woods: Joseph Knowles and the Legacy of Frontier Fakery. His next book, tentatively titled High Voltage (about electric cars), will be published by Rodale. He is also a senior writer for E/The Environmental Magazine, a contributor to the Environmental Defense Fund publications and to Knowledge@Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania.

Motavalli is a two-time winner of the Global Media Award from the Population Institute, and hosts a radio program on WPKN-FM in Connecticut, with frequent live music. He lectures widely on climate and transportation issues.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I would recommend this book as a fascinating read even if you are not an auto enthusiast (I'm not) or an environmentalist (who doesn't want clean air?), like the author. The writing that comes out of those two communities is generally dreadful, biased, and didactic. Thankfully, Motavalli's background as a first rate journalist has resulted in a book that is both balanced and well written.
The history of the auto industry itself is quite colorful, and I would have indulged Mr. Motavalli a book twice the size if he wanted to tell even more of the story than he did. Maybe in another book.
It's always a pleasure to find non-fiction that is actually entertaining to read. But of course this is more than just entertainment, since there is a lot at stake for all of us here. More than fun, this is an important book. He clearly makes the point that clean cars are not a nice-to-have, they are extremely critical if we are to have an inhabitable planet. We can't afford for the 400 million more cars in China -- let alone the rest of the world -- to be the polluters and fossil fuel consumers we now drive.
I was impressed by the level of research. Motavalli even lists the names and titles of all the people he interviewed -- a rarity, and proof of the meticulous research he did, although the depth of his knowledge and it's authenticity is obvious from the text.
This is a timely and important book, and I hope it raises a lot of consciousness. But at any rate you'll learn enough interesting tidbits to make you the hit of the next 50 cocktail parties. Especially if you drive there in a new hybrid car.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Finnegan on May 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As an alternative fuels engineering research student at the University of Liverpool, UK. I found Forward Drive to be both informative and quantitatively sound. An excellent account of each particular type of fuel cell vehicle, provided any reader with relatively little knowledge, a picture of the intrinsic complexities related to the commercialisation of fuel cell vehicles. Although Jim may be opinionated on fuel cell vehicles, adequate justification was placed upon the diminish of the internal combustion engine and necessity of the fuel cell vehicle for the future sustainability of transportation.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bladerunner B26354 on February 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"Forward drive" is a pleasure to read, written by Jim Motavalli, who is well-versed in his subjects. Reading this book is one of the few things today that makes me feel like I'm actually in the 21st century, not stuck in the 90's and never progressing. The book has a wealth of information not found in any other book, and there are only a few books about the future of automobiles. I had no idea that big automakers were not really in a hurry to give us a truly revolutionary car with a new power source; it seems the profit margin was less for holding off in research and development because of some link with oil companies. I mean, come on, it's the year 2001! Where are all the cars like we saw in Bladerunner? Are we still stuck using twenty-miles to the gallon gasoline internal-combustion engines? What is the message from automakers when cars depicted in video games, for example, seem more real than the actual future? Why isn't there yet a car that is beyond what we have?
The book discusses much needed information about "the race" to build cleaner cars, and that a car with no emissions--a technological difficulty in itself--is actually possible. The questions of fuel efficiency, speed, power and appeal of futuristic cars are also addressed, indicating the knowledgeability of the author. Key among the topics of "Forward Drive" is affordability. I would not pay $100,000 to drive a non-polluting car, simply because I'm not willing to pay that much just to drive.
Motavalli, editor of "E:" magazine, clearly shows his love for the craft of writing nonfiction. "Forward drive" cannot be fully absorbed in only a skimming or a preview; it takes a dedicated block of time to actually read its pages carefully.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Forward Drive is a well-documented and welcome piece on the changes taking place in powering cars. Jim Motavalli's research reveals how the "electric car" is a far from a new idea since electric cars were quite commonplace in the early 20th century. The book describes how the Big Three (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) have only recently, and somewhat reluctantly, joined the race to produce fuel-efficient cars while continuing to produce SUV's that make a mockery of CAFÉ standards. Fortunately others such as Honda are in the forefront of the effort to bring more fuel-efficient and less-polluting vehicles to the public. The book has a chapter detailing the advances in fuel technology going on at such places as Ballard Laboratory. Also fascinating are examples of other fuel cell applications such as its use in energy production. While the section on how the fuel cell works were a bit technical, Motavalli's opus is an exciting look into the future where our skies will be less smog-ridden and our dependence on petroleum reduced.
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