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ZOOM: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future [Hardcover]

by Vijay Vaitheeswaran, Iain Carson
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 1, 2007 044658004X 978-0446580045 1
"Zoom goes zero to sixty in nothing flat. It's an exciting ride into the future of the world's favorite physical object, the automobile."
-Gregg Easterbrook, author of THE PROGRESS PARADOX

"Zoom offers a new way to think about cars and energy that's key to understanding the forces shaping business today. It's smart, well-informed and insightful--exactly what one would expect from two of The Economist's best journalists."
-Chris Anderson, author of THE LONG TAIL

"Zoom puts oil in its sights and squeezes off one telling round after another. Car lovers will see a sunny future with other fuels; OPEC a steadily darkening twilight."
-R. James Woolsey, VP, Booz Allen Hamilton; former Director of Central Intelligence

"An incisive analysis of the end of the petroleum age, including all its repercussions and opportunities."
-Vinod Khosla, Khosla Ventures

"Oil is the problem. Cars are the solution."
Those two simple sentences by the authors of Zoom define the scope of their illuminating and important book, an examination of a transformation in business and culture that is occurring before our eyes.
We are living in the midst of a Great Awakening. People are seeking environmentally-sound alternatives to gas guzzlers. Detroit's reign is over. Oil companies, despite their billion-dollar profits, could be on the brink of extinction if they don't adapt. And citizens, all too aware that these industries have lobbied politicians into gridlock over energy policy, are mobilizing to support leaders who advocate new policies.
In Zoom, Iain Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran, award-winning correspondents for The Economist, show why and how geopolitical and economic forces are compelling the linked industries of oil and autos to change as never before.
Drawing on years of industry research-including dozens of interviews with motor and energy executives, top policymakers, and latter-day Fords and Edisons-Carson and Vaitheeswaran explain:
-How Toyota became the world's largest automaker through innovation and superior performance.
-Why American politicians have, for decades failed to address our energy issues and global warming-and how grassroots movements, along with individual entrepreneurs, innovators, and outsiders, are making real reform possible.
-How these Green revolutionaries are creating new products powered by hydrogen, electricity, bio-fuels, and digital technology.
As political leaders debate our energy, environmental and economic future, Zoom offers a lucid and visionary portrait of what that future could be. Anyone planning to vote will find compelling truth in its assertions and conclusions.

Editorial Reviews


A stirring call to arms urging Americans to demand that the government act now to meet the challenges of global warming and to tackle the country's addiction to oil. Carson, former industry editor of The Economist, and Vaitheeswaran, who for ten years reported on environmental and energy issues for that magazine, take to task the automakers of Detroit and Big Oil, dubbing them "dinosaurs" facing extinction unless they change their thinking soon. The authors' closeup look at the workings of the auto industry is sharp and pulls no punches. They credit Toyota with taking the lead in the race to develop the successor to the internal-combustion engine, calling the Prius a stepping stone to the car of the future. The chapters on oil trace the story of America's dependence on Mideast oil from FDR's pact with Ibn Saud of Saudia Arabia in World War II to the terror-threatened market of the present day, and they consider the serious problems now facing the Western oil giants, especially the restricted access to reserves as competition from national oil companies increases. But there's also good news, note the authors. Employing religious terminology, they envision a "Great Awakening" under way in the form of a new awareness of the need for energy reform and some specific actions being taken to achieve it. They offer engrossing stories about a variety of technology innovators and entrepreneurs with fresh ideas about clean energy, including the use of hydrogen to power cars that have clean fuel cells instead of dirty gasoline engines. The authors conclude with a manifesto stating five principles for a smart energy policy, including the necessity of individual action and a grassroots rebellion that will prompt action from the country's leaders.A timely, authoritative book written in a punchy, easy-to-read style. -- Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Iain Carson has been the Industry Editor of The Economist since 1994, covering the airline, transportation and manufacturing industries. He has also worked as a reporter and anchor for BBC Television and Channel Four. Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran is an MIT-trained engineer who spent ten years covering global environmental and energy issues for The Economist. He is the author of Power to the People (FSG).

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve; 1 edition (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 044658004X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446580045
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,711,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Two Economist reporters teamed up to write Zoom. That shows. The book takes a good look at cars, their past and their future. But it reads more like a series of magazine articles than a book. That makes the book somewhat simple and superficial. Nothing deep or meaty.

That being said, Zoom does provide a good read. The authors like to talk about people as much as things. And they are good at little character sketches. Stan Ovshinsky. Henry Ford. Bob Lutz. Elon Musk. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Larry Burns. Lee Raymond. Thomas Edison. Amory Lovins. James Woolsey. And tens of others. Probably a hundred people altogether.

The authors do well with people. They do not do so well with the technology. A few (not many) out and out errors. (And again like a magazine but unlike a book, not a single footnote or citation to let us check on sources.) But mostly the book takes just a quick look at technology, not the close look that would have helped.

The hydrogen economy, for example, gets mentioned several times throughout the book. But the pros and cons are never discussed. Same with climate change. Maybe an in-depth look at those complex issues would not work in a magazine article. In a book, a careful look at those key issues not only works, but its lack glares as a weakness.

In a review like this, it's easy to focus on the critical and pay less attention to the good things about the book. I've done that here. On balance, this book covers a very important topic in an entertaining, well-researched and well-written manner. The authors should be commended. And their book, Zoom, should be read.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars written by economists, and it shows October 13, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Zoom is not what I expected. I thought I'd get a survey of the various alt-fuel vehicle approaches that are being pursued today. Instead what I mostly got is an examination of all that's wrong with Big Oil, Big Auto, and Washington DC. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I certainly learned a lot.

The book does seem a bit rambling and unfocused, certainly in contrast to the laser-like focus of Cool It. Some have criticized it for including large tracts of text from earlier articles that appeared in The Economist. Well. . . I don't subscribe to The Economist, so this was all new to me.

As we are led down this winding path, we get a schooling in how Big Oil and Big Auto have corrupted the political process. We see how dependent the world has become on the Middle East. We find that both Big Oil and Big Auto -- squabbling partners, like siamese twins who detest one another yet can't be separated -- are facing serious problems in the coming decades. The authors believe that grassroots political pressure, a great awakening, will eventually force a change to overwhelm the armies of lobbyists and fountains of campaign money that they have showered on politicians. Pressure is rising up from consumers, it's rising up from voters, it's rising up from the states and local governments, and Washington DC will be the last place to come around.

One big insight here relates to global warming. The authors don't see global warming as a critical problem -- provided that we move away from gas guzzlers toward more efficient cars and energy sources. However, that is only one path that industry could follow. The other path leads to tar sands, oil shale, and coal-to-liquids. If these become the replacement for conventional oil, then our global CO2 emissions could skyrocket.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A look at the past more than a look at the future. December 9, 2007
Almost entirely a history of everything that's "bad" about cars and the auto & oil industries. Very little OF SUBSTANCE about what they could become and HOW TO GET THERE. Also, the book could have been 1/2 it's final length if the authors hadn't kept repeating things. Disappointing.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Where Goes the Car? December 23, 2007
The problem with oil and the internal combustion engine can be understood by a few statistics. Car ownership in the US is more than one per person - 1,148 cars for every 1,000 Americans. In China and India it is about 10 cars per 1,000 persons. Current global oil consumption is about 86 million barrels per day. If car ownership and oil consumption levels in China and India reached half the US-level, an extra 100 million barrels daily would be required; if they equaled the US-level, yet another 100 million barrels daily would be needed. You don't even need to believe in global warming to see that this trend is unsustainable.

The authors, Iain Carson and Vijay V Vaitheeswaran, are transportation journalists and techno-optimists. They love cars and see a bright future for car ownership, provided that one or more of the host of new fuel and energy technologies are embraced - everything from flex-fuel ethanol engines to plug-in hybrids. They are pessimists, however, about the will of Big Oil and Detroit - and politicians - to meet the challenges of carbon emissions, declining oil reserves, and the rising energy demands of newly developing nations such as China and India. This is very telling since both authors worked for the pro-business magazine The Economist.

Although their sharp criticisms of business will have them pegged as anti-business or "leftist," their censure of politicians is across the spectrum. The story about the Clinton/Gore intiative in 1993 with the Big Three, known as the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, would have been funny were it not so tragic. The Big Three went through more than a billion dollars worth of subsidies to produce new fuel-efficient vehicles.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative text on a topic of paramount importance
You couldn't really ask for two better-qualified writers on this topic than Vaitheeswaran and Carson. Read more
Published on December 28, 2010 by Daniel Altman
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing -
The introductory hoopla on fuel cells is so bad you want to quit in the first few pages. Entirely too wrapped up in fuel cells, and overly simplistic. Too much equivocating. Read more
Published on July 28, 2010 by Loyd E. Eskildson
2.0 out of 5 stars Review
Zoom: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future
by Iain Carson and Vijay V Vaitheeswaran

It is pretty clear that something has to change. Read more
Published on December 11, 2009 by Speed Readers
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ideas but poor organization.
When I first chose to read this book, I imagined it would talk about alternate schemes for powering cars that don't involve the use of fossil fuels or at least oil. Read more
Published on December 5, 2009 by J. Dykstra
3.0 out of 5 stars Superficial advocacy for hydrogen based cars
This is a piece of advocacy for the car industry to innovate away from oil based fuels. Carson and Vaitheeswaran are full of passion for this process, but they try to carry the... Read more
Published on April 6, 2009 by Craig Matteson
5.0 out of 5 stars Why you want to run your cars on something other than oil
Authors Iain Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran depict "Big Oil" and "Big Auto" as the engines behind much of the world's climate problem. Read more
Published on March 23, 2009 by Rolf Dobelli
1.0 out of 5 stars ZOOM: Poorly researched and highly misleading.
How can anyone take seriously a book that markets itself as being a guide to the fuels that might drive cars of the future when it completely misses one of the most obvious... Read more
Published on January 23, 2009 by Ricky Larch
4.0 out of 5 stars The future of auto energy
A good book indicating the future of auto energy and its presence amongst the gasoline lovers/profiteers.
Published on October 20, 2008 by William D. Tompkins
5.0 out of 5 stars The scope of the oil problem - and its likely solution
Iain Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran's ZOOM: THE GLOBAL RACE TO FUEL THE CAR OF THE FUTURE comes from an engineer and economy magazine editor who together consider the scope of... Read more
Published on September 5, 2008 by Midwest Book Review
3.0 out of 5 stars More On Auto Industry History than Alternative Fueled Cars
I expected to see more on the technologies competing to replace gasoline as the power source for cars in this book. Read more
Published on June 26, 2008 by Kenneth W. Harris
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