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High Voltage: The Fast Track to Plug In the Auto Industry Hardcover – November 8, 2011
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“Electricity has always been the best way to power an automobile. At the dawn of the last century, electric cars were the future, and 100 years later they're the future again. For that reason, I'm sure you'll find this book fascinating.” ―Jay Leno
“The electric car can satisfy over 90 percent of our transportation needs--today. Jim Motavalli's High Voltage lays it all out in a clear and concise manner, for all to see. So what are we waiting for?” ―Ed Begley Jr.
“Jim's been on top of the electric car story since day 1--even calling out oil lobbyists on their clandestine anti-EV campaigns back in the 1990s. High Voltage lands us in in 2012 with a well-researched, up-to-the minute dispatch from the front line of one of the most exciting industrial revolutions of our time.” ―Chris Paine, director of Who Killed the Electric Car? and Revenge of the Electric Car
“With more than two decades of reporting on clean cars to his credit, Jim Motavalli understands the intricacies of the electric-vehicle scene better than just about anyone. His latest book on the subject is an enjoyable, wide-ranging tour of the 21st-century electric-car revival--essential reading for anyone who cares about the future of transportation.” ―Seth Fletcher, author of Bottled Lightning and a senior editor at Popular Science
“Positively electric! Each chapter surges with high voltage. When do we see the movie?” ―TOM and RAY MAGLIOZZI, NPR'S Car Talk
“Even if you aren't a car enthusiast, [Motavalli's] enthusiasm for the recent surge in electric and plug-in hybrid options on showroom floors, mixed with auto history, first-hand driving experiences and interviews with the industry's key players, makes for an entertaining read...Motavalli's behind-the-scenes perspective gives readers real insight into the possibilities offered by electric cars which clearly will no longer be relegated to a niche market.” ―E MAGAZINE
About the Author
JIM MOTAVALLI is the author of Forward Drive and several other books. He blogs on clean cars for the New York Times, CBS, and NPR's Car Talk, among others. He lives in Connecticut.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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The book was very well-researched, with a lot of primary content as many key players were interviewed just for the book, and of course, Mr. Motavalli's ample experience as a green car journalist, bringing along all his behind-the-wheels test drive experience with almost all the plug-in electric cars available in the world today. The book covers all relevant aspects regarding PEVs, advantages, disadvantages, barriers to wide adoption, the key role of EV battery technology, the deployment of charging infrastructure, fast charging standards, battery swapping, you name, every aspect is covered. There is an entire chapter devoted to Motavalli's test drives of several PEVs, which includes his experience with the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, Th!nk City, Aptera 2e and the Toyota Highlander FCHV. By the way, electric vans and truck are out of the scope of the book.
The book is aimed for a wide audience, not just the early adopters, techies and green car fans. Actually, regular consumers with an interest in PEVs will find this book quite a primer to help them decide whether now is the right time to go electric or wait. I believe it would have been helpful for the layman to include some pictures, at least of the most relevant PEVs, such as the Volt and Leaf.
My other quibbles about the book have to do with its bias towards the American market. Despite covering all PEVs from the big players and start-ups, with the exception of China, the discussion is mostly focused around those PEVs already available or slated for the U.S. market. Surprisingly there is almost nothing about the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (renamed Mitsubishi i for the American-spec version) , launched more than a year before the Nissan Leaf and actually, sharing the leadership in global sales of electric cars as of October 2011. The i-MiEV is only mentioned a couple of times in the context of plug charging standards. The REVAi (or G-Wiz) is also missing, despite having sold a few thousand units since 2001. And the Japanese market is only covered in terms of its charging infrastructure and charging standards, despite sharing the world leadership with the U.S. in terms of PEV sales. Also, the book has a very interesting chapter about the potential of Iceland to become the first 100% electric transportation country, but surprisingly there is nothing about Norway, despite being the country with the most PEVs per capita in the world. It would have been interesting to learn some lessons from the Norwegians, who are ahead of the rest of the world.
The last chapter presents the author's vision of commuting in 2030, a very creative scenario indeed, but Mr. Motavalli closes the book with a down to earth view of what he believes is likely to happen next, and his "Ten Most Likely to Succeed" list is included. I agree with most of the cars in the list, and also share with the author his educated guess that the chance of survival is higher for the Chevy Volt, the Nissan Leaf, and the Prius Plug-in, but not for the Ford Focus Electric, which has a base price higher than the Leaf and the same as the Volt (to be fair, pricing of the Prius PHEV and the Focus EV was not available when the book was finished). I believe that price is the most important factor for the successful adoption of plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars, therefore today's premium with respect to gasoline-powered cars will have to shrink significantly for PEVs to become affordable and the remaining premium has to be paid back in a few years, just like conventional hybrids today. And finally, just as Jim Motavalli wished for in the book, if I had the $41,000 to spare on a car, I'd spend it on the Volt, really a technological marvel and a game-changer.
Considering that all-electric range and the price of the battery packs are the two deal breakers for mass adoption of PEVs, I recommend an excellent complementary reading about the present and future of battery technology, Seth Fletcher's Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy. Also do not miss the movie Revenge of the Electric Car, recently released to the public. And for those readers who want to know more about the Volt's development and innovative technology, do not miss Chevrolet Volt: Charging into the Future.
* Final note only for the Kindle edition:
I read the Kindle version, which comes with active hyperlinks to the web for many of the endnotes for each chapter, so frequently I went back and forth between the web and the book to check out further info. A very handy feature indeed. Nevertheless, I have a complaint for Amazon because in doing this back and forth at some point the Whispersync software lost track of the real last location, showing the endnotes as my last location. This bug was really annoying because I often switch the reading between my iPad and my iPod, so I had to synchronize the devices manually with go to.
I think it is about time that Amazon adds a feature to allow the user reset the `Furthest Page Read.'. Sometimes I like to peek the final pages or check something ahead of the reading (just as you do in a regular book), or simply do a word search. Nowadays I have to refrain from doing so to make sure I do not lose my last reading location. Or, is this a particular problem with the book's Kindle version I bought?
PS: I google for a solution. It seems Amazon expect you to email costumer service to reset the last location. What a lousy solution. The Kindle should allow it to do it yourself.
Most commendable is that this book is not like others, which appear to be more corporate-sponsored or soft-soaped so as not to offend anyone. His travels around the world accompanied with multiples of interviews, links and quotes makes the reader a fly on the wall, so to speak. I now know things that I did not know before, but somewhat suspected.
Now why I didn't give this a 5-Star? In Chapter 10, Eden Attained, he presents alternate realities, where 1) IF battery-only EVs flopped and 2) electric-assisted hybrids flopped. His conclusion was that all that we would be left with would be for us to face Peak Oil until government forced the issue to fully electrify. In that regard, I respectfully but totally disagree. Eventually, electrification will overtake the IC engine, but we are not at Peak Oil. I say we are at Peak Easy Oil; big difference.
However, the author missed the opportunity to present the IC engine alternatives in that scenario up to 2030 and 2050, like natural gas for cleaner and cheaper fuel and the advantages of split-cycle engines, especially with its air-hybrid, Miller-like option. Reading "Splitting I.C.E." for example, along with it provides the element that I feel is missing in the scenario of that chapter. Together, story is super clear.
Other than that, I consider "High Voltage" my favored EV reference book and is worthy of a prominence in my private library.