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High Voltage: The Fast Track to Plug In the Auto Industry Hardcover – November 8, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“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.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160529263X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605292632
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,730,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Emc2 VINE VOICE on November 10, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is well-written, in the typical NYT journalistic style, and very comprehensive. Mr. Motavalli managed to chronicle in a short book the rebirth of plug-in electric cars (PEVs) and the state-of-the-art of the industry as of mid 2011. As the book's introduction explains, PEVs include all-electric cars (EVs or BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), but not the conventional gasoline-electric hybrids, such as the Prius, which do not plug-in.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book describes some of the activities and personalities surrounding the effort to develop the Lithium cell of the future. It winds up inconclusively, because the story is far from finished. It does, however give a good look at the most promising current technology, and points out what will be necessary to reap the bonanza that a successful fix will produce.
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Format: Hardcover
Here is an outline of what you can find in this book:

Introduction: lists types of electric vehicles (EVs), including battery electrics (Tesla Roadster and Model S, Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus, Daimler SmartForTwo, BMW i3, Honda Fit, Fiat 500, Think City, Coda, Wheego LiFe); plug-in hybrids (Chevrolet Volt, Fisker Karma, Ford C-Max Energi, Toyota Prius Plug-In); hybrids (Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, Ford Fusion).

1) Racing for the goal: bios of Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and Henrik Fisker of Fisker Automotive.

2) Building the batteries: names major battery suppliers and their auto-company partners, including A123 Systems (Fisker), Ener1 (Think, Volvo), Johnson Controls-Saft (BMW, Mercedes, Ford), SB LiMotive (BMW), Valence (Smith Electric Vehicles, Brammo), LG Chem (General Motors), NEC (Nissan), Boston-Power (Saab).

3) From computers to cars: explains why California, although it is a great place to market electric vehicles, might not be the best place to build them.

4) The big players: Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt are current leaders, but other major auto companies are also developing electric vehicles.

5) Charging ahead: how to build networks for fast charging or battery swaps to allow for long-distance travel in electric vehicles.

6) The smart grid: how changes to rate structures and meters could work toward charging electric vehicles without requiring additional generating capacity.

7) Chinese puzzles: discusses production of electric vehicles in China by BYD and other major companies.

8) Iceland's fast track: how low-cost electricity and high-cost oil imports could encourage rapid increase in use of electric vehicles.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fun book to read, but I have a Mitsubishi iMiev,and there is no information on it in this book. A lot of other cars I've never heard of are examined, and iMiev is probably 3rd most popular all electric behind Leaf and maybe Tesla.
I'd still recommend this book to those interested in electric cars.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Definitely well researched and surely inclusive of the many, not the few. Motavalli presents with a balanced approach, especially when comparing all the electric and hybrid vehicles. Sure, he presents his own favorites and orders them accordingly, but he give his reasons why.

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.
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