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ZOOM: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future 1st Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0446580045
ISBN-10: 044658004X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

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).
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve; 1 edition (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 044658004X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446580045
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 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: #3,246,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Edward Durney TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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