walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_Car Wars_, John J. Fialka

Library selection. I feel like I need to quit doing this, because I am having more and more trouble with font size, and then there's the whole lighting thing when I read in the evening in bed.

Subtitled _The Rise, the Fall and the Resurgence of the Electric Car_, it is primarily about electric cars in the 1960s and later. He does a nice job covering the interplay of environmental regulation and the development of electric vehicles and other low/no emissions cars. Several chapters are devoted to fuel cell cars. Because the majority of the book was written before the inflection in electric/hybrid cars which we are now experiencing (publication date is 2015), I feel like fuel cell cars get more page space than they maybe deserve. And then the rather tantalizing comment about low-voltage electrolysis as the end doesn't have any meat on it at all. (This is what is in the citation in the endnotes: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-08/su-ssd081914.php.)

(Here is more about low voltage water splitter work: http://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/23/water-splitter-catalyst-062315/ Ironically, using stuff that came out of developing better batteries. You do NOT get to skip generations of technology.)

Fialka is a journalist (WSJ for a decade and a halfish, but he seems to have left in roughly the appropriate time frame), so that's the style of writing: find the people, tell the story with enough details to be compelling, but not ever descend into anything particularly jargon-y. He has an eye for entertaining conflict, and a judicious way of presenting that conflict so that no one looks really bad, it is mostly just kind of fun.

I liked the sections on racing far more than I expected to. Not just the cross Australia stuff proof-that-electric-cars-can-whatever thing, but also that electric cars and motorcycles have a technological leg up in races like Pike's Peak. It makes sense, but I had never paid that much attention. It also really makes real the idea that while battery technology improves slowly, it is improving a whole lot faster than IC, which is pretty close to the end of its developmental arc. Early cars kinda sucked compared to horses, but horses weren't changing much and IC was; we're apparently looking at that kind of comparison again.

The section on Bright Automotive was really kind of depressing. I knew the Solyndra scandal had taken down a lot of other, better companies. I hadn't had _any_ idea that trucks and other heavier vehicles would make so much sense electrified. It is exciting to realize that people on the other side of the political aisle realize this, too, and are selling it -- correctly! -- from a national security/energy independence perspective.

If you are feeling like this review is a bit episodic, that is actually kind of what reading the book was like as well. I really enjoyed reading it, and if I run across another book by Fialka on a topic I am interested in, I'll read it with high expectations.
Tags: book review, our future economy today
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