The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History

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Overview

Why is it we gas up rather than plug in our cars? Will we ever drive electric cars?In the late 1890s, at the dawn of the automobile era, steam, gasoline, and electric cars all competed to become the dominant automotive technology. By the early 1900s, the battle was over and internal combustion had won. Was the electric car ever a viable competitor? David A. Kirsh examines the relationship of technology, society, and environment to system choice and economic growth in the history of American transportation. He takes the history of the Electric Vehicle Company as a starting point for a vision would each have been used to supply different kinds of transport services. Kirsh argues that technological superiority ultimately was located in the hearts and minds of engineers, consumers, and drivers; it was not programmed inexorably into the chemical bonds of a gallon of refined petroleum. Finally, Kirsch connects the historic choice of internal combustion over electricity to current debates about the social and environmental impacts of the automobile, the introduction of new hybrid vehicles, and the continuing evolution of the American transportation system.

"A comprehensive and insightful treatment of the history of the electric vehicle. This is not only an interesting and well-researched historical account, but is also highly relevant to today's effort to return to electric powered vehicles." - William J. Perry, Stanford University, and former US secretary of defense.

"David Kirsch has compiled a fascinating, insightful account of how far the electric vehicle has come and how little has changed in one hundred years. The struggle to commercialize the electric car continues, much as it did at the turn of the last century. This time, however, there is a far stronger imperative: the health of the planet itself." - Bill Moore, editor of EV World.Com.

"Why did noisy and smelly internal combustion vehicles beat out quiet and smooth-running electric cars? For historians, policy makers and environmentalists the electric vehicle is the preeminent example of 'a path not taken." In this original and remarkable book, David A. Kirsh explains the rise and fall of the electric vehicle in terms of both the business strategy of electric vehicle manufacturers as well as the expectations and behavior of consumers. Ultimately, Kirsch suggests that the success of electric vehicles- in the past and in the future- rests not in technological improvements, but rather in how we choose to define what constitutes satisfactory individual mobility." - W. Bernard Carlson, University of Virginia.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Kirsch (industrial ecology, UCLA) considers the relationship of technology, society, and environment to choice, policy, and outcome in the history of American transportation. This book is the first on electric cars to examine clearly why the gasoline engine continues to be the dominant propulsion device for automobiles, even as technological and environmental concerns have made electric cars a viable alternative. The author s main argument is that technological superiority cannot be determined without social context, for the choice of gasoline, ultimately, lies in the hearts and minds of engineers, consumers, and drivers. Though electric cars were an early alternative to steam and gasoline-powered vehicles, the technology was never developed after the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine became the standard. Kirsch connects the choice of internal combustion over electricity to current debates over the social and environmental impact of the automobile, the introduction of hybrid-powered vehicles, and the continuing evolution of the American transportation system. An excellent book for academic libraries supporting public policy programs and for public libraries. Eric C. Shoaf, Brown Univ. Lib., Providence, RI Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
In the context of regulations requiring emission so low that electric and hybrid cars will be necessary, Kirsch (industrial ecology, U. of California-Los Angeles) takes the Electric Vehicle Company as a starting point for a vision of an alternative automotive system in which gasoline and electric vehicles would each have been used to supply different kinds of transport services. He argues that technological superiority was in the hearts and minds of engineers, consumers, and drivers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813528083
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2000
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.59 (h) x 1.02 (d)

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