Publication Detail

Electric Dreams

UCD-ITS-RP-11-17

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Suggested Citation:
Sperling, Daniel (2011) Electric Dreams. Technology Review 2011 (January-February)

Success for vehicles with a plug, not a gas cap, rests on more than technology. The history of alternative transportation fuels is a history of failure. It is a story of one fuel du jour after another—a frustrating cycle of media and political hype followed by disillusionment and abandonment.

The cycle is all too familiar, from synfuels in the late 1970s to methanol in the '80s, and then electric vehicles, hydrogen, and ethanol. Only corn ethanol has survived in the United States, but it would be a stretch to call it a success, given its big carbon footprint and relatively high cost (subsidized at about $6 billion per year in the United States today). A new wave of electric vehicles are now at risk of entering the cycle again.

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