Electric cars hidden for a reason

by Jesse Kiser

Gas prices are high and my ears are becoming numb from the sound of angry consumers. With loud grunts at gas stations and newspaper stories every ­­day about the high prices, solutions are falling behind to complaints. Statistics are recited on every news show about the record-breaking increase in oil prices. Either it has never climbed so fast in a week, or never so fast in a day, or never this high in general.

It seems either something needs to be done or we need to just stop complaining. But should we aim the loaded blame gun at now? Car companies, oil companies or the big bad government? The government seemingly does nothing. Bush is sitting in his office watching the oil prices rise as if he is saying, “I told you so. We should have drilled.” Well the government might not be to blame – maybe the car companies and oil companies are lobbying too much to fight back. We too often point the finger at others before we point the finger towards ourselves. We must become smarter consumers of oil before we blame everyone else. We blame everyone else because, let’s face it, it’s easier.

Another topic that comes into play is the rumored technology being withheld from the general public in fear of the oil companies losing money, such as a car that can run on only electricity for around 200 miles without charging. With the daily driving distance for the average American being around 75 miles, it is easy to say this technology is useful and needed. But what if this technology were introduced tomorrow?

With GM laying off employees and car sales for American autos slumping, some say if the car companies had this technology they would be making it. Anything that would sell they would make, right? For a minute let’s say it is true.

The movie Who Killed the Electric Car, about GM’s EV1 car built in the early 1990s, is convincing. It effectively shows that the people in power are hiding something from us. It featured the history of the EV1, a 200-mile range, fully electric car introduced in California. But suddenly GM pulled all cars out of the hands of the owners (who were lent the cars by GM) and the cars were destroyed – never to be heard from again.

But are they as sinister as they appear? Do they hide technology just to fatten their pockets? With our country being built on the gasoline-consuming automobile, what would happen if a solely electric powered car were to be made tomorrow? If the shareholders are keeping this technology from us, is that really a bad thing?

A healthy economy works off of spending. We spend money to make money. The gasoline-powered car literally forces you to spend money on it almost daily, not only on gas. Think about where you live. Now think about how many Auto Zones, Advance Autos, O-Reilly Auto Parts and AC Delco stores are close to you. Now think about how many automotive shops are in your area alone. Now consider this: the technology the powerful people hide from us would eliminate the majority of these businesses.

This technology is supposed to be far simpler than a gasoline engine. An electric car is supposed to not involve any oil, so no oil changes, and primarily very few changeable or replaceable parts would be necessary. Either it works or it doesn’t. So with no need to buy parts from these stores and no need for so many mechanics (of course electric cars would need some work) think about the loss of jobs and businesses. These cars are supposed to be longer lasting, which would in long-term outlook decrease car sales. But with so many Americans out of work automobile sales will the least of people’s worries. It would pull the rug out from underneath the American economy.

Let’s consider the other talk about technology. The story heard around the automotive world is when someone creates technology that will greatly lower our dependency on oil, the oil companies will approach the inventor with a briefcase full of money, falsely promising to mass-produce this technology. If the inventor refuses the offer the oil companies will make him wish he had.

Holman and Moody Racing was best known for creating the Ferrari-killing Ford GT-40 along with other famous Ford racecars. In the late 1970s publications advocating Holman and Moody’s “Magic Machine,” as Time magazine put it. It was a Mercury Capri with a turbocharged diesel engine said to get 53 city mpg and 80 highway mpg. The trick was instead of an intercooler attached to the turbo there was a heat exchanger causing the fast moving air to heat up the gas and air mixture before reaching the engine. They applied for a patent and then were never heard from again.

After some research a call was finally placed to the current Holman and Moody racing in Concord, NC. The current manager and Ralph Moody’s son, Lee Moody, answered the phone, “You are about the third phone call this month about that car…. People call up here all the time cursing me out asking, “Why did we destroy this technology?'” said Moody. The true side of the story, from Moody, was that the creator of the car was not Ralph Moody, but an employee of theirs and simply put, it was a hoax. The employee would convince journalists of the car’s amazing mpg by filling a glass vial on the dash of the car with 1 gallon of gas and then driving around town.

People would send the creator checks for pre-orders for the car but they would receive a receipt for “research” into the technology and a thank you note. The EPA finally got the car, but this time looked into its operation further. They found a second firewall where a separate gas tank was hidden (a racing trick Holman and Moody used in the early years of NASCAR). “But that story,” explained Moody, “doesn’t sell magazines.”

There was a Car and Driver article written by Patrick Bedard in March 2004 titled, “Al Gore Wasn’t the Only Guy Flogging an 80-mpg Car” along with a Time magazine article, written by an unknown source on May 14, 1979 titled, “Moody’s Magic Machine.” Neither of these featured information about what really happened to the car, only the claims of its mpg ratings.

Don’t jump to blame something that sounds too good to be true. I am not standing up for oil companies; I believe in not only lowering our need on foreign oil but lowering our need for oil in general. This is a complex problem that involves complex answers. Answers we must participate in. We must be smarter consumers of oil before we begin blaming others.