Instead of E-Cars, How About Building Streetcars?

Globe and Mail reporter Eric Reguly attends the Detroit Auto Show and comes away convinced that what we need is better public transportation, not more cars, electric or otherwise.

Published: 22-Jan-2010

The blood transfusion from taxpayer donors is working. The auto industry is slowly reviving. Customers are trickling back into showrooms. Auto shows in Europe and North America are stuffed with new models, the most tantalizing of which are hybrids and all-electric cars. Almost every manufacturer, from GM to Renault, has electric cars on the drawing board, in the concept stage or close to production.

Cars powered by batteries will secure the industry's future, finishing off a recovery story started by the government bailouts. And what's good for the auto industry is good for the economy, the environment, cities and small furry animals. There will be less noise, less smog, less carbon dioxide output. All hail the electric car!

Not everyone is buying the story. Remarkably, some of the non-believers are auto experts who spent entire careers engineering cars and promoting and celebrating the concept of "personal mobility" - defined as a cushy cabin on four wheels - as if it were a birthright.

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The range limitations of most early electric cars will matter less in tightly packed urban areas, where the daily driving distance is likely to be much shorter than in the suburbs or rural areas.

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