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High Voltage: The Fast Track to Plug in the Auto Industry [Hardcover]

Jim Motavalli
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Press (8 Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160529263X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605292632
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 14.6 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,022,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Emc2
Format:Hardcover
The book is well-written, in the typical NYT journalistic style, and very comprehensive. Mr. Motavalli managed to chronicle in a short book the rebirth of plug-in electric cars (PEVs ) and the state-of-the-art of the industry as of mid 2011. As the book's introduction explains, PEVs include all-electric cars (EVs or BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), but not the conventional petrol-electric hybrids, such as the Prius, which do not plug-in.

The book was very well-researched, with a lot of primary content as many key players were interviewed just for the book, and of course, Mr. Motavalli's ample experience as a green car journalist, bringing along all his behind-the-wheels test drive experience with almost all the plug-in electric cars available in the world today. The book covers all relevant aspects regarding PEVs, advantages, disadvantages, barriers to wide adoption, the key role of EV battery technology, the deployment of charging infrastructure, fast charging standards, battery swapping, you name, every aspect is covered. There is even an entire chapter devoted to Motavalli's test drives of several PEVs, which includes his experience with the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, Th!nk City, Aptera 2e and the Toyota Highlander FCHV. By the way, electric vans and truck are out of the scope of the book.

The book is aimed for a wide audience, not just the early adopters, techies and green car fans. Actually, regular consumers with an interest in PEVs will find this book quite a primer to help them decide whether is the right time to go electric or wait. I believe it would have been helpful for the layman to include some pictures, at least of the most relevant PEVs, such as the Volt and Leaf.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! All you need to know about the rebirth of the plug-in electric car 11 Nov 2011
By Emc2 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book is well-written, in the typical NYT journalistic style, and very comprehensive. Mr. Motavalli managed to chronicle in a short book the rebirth of plug-in electric cars (PEVs) and the state-of-the-art of the industry as of mid 2011. As the book's introduction explains, PEVs include all-electric cars (EVs or BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), but not the conventional gasoline-electric hybrids, such as the Prius, which do not plug-in.

The book was very well-researched, with a lot of primary content as many key players were interviewed just for the book, and of course, Mr. Motavalli's ample experience as a green car journalist, bringing along all his behind-the-wheels test drive experience with almost all the plug-in electric cars available in the world today. The book covers all relevant aspects regarding PEVs, advantages, disadvantages, barriers to wide adoption, the key role of EV battery technology, the deployment of charging infrastructure, fast charging standards, battery swapping, you name, every aspect is covered. There is an entire chapter devoted to Motavalli's test drives of several PEVs, which includes his experience with the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, Th!nk City, Aptera 2e and the Toyota Highlander FCHV. By the way, electric vans and truck are out of the scope of the book.

The book is aimed for a wide audience, not just the early adopters, techies and green car fans. Actually, regular consumers with an interest in PEVs will find this book quite a primer to help them decide whether now is the right time to go electric or wait. I believe it would have been helpful for the layman to include some pictures, at least of the most relevant PEVs, such as the Volt and Leaf.

My other quibbles about the book have to do with its bias towards the American market. Despite covering all PEVs from the big players and start-ups, with the exception of China, the discussion is mostly focused around those PEVs already available or slated for the U.S. market. Surprisingly there is almost nothing about the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (renamed Mitsubishi i for the American-spec version) , launched more than a year before the Nissan Leaf and actually, sharing the leadership in global sales of electric cars as of October 2011. The i-MiEV is only mentioned a couple of times in the context of plug charging standards. The REVAi (or G-Wiz) is also missing, despite having sold a few thousand units since 2001. And the Japanese market is only covered in terms of its charging infrastructure and charging standards, despite sharing the world leadership with the U.S. in terms of PEV sales. Also, the book has a very interesting chapter about the potential of Iceland to become the first 100% electric transportation country, but surprisingly there is nothing about Norway, despite being the country with the most PEVs per capita in the world. It would have been interesting to learn some lessons from the Norwegians, who are ahead of the rest of the world.

The last chapter presents the author's vision of commuting in 2030, a very creative scenario indeed, but Mr. Motavalli closes the book with a down to earth view of what he believes is likely to happen next, and his "Ten Most Likely to Succeed" list is included. I agree with most of the cars in the list, and also share with the author his educated guess that the chance of survival is higher for the Chevy Volt, the Nissan Leaf, and the Prius Plug-in, but not for the Ford Focus Electric, which has a base price higher than the Leaf and the same as the Volt (to be fair, pricing of the Prius PHEV and the Focus EV was not available when the book was finished). I believe that price is the most important factor for the successful adoption of plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars, therefore today's premium with respect to gasoline-powered cars will have to shrink significantly for PEVs to become affordable and the remaining premium has to be paid back in a few years, just like conventional hybrids today. And finally, just as Jim Motavalli wished for in the book, if I had the $41,000 to spare on a car, I'd spend it on the Volt, really a technological marvel and a game-changer.

Considering that all-electric range and the price of the battery packs are the two deal breakers for mass adoption of PEVs, I recommend an excellent complementary reading about the present and future of battery technology, Seth Fletcher's Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy. Also do not miss the movie Revenge of the Electric Car, recently released to the public. And for those readers who want to know more about the Volt's development and innovative technology, do not miss Chevrolet Volt: Charging into the Future.

* Final note only for the Kindle edition:

I read the Kindle version, which comes with active hyperlinks to the web for many of the endnotes for each chapter, so frequently I went back and forth between the web and the book to check out further info. A very handy feature indeed. Nevertheless, I have a complaint for Amazon because in doing this back and forth at some point the Whispersync software lost track of the real last location, showing the endnotes as my last location. This bug was really annoying because I often switch the reading between my iPad and my iPod, so I had to synchronize the devices manually with go to.

I think it is about time that Amazon adds a feature to allow the user reset the `Furthest Page Read.'. Sometimes I like to peek the final pages or check something ahead of the reading (just as you do in a regular book), or simply do a word search. Nowadays I have to refrain from doing so to make sure I do not lose my last reading location. Or, is this a particular problem with the book's Kindle version I bought?

PS: I google for a solution. It seems Amazon expect you to email costumer service to reset the last location. What a lousy solution. The Kindle should allow it to do it yourself.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good overview of a fast-changing field 9 Dec 2011
By S. Wright - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Here is an outline of what you can find in this book:

Introduction: lists types of electric vehicles (EVs), including battery electrics (Tesla Roadster and Model S, Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus, Daimler SmartForTwo, BMW i3, Honda Fit, Fiat 500, Think City, Coda, Wheego LiFe); plug-in hybrids (Chevrolet Volt, Fisker Karma, Ford C-Max Energi, Toyota Prius Plug-In); hybrids (Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, Ford Fusion).

1) Racing for the goal: bios of Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and Henrik Fisker of Fisker Automotive.

2) Building the batteries: names major battery suppliers and their auto-company partners, including A123 Systems (Fisker), Ener1 (Think, Volvo), Johnson Controls-Saft (BMW, Mercedes, Ford), SB LiMotive (BMW), Valence (Smith Electric Vehicles, Brammo), LG Chem (General Motors), NEC (Nissan), Boston-Power (Saab).

3) From computers to cars: explains why California, although it is a great place to market electric vehicles, might not be the best place to build them.

4) The big players: Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt are current leaders, but other major auto companies are also developing electric vehicles.

5) Charging ahead: how to build networks for fast charging or battery swaps to allow for long-distance travel in electric vehicles.

6) The smart grid: how changes to rate structures and meters could work toward charging electric vehicles without requiring additional generating capacity.

7) Chinese puzzles: discusses production of electric vehicles in China by BYD and other major companies.

8) Iceland's fast track: how low-cost electricity and high-cost oil imports could encourage rapid increase in use of electric vehicles.

9) On the road: reports of recent test drives of Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, plus other more exotic electric cars.

10) Eden attained? vision for a high-speed commute in the year 2030 plus predictions of which electric vehicles are most likely to succeed in the near future.

Notes: 19 pages of endnotes organized by chapter.

Bibliography: 13 titles of other books about electric vehicles published between 1996 and 2011.

Acknowledgments: 4 pages.

Index: 10 pages of entries.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Elaborate Insight to the "Green" Automative World 30 April 2012
By KatCor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Had to read this book for my Econ Class. Definitely came out learning more on various aspects of the Automotive world than expected.

I had little insight on the various classifications of cars, those being electric, plug-in, hybrid, etc. This book lays out in detail everything that is needed to know on all these types of cars and their benefit to us. It also describes a lot of circumstances the government faces in trying to approve certain types of cars because of their needs and it examines the international market of these cars.

I would definitely recommend this book for those of your who would love to know more about the electric car, its past, present and its future. Especially for those who want to learn more about what things we can do to help our environment out down the road!
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost Nothing on iMiev 7 Mar 2014
By Limon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Fun book to read, but I have a Mitsubishi iMiev,and there is no information on it in this book. A lot of other cars I've never heard of are examined, and iMiev is probably 3rd most popular all electric behind Leaf and maybe Tesla.
I'd still recommend this book to those interested in electric cars.
4.0 out of 5 stars Best Researched Book About Automotive Electrification 20 Oct 2013
By AuthorFrank - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Definitely well researched and surely inclusive of the many, not the few. Motavalli presents with a balanced approach, especially when comparing all the electric and hybrid vehicles. Sure, he presents his own favorites and orders them accordingly, but he give his reasons why.

Most commendable is that this book is not like others, which appear to be more corporate-sponsored or soft-soaped so as not to offend anyone. His travels around the world accompanied with multiples of interviews, links and quotes makes the reader a fly on the wall, so to speak. I now know things that I did not know before, but somewhat suspected.

Now why I didn't give this a 5-Star? In Chapter 10, Eden Attained, he presents alternate realities, where 1) IF battery-only EVs flopped and 2) electric-assisted hybrids flopped. His conclusion was that all that we would be left with would be for us to face Peak Oil until government forced the issue to fully electrify. In that regard, I respectfully but totally disagree. Eventually, electrification will overtake the IC engine, but we are not at Peak Oil. I say we are at Peak Easy Oil; big difference.

However, the author missed the opportunity to present the IC engine alternatives in that scenario up to 2030 and 2050, like natural gas for cleaner and cheaper fuel and the advantages of split-cycle engines, especially with its air-hybrid, Miller-like option. Reading "Splitting I.C.E." for example, along with it provides the element that I feel is missing in the scenario of that chapter. Together, story is super clear.

Other than that, I consider "High Voltage" my favored EV reference book and is worthy of a prominence in my private library.
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