In a single action, Honda Motor Co. fulfilled a commitment and got a monkey off its back. Both moves involved electric vehicles.
Honda met the mandate of the California Air Resources Board that it put 300 of its EV Plus cars on the state's highways for an industrywide road test. Then Honda pulled the plug.
Said a Honda official, 'The real question, if we were to keep selling the EV Plus, would be, 'Are we moving forward? Are we advancing the technology?' And the answer would be, 'I think not.' '
That sums up the entire electric car experiment. Technically, everybody can make an electric car; nobody can make one practical. Electric cars delight those who drive to the corner for a quart of milk. But with current technology, they are impractical.
The range of an electric car is 100 miles or less - considerably less when you use the air conditioning and radio, when you climb a few hills, when it's cold outside, or when you're becalmed in freeway traffic at rush hour. Many drivers cannot get from home to work and back again on a single charge.
Economical? Most electrics on the road are there by virtue of heavily subsidized leases. Ford Motor Co. puts a price tag on its electric Ranger - it's three times as much as a regular Ranger.
Honda prefers its V V hybrid car. It has a battery for show and a low-polluting gasoline engine for go.
California's air board has decreed: 10 percent of the vehicles sold in the state in 2003 by major producers must be zero-emissions vehicles. That means electrics. But it's the wrong technology today for any vehicle that would sell enough actually to make a difference. Well, California has backed off before and probably will be forced to do so again.