Detroit Dinosaur Thinks Kilowatts Are a Buzzkill, World Laughs

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As any parent will tell you, progress takes time. Evolution often takes a much longer time yet.

So rather than pounding our head on the wall when we read idiotic editorials, perhaps we should take a deep breath and calmly reflect that those who can't adapt to change will eventually die out.

What prompts this reflective moment? An editorial in trade journal Automotive News by one Charles Child, entitled "Kilowatt? In car-speak, it's kill-a-thrill."

His basic premise is that because domestic appliances are rated in kilowatts, any electric car whose motor power is quoted that way is automatically dull, boring, nerdy, and unworthy of high regard.

He writes, " ... tell me a car has 250 hp, and my ears perk up. Tell me its propulsion battery generates 16 kilowatt hours, and nothing registers. A foreign language."

Electric cars? They're not real cars, in other words. Because real cars are measured in horsepower. You know, big stompin' ponies. The kind real men favor.

You might almost wonder if Mr. Childs has a little equation in the back of his mind: Horsepower is for men, kilowatts are for women. Y'know, domestic appliances and all.

After all, women were some of the most enthusiastic adopters of electric vehicles in the early part of the last century.

We think women are often smarter car buyers than men. They look more at functionality, less at frippery. Sometimes buying a car the way you buy a fridge isn't such a bad thing: What can it do for me?

Our favorite lines: "... when was the last time you heard someone excited about the sheet metal of his washing machine? An electric appliance is a tough sell."

Yeah, well, we know a few folks already slavering and drooling over upcoming electric cars like the 2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Whose motor outputs are quoted in, ummm, kilowatts.

Somehow we think Asian and European carmakers--who, by the way, measure engine output in kilowatts too, having ditched the archaic horsepower awhile back--don't have this same concern.

But [deep breath] evolution takes time. One day, Detroit dinosaurs like Child (or their descendants) will think nothing of quoting power in kilowatts.

And the world will have lurched ahead just a bit more.

[Automotive News (subscription required)]

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Comments (9)
  1. Someone needs to point out that his 250hp car-engine twists its shaft with the energy of about 186kw.
    I do understand why he's not excited about a 16kwh battery. Saying a battery contains 16kwh worth of energy is like saying "my car has a 0.4430 gallon fuel tank".
    But, that's the nice thing about living in a free country. My giving up oil because I'm a wannabe electric-car-hippie means that he can drive his sports cars a little bit longer.... Nobody's making him buy an electric car, and he may not live long enough to see Peak Oil.

  2. an ev can be made to be pretty fast.

  3. He's also somewhat confused in his metrics- a battery pack contains energy, is doesn't generate it. And it's the electric equivalent of the gas tank, not the engine.
    But hey, I'm totally fine if EVs are girl cars. He can keep any gas car he wants, and I'll take a Tesla!

  4. hold on @evchels, you girls don't get all the EVs! :)

  5. No worries, Patrick- I only need one!

  6. My new tactic is to call such people who they really are - terrorist enablers.

  7. What's particularly funny is that Real Men quote the torque their muscle cars deliver for that tire-stripping acceleration, and electric motors' low-end torque is very nearly infinite.

  8. Haven't we reached Peak Oil already? BTW, in a lot of countries most engines are measured in kilowatts. It's no big deal.

  9. Damien: He'd probably complain about gas cars rated in kilowatts.
    I once went to a motorcycle dealership, and was looking for the small bikes. I asked the proprietor if he had anything "under a liter", and he went on for about 5 minutes about how he "doesn't speak metric", even though every bike on the floor was rated in "cc"s. It was a Honda/Yamaha dealer, too, and all of the bikes were over 1500ccs (1.5L).
    After we understood each other (he understood that I was looking for something under 1000ccs, and I understood that he was both innumerate and a red-blooded 'merican whose business was selling foreign bikes), he informed me that they'd sold out of small bikes due to the increase in gas prices.
    So, yeah, if a guy who sells metric motorcycles for a living thinks a I'm his idea of a Frenchman for using the word "liter" to refer to motorcycles with 1000cc+ engines, this crusty old columnist is probably going to let the world pass him by. With great low-end torque, smooth acceleration, and no cc's!

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