Hey, Electric-Car Fans: Are You 'The Electric Generation'?

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Front page of The Electric Generation website

Front page of The Electric Generation website

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Marketing plug-in electric cars isn't all that easy.

There are many different reasons people buy electric cars, and for the mass market, the high prices against gasoline cars of the same size can lead to sticker shock.

So among the many efforts to put a little muscle behind explaining why plug-in cars make sense is The Electric Generation, a web and social-media campaign that launched six months ago.

We view our electric-car readers as some of the most aware in the business, so we're curious to know whether you've heard of "The Electric Generation," or encountered any of its efforts.

This somewhat grassroots campaign comes from an unlikely source: a utility group called the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), little known outside its industry, which is the association of publicly-held electric utilities.

The campaign itself is meant "to educate consumers and industry stakeholders about the benefits of electricity as transportation fuel."

That's a somewhat abstract concept--we think "electric car" is a much easier concept to grasp than "electricity as fuel"--but it's made somewhat clearer in the breadth of topics and content on the website, its Facebook page, its Twitter feed, and its LinkedIn group.

The campaign's overall goal is to provide a "platform for [electric-car] drivers and advocates to share their passion and real-life experiences," as well as a way for "inquisitive minds" outside the advocacy community to ask questions and learn more.

We most recently encountered the group last week at EV Roadmap 6, a conference in Portland looking at the future for electric vehicles globally, nationally, and in particular, throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The Electric Generation was the lead sponsor of that conference; it live-tweeted the proceedings and also posted a recap of the event.

According to its staff, there are now more than 200 articles on the site--both original and from a variety of media outlets--and the campaign has had about 1,500 people who'd "liked" its Facebook page.

We're not entirely sure about the notion that the discussion of electric cars is missing the aspect of "the electricity that provides power" or "awareness of the electric utility industry's commitment to electricity as a transportation fuel."

But what do you think?

Leave us your thoughts--on "The Electric Generation," and on spreading the word about plug-in cars in general--in the Comments below.


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Comments (47)
  1. Never heard of them and as long as they call electricity "fuel", they have lost me. Electricity is NOT fuel. Fuel is by very definition a physical substance that stores potential energy that can practically released and used as a source of heat.

    Considering how pervasive mobile technology is, I see absolutely no reason to even explain how electric cars work. Everyone gets that.

    I think the message that is DIRELY needed is ELECTRIC DOES NOT need to mean a weird looking slow, tiny, golf cart, and needs a gasmotor to go far. Only Tesla seems to get it.

    Model S = Big, fast, long range. Everything else = small, slow(-ish), often weird looking and/or needs gasmotor to go far.

  2. Let me add that the "slow(-ish)" bit was to say that though the EV versions of conversions are often faster and nicer riding than the ICE versions, they are still almost always compacts, sub-compacts or mini-cars and thus, in the greater scheme of things, slower than the average car.

    An electric car can easily outperform an ICEV and is inherently more reliable and less expensive (sans battery). If our roads were slot-car tracks, we could all drive quietly, fast and they would cost less to build and maintain. EVs thus need heavy, expensive batteries and that is their key drawback today. Battery technology is very RAPIDLY improving. Until then, performance EVs should take advantage of their inherent advantages to justify their high price.

  3. One more thing (sorry - I am on a roll). EVs need to STOP LOOKING WEIRD! The whole "look at me. I'm an EV" thing is so damn lame!

    Most people would buy an EV if their were a tangible reason to. Faster. More luxurious ride. Quieter. More interior room (if done right).

    Look at all the gasmobile conversions... Chevy Spark. Ford Focus. etc. - lame, tacked on "EV style" - no good reason for any of it. Blank out the grill, fine, but don't make it LOOK BLANKED OUT!

    I love the Ford Focus looks - the gasmobile version, that is. The puckered lips looking Focus EV looks wrong. The Spar EV's made worse with OBVIOUSLY blanked out grill and LIMITED and INCREDIBLY LAME COLOR choices!

    In the end, I don't want a message. I want a car.

  4. Well, Prius was successful b/c some people want to "scream" that "I am green". So, Leaf obviously follow the same course to stand out.

    It is far easier to stand out with an "ugly" styling than a "pretty" styling...

  5. Beauty or ugly is in the eye of the beholder.

  6. I don't believe the great majority of auto writers (and observers) agree with you that the front of the Focus Electric looks bad (or "puckered" as you put it). Even the Tesla has a large "blanked out" grill. Long ago the Infiniti Q45 tried to eliminate the grill and was universally panned for the design.

    Try as you might, you won't get past the usage of large grills on cars. That is the current style and it goes far beyond what is necessary, even in ICE cars. So your complaint about grills and especially the Focus Electric is destined for the dustbin of car design.

  7. The front of the FFE front fascia was changed to decrease aerodynamic drag. Most folks like it, including the automotive press. I'm okay with it, however I like the Focus ST's front end more than that of the regular Focus or FFE. But a gaping hole in the front just doesn't make sense for a BEV.

    The faux grille on the FFE, I'm guessing, is fashioned such that there's a clear family resemblance to the other electrified vehicles that Ford offers.

  8. My volt is neither slow, nor weird looking.

  9. I steadfastly argue that the Volt is NOT AN EV, no matter what GM wants to call it. The Volt is definitively a hybrid, though it is one which is ELECTRIC PRIMARY, rather than GASOLINE PRIMARY. If it makes you happy, you can call it an EV and a gasmobile in the same package. You can call it an ostrich if you floats your boat, for all I care.

    As for looks... Looks are subjective, but the volt has that "I am different in some substantial way" kind of of appearance - not in the same way as say a Nissan Cube or VW Beetle, but in a "I am some sort of atypical type of machine under my skin".

    Perhaps "message styling" or something is less contentious than "weird". Regardless, that sort of thing clearly falls flat with the larger, general public.

  10. Doesn't that all depends on the definition of "EV" and "hybrid"?

    Unless you don't think a chemical reaction exclude you from calling a Battery EVs then you should also call a fuel cell car EVs.

    The ONLY pure EV is those that store electricity onboard as electricity or have wire that pipe the electricity directly in the car.

    Volt is EV+ or a dual source car....

  11. I think the definition of EV (just those two letters) is pretty damn clear, and GM doesn't get to change it to fit its marketing ideas.

    E stands for electric, plain and simple. The vehicle is inherently zero-emission.
    (Btw, the storage doesn't matter. Battery, supercaps, flywheel...: put electricity in, get electricity out. None calls conventional cars "gas-tank vehicles" or something.)

    Nothing wrong with complementing this with gasoline etc, but then it's not *just* an EV anymore; you get an hybrid, possibly plug-in aka PHEV or PHV, or like the i3 with range-extender, an REEV/EREV.

    "Dual [energy] source" is accurate but may not be understood by everyone. "EV+"? You must be the only one using that term; why not ICE+, E+ICEV or E+GV then?

  12. The Volt drivetrain is a HYBRID drivetrain because there is a MECHANICAL linkage between the ICE and the wheels through the PLANETARY GEARSET (just like on a Prius) - It can derive motive power from either the ICE alone, or from the electric motor alone, or both combined. That clearly defines the Volt as a HYBRID. Hybrid inherently means DUAL-SOURCE of power. The ICE converts HEAT ENERGY stored in the fuel to POWER. Likewise, the elec. motor converts ELECTRICAL ENERGY stored in the battery's cells into POWER.

    By contrast, the BMW i3 Range Extended is a true EV. The ICE "range extender" ONLY drives a GENERATOR. It can derive motive power ONLY from the EM. There is no MECHANICAL linkage between the ICE and wheels. That makes it an EV.

  13. @Eric: Can you dial down the CAPITAL LETTERS, please? They're shouting.

  14. There are more comments in this thread
  15. Also EV roadmap includes all plugin cars...

    They don't discrimate between cars with plugs...

  16. If it has a plug that its electric?

  17. It considers all vehicles with plug and electric motor as EVs...

  18. It's so weird to me that some people who claim to be in favor of EVs make this big fuss over semantics. If the anti-EV crowd wanted to disrupt EV progress, then causing infighting among EV advocates is the way they would do it.

    Anyways, calling a Volt a hybrid is incorrect. By your definition, if you had a backup generator for your house, then your refrigerator, toaster, and microwave would all be hybrids. Extended range electric vehicle is more than a marketing term, it's factually correct. Stop being a pain and giving the anti-EV crowd something to smile about.

  19. It's not semantics. There is a DISTINCT difference. Your argument that if a generator produced the electricity to operate my refrigerator makes my refrigerator a hybrid is inherently flawed.

    A hybrid by definition has a MECHANICAL LINKAGE between BOTH the ICE and ELECTRIC MOTOR.

    A GENERATOR has a mechanical linkage ONLY to the generator and from there it is all electric, so my fridge is all electric.

    I am not at all worried about the anti-EV crowd. They are a tiny group on the opposite spectrum of the pro-EV crowd - the rest of the population (I imagine some 97% or so) are in between and are surely largely, if not completely, oblivious and indifferent to the two pro/anti crowds. All they want is a car.

  20. If I added a trailer to my EV that used gasoline to charge my battery, I would not have an EV once I added that trailer and plugged in my EV. The trailer, spewing fumes, would effectively turn my EV into a hybrid.

    And if you want to call my EV a hybrid when I plug it into the garage, fine. Just realize that when I unplug it, it becomes an EV.

  21. @John: the criteria is, in what form the vehicle, or appliance in your case, get its power from the world around it.
    [if we kept digging "but where is that energy coming from?", everything would just be big-bang-powered]

    Hopefully you don't put gasoline (or NG, or hydrogen) in your toaster or microwave. Those are still electric, regardless of how this electricity was generated.

    Same thing for a vehicle: if the only way to feed it power is through a plug, it's an EV.
    If there are other ways, then it's something else (hybrid) or extra (PHEV, etc).

    Consistent semantics matter, otherwise we end up with the kind of confusion you just demonstrated. Getting the public to understand the benefits of each drivetrain is already challenging enough.

  22. There are more comments in this thread
    There are more comments in this thread
  23. I've heard of them and their campaign. As far as I'm concerned, the more folks talking about EV's the better.

    Websites are a good information learning tool, but I've found the most effective tool is to talk to regular EV drivers at public events put on by local EV clubs, and things like National Plug In Day. We're all pulling in the same direction, and I'm not surprised that the electric industry would like EV's, for two reasons: More sales, and the fact, which has been well established, that there is plenty of room on the grid for off-peak EV charging.

  24. I had not heard of "The Electric Generation" website but I have certainly heard of the Edison Electric Institute. These are the folks who recently issued a report ringing alarm bells about the threat of rooftop solar to the comfortable old Utility Business Model. Putting solar panels on your roof is an important part of the whole electric car experience. As for EEI, I trust them not.

  25. I hadn't heard of them, but that could be because until recently I've just paid a passing interest in EVs. I like the concept of them--feel the need for a VAST change from our current transportation modes, but until Tesla revealed the Model S I wasn't convinced it could be pulled off for quite some time. Tesla's supercharging network basically changed my mind. I'm also thrilled to see the Volt and Leaf starting to gain more sales. It's about time.

  26. Eric is absolutely correct. All design in America from the word go, since 1950, was to make the car look 'cool' and 'fast'. Americans get their honor from their cars. So American cars have to look 'cool' and the more bells and whistles the better. Xi, on the other hand, just doesn't get it. In China most are extremely poor. 80 percent are poor like 2000 US a year for farm families. So the farmer gets along with a bike or and electric bike that costs 300US and does all their travel and transportation. So a Chinese guy with a pretty girl sitting on the super too small seat over the back wheel makes the Chinese guy a king in China. (In America someone trying that would spend the night in jail over travel safety concerns). Different motives

  27. Many think China is rich now. But it is the 100 million or so communists that spent fantastic amounts, on many loans, like the many 3 million dollar loans on Super car Ferrari for their many secret children. So, only the communist officials and businessmen are extremely rich in China.
    That, of makes it more amazing when we find that 10 trillion Chinese dollars is missing since the 2008 financial problem that the china bank loaned out to government officials and Chinese businessmen. That money should have gone to Chinese education and infrastructure but none of it did as it was illegal for the Chinese people and families to take out loans if they had not paid for their home and , being poor, no Chinese family has paid for their home.

  28. Revolutionary new technologies are en-route that can turn future cars into power plants, able to sell electricity when suitably parked. No wires needed. Cars, truck and buses might even pay for themselves.

    Hard to believe? Surprise, an engine has been invented that needs no fuel. It can trigger a perpetual commotion.

    See NO FUEL ENGINE at www.aesopinstitute.org

    These engines will not get hot as there is no combustion. Once a prototype is validated by an independent lab, small plastic desktop piston engines are planned that will run a radio.

    Larger engines will power homes 24/7.

    A 1 kW version will be an emergency generator and a variation will be an on-board charger for electric cars.

    Very different, more powerful, units will follow.

  29. I thought I was, but given my unpleasant with my Nissan Leaf here in Southern Arizona, I will think twice in the future.

  30. "@Just O.

    EV is NOT a clear term. NOT by anyone's definition.

    Electric vehicle just means it is powered by electric motor. It doesn't say anything about the source of electricity.

    The purist form of EV is the one that powers by electric cable that feeds nothing but electricity.

    Here is a question, does your battery store electricity? NO. It converts the electricity that feeds into your car into a chemical energy and then converts it back. If it was stored purely as electricity, then you can call it EV.

    Fuel cell cars can work the same way. If we put can put a small enough converter to charge the car with electricity, convert the water into hydrogen, then power the car electricical through fuel cell, would it still qualify as EV?

  31. @Eric Pruss,

    You wrote:

    "The Volt drivetrain is a HYBRID drivetrain because there is a MECHANICAL linkage between the ICE and the wheels through the PLANETARY GEARSET (just like on a Prius) - It can derive motive power from either the ICE alone, or from the electric motor alone, or both combined."

    Wrong. The configuration is different from Prius. 1. There 3 additional clutches, the connection to the planet gear, sun gear and ring gear are different in Volt than Prius.

    2. Without the clutches engaged, there is NO "mechanical" linkage to the wheel from the ICE. So, it can be linked, but it is NOT linked when it is NOT in that mode.

  32. 3. Your biggest mistake is the fact that ICE in the Volt can NOT power the drive wheel alone as in Prius. In fact, the main electric motor has to turn at all time...

    Please learn more about the Volt powertrain before you are comparing it to a Prius.

    The fact that people like you comparing it to the Prius is exact the reason why GM didn't want to call Volt with anything as "hybrid".

  33. The biggest confusiong about whether something is a hybrid or electric is where the definition is limited.

    1. Some people like to define it at the powertrain. If more than one source drives the wheel independently, then it is a hybrid, else it is either ICE or EV. Volt does both. Prius is a hybrid, Leaf is an EV. Clarity is an EV.

    2. Some people like to define it at the car. If you put gas in it, it is an ICE. If you put electricity in it, then it is an EV. If the car can take both, then it is a dual source or hybrid. In this definition, Prius is a gas car. Volt is a hybrid and Leaf is an EV. Clarity is a gas car.

    3. others like to define it by how the energy source is used. Then only cars powered by electricity alone is EV

  34. @Douglas Kerr:

    "Now, in regard to Mr. Li, in California, the distinction is very clear as to what an EV is. "

    It is actually very muddy. CA doesn't really make all that distinction. The ZEV qualification also applies to fuel cell and CNG cars.

    Also, the upcoming i3 with REx is specifically designed to sneak into the vague ruling of the CARB....

  35. Another thing to clear up.

    What is really a hybrid? If Prius is called a "hybrid", it is certainly based on a "powertrain" definition, then any ICE car with a strong starter/alternator can also be used as a hybrid.

    If Volt can operate without a single drop of gasoline, unlike any other so called "PHEV" (except for Karma) and electricity only, does it belong to the so called "PHEV" group that can't operate in all modes without a drop of gas.

  36. Humm that must be why they call the Volt a "range extended EV"? I agree the primary means of propulsion in a Volt is the electric motor. The primary means of propulsion in a PIP is the gasoline engine.

  37. The fact that the main traction motor has to be turning at all time for the car to move is a major difference from the Prius synergy design.

    Also, the Voltec system has clutches to disengage the generator motor or the ICE, but there is NO clutcheds to disconnect the main traction motor. So, the generator motor and ICE are there just to "help out" with additional torque and power.

    In my book that is the fact that makes the Volt EV.

    Also, another fact, just about every other "hybrid" has a higher "system" power rating than either of the ICE or the electric motor but it is NOT the sum of the two. Volt doesn't. Volt's system hp is the max power of the electric motor. The only other cars similar to that are Karma and the upcoming i3.

  38. "A hybrid by definition has a MECHANICAL LINKAGE between BOTH the ICE and ELECTRIC MOTOR."

    Really? What is a "series-hybrid" then?

    Is Nuclear submarine electric or hybrid? What about diesel electric train? Is that a hybrid train or electric train?

  39. Hi John. I'm amazed by all the fierce opinions being shared here. Yes, I'm part of the Electric Generation and familiar with the site and organization. To me generation denotes an age, and EV lovers encompass young and old. The younger we can teach kids about EVs, the better.

    From a marketing perspective, sadly I think this effort misses the boat. Or car in this case. IMHO for transportation and consumer disruption to take place, our community should stop preaching to the choir. As a "Green Marketer" I've been saying this all along. Something more shocking like an electric charge might do the trick. So... let's get wired! https://soundcloud.com/greenmusiclady/lets-get-wired

  40. Finally a comment on topic. Thank you.

  41. Electric generation---I hope so!!!

  42. Mark Goldes' "Aesop Institute" has engaged for many years in the very dishonest and unscrupulous practice of soliciting loans and donations under an endless series of false pretenses, that it is developing and even "prototyping" various "revolutionary breakthroughs," such as "NO FUEL ENGINES" that run on ambient heat alone - or run on "Virtual Photon Flux" - or on "Collapsing Hydrogen Orbitals" - or even on the acoustic energy of sound from a horn.

    Aesop Institute's make-believe strictly ambient heat engine is ruled out by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. There is no "new science" that has ever determined such an engine to be possible.


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