Not all episodes of Sundance's The Green programming block feature green vehicles, but when they do, they do. Tomorrow night (Tuesday, the 22nd), the Big Ideas for a Small Planet segment goes for a "Drive." And it looks like fun.
"Drive" follows the same breezy pace as the other Big Ideas episodes (like the first one, "Fuel"), with cool people talking about cool cars and all saying that the world can certainly become a better place. It's engaging and a good way to keep beating that "EVs are golf carts" stereotype (well, until we get to the NMG, anyway).
The four big ideas are as follows:
First, the electric sports car. This segment features – surprise, surprise – the Tesla Roadster. Man, that car is still so cool looking, even after seeing so many pictures and videos of over the last 10 months. Chelsea Sexton, of Plug In America, and David Friedman, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, give a condensed version of the last 100 years of the electric car and we also go on a visit to Tesla Motors. CEO Martin Eberhard introduces viewers to the car; and we tag along on a short ride and drive for people who've agreed to buy a Roadster. Phil, who I'm pretty sure is the same Tesla employee who drove me in the Roadster prototype last summer, takes some advance purchasers for a spin and we see "Who Killed the Electric Car?" director Chris Paine driving the Roadster. Scott Burns, the producer of An Inconvenient Truth, says the Roadster is the first car he's ever purchased without taking it for a test drive.
The second idea is high performance hybrids, and here we get to go 100 mph down the AMCI test track in a Lexus hybrid with Paul Williamsen, National Manager of the Lexus College. Williamsen's work is mostly training service technicians and he tells us that the LS 600h features a hydrocarbon absorber that holds onto hydrocarbon emissions until the catalytic converter is warm enough to process them. The Lexus hybrids aren't solely designed to reduce emissions, but more to increase power without adding emissions.
Idea three is the electric commuter car, here embodied as the NMG, what used to be known as the Sparrow. Dana Myers, founder of Myers Motors, Myers says that the average American spends four hours a year at the gas station, so plugging your car into your garage outlet at night saves time as well as money. He gives the camera crew a quick tour of the factory, and we see the engineers experimenting with a polymer lithium ion battery option in the NMG. It's not a 100 percent smooth, but they do get the tiny, three-wheeled NMG to zip with the new batteries. It sound like the NMG's range with these batteries might be between 50-80 miles, according to Myers.
There's more on the show, and a clip of the Tesla ride and drive after the break. Try not to be too jealous.
Idea four: electric conversion vehicles. Lowell Simmons, of Miramar High School, who teaches his students how to turn a gas car into one powered by batteries, is featured here. Simmons and his students are filmed at the Battery Beach Burnout, earlier this year. Like the "Fuel" episode, "Drive" ends with an alternative fuel competition, but this ones ends with our featured driver doing a bit better than before.
All in all, "Drive" isn't going to inform regular AutoblogGreen readers of much. But it is cool to see these cars in motion, and it's actually kind of inspiring to see 30 minutes of smarter driving advocates talking about their cars in one sitting. The show is paced and filmed like most modern cable shows, with a few nifty effects thrown in to the clips of people talking about this or that. The vehicles described by the big ideas here cover a range of prices ($90,000+ for the Roadster to $4,000-$6,000 for the electric conversion – which doesn't include batteries, of course) and we don't hear all that much about the on-the-road realities (limited range, etc.) but they're certainly not presented as something only for cashed up greenies. Electric cars are the future, and people like these are going to help us figure out how to get there.
Thanks to Sundance for the preview disc.