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Charging Ahead [Hardcover]

Joe Sherman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Science writer Sherman's report on MIT-trained inventor/engineer James Worden, whose struggling company Solectria builds nonpolluting, efficient electric cars designed to replace today's gas-guzzlers, has irresistible appeal as a story of David and Goliath. But it also makes for an objective and provocative critique of the "Big 3" automakers. Sherman (The Rings of Saturn) contends that GM, Ford, Chrysler and the oil industry, fearful of an emerging alternative vehicle industry that could steal jobs and profits from Detroit, colluded to squelch regulatory mandates for zero-emission vehicles-mandates that might have led to widespread production of nonpolluting cars using advanced batteries, electrochemical fuel cells, supercapacitors and solar panels. Despite Pentagon funding, Solectria's Sunrise car is still essentially a prototype, which Worden will mainstream only if he clinches a joint-venture deal with a large automaker. Now GM, Chrysler, Toyota and others are making electric vehicles (EVs), but Sherman believes that with the corporate giants in control of EV development, they will defuse the clean-car movement. While his narrative may be a promotional showcase for Solectria, it is nonetheless an exciting and important book about technology, environment and corporate politics. Illustrated. Editor, Herb Addison.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Business is business, and the people in the car business will tell you that electric cars don't sell. Sherman (In the Rings of Saturn, LJ 10/15/93) chronicles the Solectria Corporation's efforts to develop and market such a car. These aren't car guys but scientists and engineers working to do something for the environment while trying to grab a piece of a very small niche market. The story is a roller coaster of triumphs and setbacks with a somewhat pessimistic ending. Although alternative fuel vehicles are already offered by large car manufacturers, they are expensive and not popular with buyers. Sherman notes that the future for these vehicles may lie in the work of small companies such as Solectria, with the larger automakers distributing their products. Despite a misspelling in the review galley of the well-known Italian design and styling company Pininfarina, which one hopes will be corrected in the final book, this interesting account should be strongly considered for public libraries as well as research collections.?Eric C. Shoaf, Brown Univ. Lib., Providence
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The David-and-Goliath battle to produce the first commercially successful electric car continues between General Motors, with its EV1 (dubbed Impact), and James Worden's Solectria. GM's version is currently only available by lease; last year about 300 persons leased the Impact through Saturn dealerships in southern California and Arizona. The effort to bring Impact to market has been profiled by Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shnayerson with The Car That Could (1996). Now Sherman, who himself previously chronicled the birth and development of GM's upstart Saturn automobile with The Rings of Saturn (1994), provides a corresponding portrait of Solectria. Worden, with a group of MIT students, started his company in 1989. Its cars have consistently won the Sustainable Energy Association's annual Tour de Sol, a competition featuring alternatively powered vehicles; and Solectria's cars have regularly broken distance records. David Rouse

From Kirkus Reviews

A fitfully interesting case study of the collision of alternative technology, big business, and government. Automotive business writer Sherman (In The Rings of Saturn, 1993) here turns to the inspiring example of a young man named James Worden, an engineering graduate of MIT, who had for years been obsessed by the thought of building an energy-efficient, safe, and affordable electric car. Armed with moral support and sweat equity from college friends who shared his vision, he founded a company called Solectria, which made several commercial automobiles, including the whimsically named Force and the user-friendly Sunrise. When the Big Three automakers found out about Wordens work, Sherman alleges, they set to work trying to get a corner on alternative-energy legislation (their efforts to bring an electric car to market have been extensively reported on by Michael Shnayerson and others). These companies effectively edged out Worden, who survived in the market only because, in the wake of the Gulf War, the Pentagon decided to examine the prospects of building energy-efficient electric vehicles to serve under battlefield conditions. Regrettably, Sherman has trouble separating the meat of his story from incidental details, and especially from unrevealing, often irrelevant excursions in automotive history. The resulting narrative is patchy at best, plodding at worsta misfortune, given the intrinsic merits of the story. For Wordens vision remains attractive; who could resist, after all, the promise of a vehicle in which, instead of hundreds of precision-engineered moving parts operating at high temperature, there were a motor with one moving part and a controller with no moving parts? In the hands of a Tracy Kidder, this story might have become a model of literary journalism. In Shermans hands, it fails to move. (b&w illustrations) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Review

"An exciting and important book about technology, environment and corporate politics."--Publishers Weekly

"A fitfully interesting case study of the collision of alternative technology, big business, and government."--Kirkus Reviews

"Business is business, and the people in the car business will tell you that electric cars don't sell. Sherman chronicles the Solectria Corporation's efforts to develop and market such a car.... The story is a roller coaster of triumphs and setbacks...this interesting account should be strongly considered for public libraries as well as research collections."--Library Journal

"Charging Ahead is mandatory reading for environmentalists and anyone concerned about the effects of out modern mobile lifestyle on the planet's atmosphere."--Mark Pendergrast,Philadelphia Inquirer

From the Publisher

19 line illus.

About the Author

Joe Sherman is the author of In the Rings of Saturn(OUP). A freelance journalist, he lives in Vermont.
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