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Joel Makower on PHEVs/EVs in TreeHugger
Aug 23, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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Joel Makower is influential in clean-tech circles and he he consults broadly with many of the largest companies. We posted his comments back in February when he began to pay more attention to electric-fueled transportation­calcars-news/­288.html; we admired his global warming animation And in July we meant to post "Who's Reviving the Electric Car,­joel_makower/­2006/­07/­whos_reviving_t.html, also mirrored (with more comments) at­archives/­004627.html. Here's his latest:­files/­2006/­08/­the_th_intervie_12.php/­

The TH Interview: Joel Makower on the Green Economy, Electric Sports Cars, and the World's Biggest Eco-Myth August 16, 2006 03:15 PM - Jacob Gordon, Los Angeles, CA

Certain people seem to have an uncanny ability to absorb into their field and permeate it. Joel Makower and the world of green business appear to have all but merged into one another. Joel is a consultant, writer, and entrepreneur who has become an integral voice in the movement for a green economy. He is the executive editor of and its sister sites, and, and the co-founder of Clean Edge Inc., a research and publishing firm focusing on building markets for clean energy technologies. Joel has consulted for General Electric, Gap, General Motors, Hewlett Packard, Levi Strauss, Nike, and Procter & Gamble on corporate sustainability. His articles appear in Grist and WorldChanging, and his blog, Two Steps Forward, is a regular stop on our TH Blog Love roundup. Joel and I last crossed paths at the Aspen Ideas Fest where he was introducing biomimicry godmother Janine Benyus. He was kind enough to shed light on some big questions.

TreeHugger: What's the biggest eco-myth out there?

Joel Makower: That we can shop our way to environmental health. It's not that making good, green choices isn't important for all of us-that's what I wrote about in my 1990 book The Green Consumer and have been talking about ever since. But it's not simply a matter of what we buy, or even how much. The transformation to sustainability will require a sharp turn on the part of companies toward radical resource productivity: dramatically more efficient manufacturing systems; new means of distribution; and new business models in which we never really own things like cars, refrigerators, and cell phones-we simply rent their services, leaving the manufacturer responsible for transforming unwanted goods back into the newest, coolest thing. That's only partly a consumer-driven proposition-it will also take bold moves by manufacturers and marketers, and an alignment of regulations and natural resource prices such as oil, timber, and water.

TH: People are writing $100,000 checks to buy the Tesla roadster, an electric sports car that doesn't even come out until next year. Will electric cars hit the mainstream anytime soon?

JM: They're closer than I would have thought just a year ago. If you think back twelve months, people thought that hybrids were the best we could do in the short term. But people started jerry-rigging hybrids to add plugs and heavy-duty batteries. Now GM, Toyota, and others are talking about plug-in hybrids that combine the best of both worlds: the ability to drive reasonable distances on pure electricity with the assurance of a gas-powered backup. And that's just a short leap to plug-in EVs-newer, more powerful, and better marketed versions of the model that was famously "killed." So, we're seeing a pathway to electric cars that we couldn't see just a few short months ago.

TH: What kind of car do you drive?

JM: It's not going to impress you, environmentally speaking. I drive a 2004 BMW 325 convertible. I'm lucky enough not to commute by car and over the past 30 years have averaged about 6,000 miles a year of driving. Because I drive so little, and enjoy driving when I do, I like something that's fun to drive and allows me to enjoy the California sunshine. I'd love for there to be a Tesla in my future, once they lower the price considerably. My (slightly) more realistic dream: a plug-in hybrid Mini Cooper convertible. I'd be first in line if they ever announced one.

TH: Ford may be back peddling on its hybrid plans, Saturn has a new hybrid coming out but people seem cynical about the mileage. Can American automakers actually stay competitive in the market for efficient and alternatively-fueled cars?

JM: They can, but it won't be easy. To save themselves, Ford and GM will have to think green, and think fast. Toyota is rapidly moving to become the world's number-one carmaker, and it's due in large part to their willingness to make fuel-efficient cars. (That's not the entire reason: they're not saddled with a lot of the healthcare and pension costs that U.S. carmakers face.) I think GM and Ford are getting religion. The big question is whether they're nimble enough to shift their design and production to cleaner, greener (and hipper) models.

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