Ask Alexandra – September 2006

Question #1:

Hi. I have to say that I’m a new “fan” after seeing “Who Killed the Electric Car?”. The best part of it for me was that my 10 year old nephew (who’s mother is a right-wing Bush supporter) wanted to go with me and when the police arrested you, he immediately said, “The police were wrong. They shouldn’t have arrested those people.” I felt very proud of him then and it fostered a healthy dialog about history and why people sometimes go to jail for justice as well as what we both learned about the environmental impact of cars.

My question to you is about ethanol. I’m living in Tennessee and haven’t even seen an EV car of any sort out here, except for the hybrids, of course.

I’d love to have an electric vehicle, but I often find myself doing LOTS of driving. My car is 5 years old and has over 107,000 miles. Do you consider vehicles that run E-85 ethanol to be at least, better than regular gasoline, as a possible alternative? There actually is an E-85 pump just down the street from my work here in Nashville .

I have to admit that one of my other concerns is union jobs. I find myself really torn between wanting a vehicle that is environmentally friendly and wanting to support union workers, because I also believe in justice at work as well.

I don’t think trying to find a Ford Think EV is going to be a possibility out here.

Thanks for any thoughts,


Dear Matthew,

Thank you so much for going to see Who Killed the Electric Car?, and for bringing your young nephew. I admire that you care about the car you drive. It is unfortunate that, in 2006, there are still so few choices in cleaner vehicles for Americans.

I did some internet research, and apparently there are only 2 ethanol stations in Tennessee , so you are fortunate to have one near your work! If you purchase a flex-fuel vehicle, then you can use put ethanol in your gas tank (E85 is 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) when possible, and put gasoline in the tank when no ethanol fuel station is around. Check out the car you currently drive, because a lot of cars have flex fuel capabilities and you might not even know it! Car companies get financial incentives from the federal government to produce flex fuel cars, but they don’t have to be driven a such, so they generally don’t bother to tell buyers if the car is flex fuel or not.

Although I think that anything to get us off gasoline is a positive step, I have some reservations about ethanol. Most specifically, at the moment it is inefficient to make ethanol from corn, which is what we do here in the US . We use more energy making it than the car gets from burning it! We use a lot of farmland and a lot of pesticides to grow the corn. Hopefully, soon it will be formulated more from switchgrass, which is more efficient. Big Agriculture, is of course a lot behind the push for ethanol, which isnt bad in itself, but we must be wary of the advertising they pay for extolling its virtues! Look on the internet at many different sources to get the full picture on ethanol.

Buying a diesel car and running it on biodiesel is also an alternative to gasoline. Biodiesel emits less greenhouse gases, except for nitrous oxides: “…Biodiesel has long been shown to reduce all regulated emissions, with the exception of nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions, which are a contributing factor in the localized formation of smog and ozone. Few studies suggest a slight increase in nitrous oxide emissions and varies widely based upon the type engine and type of biodiesel used. Older engines may be responsible for higher nitrous oxide emissions as well. Nitrous oxide emission increases range from 1-15%.” (from Again, because biodiesel is a step away from gasoline, I am proud to be an owner of a biodiesel truck.

Another option is to buy a more efficient car! Many regular cars are still more efficient than the hybrid SUVs, for example. If you drive 25 miles per day (and I think you drive much more than that), you save 2.5 gallons of gasoline daily and over the course of a year you would prevent 17,337 pounds of c02 of going into our atmosphere. That is a lot.

A Chinese car company, Miles Automotive, is coming out with a full electric car in late 2007 that will go over 200 miles per charge and that will cost $28,500. For most Americans, that range is more than enough to satisfy daily driving needs ( I, too, am a union member (Screen Actors Guild) and support unions, but not at the expense of the environment. In other words, I happily buy a foreign car if it gets better mileage and runs more cleanly than an American car. I would never cross a picket line, but I have no hesitation to not buy American if I would be promoting polluting practices.

I hope that helps with your excellent questions.


Question #2:


I would be very grateful to know your thoughts on two issues I have considered. What is your opinion of the well-publicised idea that a large number of British citizens – and especially youths – have no interest in politics or voting. Plus, I was struck by your balanced views on the war in Iraq . How strong a dichotomy is the fact that a tyrant was removed there by warfare (in 2003) rather than in the 1990 conflict. Thanks for your time Ms paul and I look forward to a reply.

Take care,


Dear Simon,

I love voting, so I can never understand why people don’t go to the polls. I feel bad that people are so jaded that they don’t care about voting. I have never missed an election in the 25 years that I have been eligible, and every time I am excited and even moved by the experience. They also pass out candy at my current polling place, which is an added bonus!

I believe my vote does count, although I have to admit that in the last years I have been very concerned with these paperless electronic voting machines. I believe that they were tampered with in the last 2 elections and that Kerry was the true winner of the Presidential race, but that doesn’t stop me from casting my ballot! We must vote and then we must fight to make our votes safe (go to
to learn more about the dangers of electronic machines with no paper backup). To see more about my feelings on voting, click here.

As for Iraq , one thing I am sure: it was wrong for the US to invade Iraq . It was an illegal, unjust war and it has made everyone in the world less safe. It has killed more than 2,600 American soldiers and wounded over 15,000 more. Over 45,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed ( I cannot say whether Saddam should have been “removed” in the 1990 Gulf War, because I was not that aware of all the circumstances there. I do know that the US promised to remove his regime back then because all this troops were in Kuwait so he was more vulnerable, but at the last minute the US changed its mind and a lot of anti-Saddam Iraqis were left exposed and were killed by Saddam. Dirty pool all around.

I hope all the visitors to this site are inspired to vote in the next election. Without a concerned, informed and active citizenry, illegal wars will continue to be waged by our governments.



Question #3:

Hi Alexandra,

I saw “Who Killed the Electric Car?” the night before last. It was very inspiring; I am impressed by your commitment to EVs, your early adoption, your activism, and your steadfastness, even in the face of the police in a very threatening mode, and your certain, immanent arrest. Also for setting up this website which has proven to be a great resource for access to other websites for further information on EVs.

The technology is getting close to the point where conversions will soon be possible and practical for many more people. A nationwide network of franchised kit sellers and installers may make that possible. Manufactured EVs may already be there, if they can just sell the volume to keep them in business.

I didn’t realize that you are also a triathlete. I just did my first one a week ago Sunday! (OK, it was just an international) I’m doing another, Olympic distance this time, next month, and already thinking about a half-ironman. I’m hooked.



Dear Robert,

Congratulations on your first triathlon and good luck in your upcoming races. I am glad you enjoyed Who Killed the Electric Car? At the moment, EV’s are cost prohibitive for many people, but if the people who can afford them and who say they care about air pollution would practice what they preach, the price would then come down for everyone else. It was also be a message to carmakers that Americans want cleaner cars! Conversions, however, are more affordable, and if you go to the Electric Auto Association or Plug in America websites you will find EV enthusiasts who convert all sorts of gas cars to full electric. I have owned 2 cars that were converted to electric in someone’s garage!

The kudos on this website go to Vietly, the webmaster, who does do an incredible job. She is an environmentalist, a vegetarian and an activist, so she and I are very simpatico, but she is also a computer whiz, which I am not! I am very lucky that she started this site and has continued to run it for so many years. Thank you, Vietly!

And thank you, Robert, for writing. Please spread the EV word.


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