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A Sustainable Auto Industry

Pete Springer/OPB

Would you drive an electric car?

Sustainable: it’s a term we hear bandied around a lot. But do you always know what it means? Particularly, in this case, when it comes to the automobile industry? President-elect Obama has referred to the industry as the “backbone of America’s manufacturing base” but says that significant reform needs to happen in exchange for government help. What are the big American car companies doing to prepare for the future? What does sustainable look like to them?

Here in Oregon, sustainable transportation means, in part, electric cars. Governor Kulongoski, PGE, and Nissan struck a deal last month making Oregon one of the first places to pioneer their Nissan’s electric car (which will be released in 2010). PGE is busy building charging stations in Portland, Salem and Corvallis. And the state is busy preparing for a world of plug-in cars.

But how sustainable are electric cars? Can you go for any kind of extended road trip? Do they go fast enough for us to get to where we want — let alone get a speeding ticket? And what about people who don’t live in the city — and likely rely on their cars even more. Can electric cars serve people outside a city where driving distances are longer and gas use is often greater?

What kind of car would you like to drive in the green future? And what lifestyle changes are you willing to give up to make a switch?


  • John Viera: Director of Ford Sustainable Business strategies
car bailout sustainable oregon

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