EVLN(CNN: GEM fire)
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[This POST is broadcasted on the EV groups that have
discussed this topic. The following CNN piece shows too
much media visibility has been brought. I suggest that
your corrections and views be sent to the media]
CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN
Interview of Jean Jennings
Aired July 31, 2002 - 08:54 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL
FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Model Veronica Webb says her
efforts at being eco-friendly ended in tragedy when her
electric car overcharged. Web says the car burst into
flames, sent fire spewing through air conditioning system,
burning down her home and killing her dog. Apparently it is
not the first example of the hidden dangers inside of
electric cars. Let's talk more about it.
From Ann Arbor, Michigan, this morning, the dangers and how
to avoid them. Jean Jennings, editor-in-chief of
"Automobile" magazine. Gene, good morning to you.
JEAN JENNINGS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "AUTOMOBILE" MAGAZINE: Good
morning to you.
HEMMER: How strange is this, what happened with Miss Webb?
JENNINGS: Well, you know, this is not -- we say electric
car, but what she had was actually an electric golf cart.
That's classified by the government as an NEV, a
neighborhood electric vehicle. So the batteries in her
vehicle are more like golf cart batteries. These are zero
emission vehicles, but they're not zero maintenance
vehicles. Actually, anyone who own as golf cart knows that
they're very high maintenance.
HEMMER: User error, I think, is what you're suggesting,
Jean. Am I reading too much between the lines?
JENNINGS: Well, I have to say that if you look at the
owner's manual of her vehicle, I counted on 20 out of 30
pages, there were giant warnings and cautions. They require
these batteries to be maintained weekly -- weekly.
JENNINGS: Can you imagine this? I mean, you wouldn't think
of that for your car.
HEMMER: I would agree with that. It's a Chrysler GEM -- GEM
stands for global electric motorcar. You're saying it's the
equivalent of a golf cart.
JENNINGS: It really is a golf cart. It has some government
requirements because too many people were driving their golf
carts on the street. So This vehicle can't go on any street
that's over a 35- mile an hour speed limit. It's governed at
25 miles an hour. There are just modest safety things, like
turn signals, lights, a horn. And I read in the reports that
she said there were four hidden batteries. In fact,
everywhere in that owner's manual it says there are six
batteries, four under the seat, two in the front. One of
those batteries is just for the equipment, like the horn and
the lights. In every case...
HEMMER: Jean, we're going to put you down in the category as
defending the Chrysler GEM. But from the company's
standpoint here, DaimlerChrysler released a statement, just
to be on the record here -- I am quoting now -- "We have
been communicating with Ms. Webb's representatives and are
working with them to investigate the incident at her home in
Key West, Florida. We also have searched our records and
have not identified any other reports of fires related to
the use or charging of GEM vehicles."
Get away from this for a moment. The hybrids from Honda and
Toyota. How are they different, and are they safer?
JENNINGS: These are not purely electric vehicles. They're
hybrids. You don't plug them in, so there is no -- there is
not that danger of the charging. The electricity in those
hybrid vehicles comes when you brake. When you brake, the
energy generated by the braking is stored as electricity in
a very different sort of battery. It doesn't have little
posts on -- that have to be hooked up and cleaned. So it's
quite a bit different vehicle.
HEMMER: Let me go to a different topic here, one that
confounds me a little bit. Static electricity in regular
cars at the gas pump starting fires. Make sense of this.
JENNINGS: Well, frankly, there is always some kind of vapor
around gasoline being put in your car, and it's the same
thing with electricity being charged. The American Petroleum
Equipment Institute has found many cases of refueling fires,
and almost every one involves a woman, because women tend to
get back in the car while the hose is still in the pump
refueling. When they get out of the car, static electricity
can cause a spark that will cause that fire. So women...
HEMMER: Simply by getting in and out of the car, it can
create that much static electricity that can start a fire?
JENNINGS: It doesn't take much. It just takes a little bit,
and you know walking on a carpet can cause a little static
charge. What is important to know is, you shouldn't get in
and out of the car. You should probably never use a cell
phone because of the charge around the cell phone. But just
to be sure, if you take your hands off the pump, you should
touch the car, touch some metal, to discharge any static
that may have collected around your body before you pick the
pump up again.
HEMMER: Good warnings to heed. Jean Jennings, again, with us
today, the editor-in-chief of "Automobile" magazine. Some
amazing stuff there, to be quite frank with you, but stuff
to look out for too. Thank you, Jean, we will talk again.
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. EV List Editor & RE newswires
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