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KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– The automobile industry is getting pushed too hard to mass produce electric vehicles too soon, a University of Tennessee engineering professor said Thursday.

Putting electric vehicles on the market before they are perfected and less expensive could turn many people against them, Dr. Jeff Hodgson said.

The American Automobile Manufacturing Association has launched a campaign to eliminate California’s law requiring that 20,000 new cars (2 percent) sold in the state be electric by 1998 and 100,000 (10 percent) by 2003.

Automakers say electric cars would cost $20,000 more than conventional gasoline-powered vehicles. They also cite the need for an economical, lightweight, long-lasting battery which they say has not been developed.

Most of the batteries in today’s electric vehicles can only power about 40 to 60 miles of travel and must be recharged for several hours between trips.

“To really clean up the air, we need a large number of (electric cars), and that’s not going to happen until the cost comes down,” said AAMA vice president Richard Klimisch.

Automakers say the state should let free market forces gradually propel the industry toward electric cars.

“I can understand the frustration that many people in California feel about their air quality. But it (mass producing dependable, affordable electric cars) is not an easy task, and I don’t think people should minimize it,” Hodgson said.

“The automotive manufacturers are spending a lot of money on electric vehicles. They are making a good faith effort in this direction, and there could be some danger in coming out with a vehicle prematurely.”

Hodgson, a professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, has guided UT-Knoxville student engineering teams to wins in several national alternative fuel vehicle contests. He said the public should heed the industry’s warning that technology does not yet exist to make electric vehicles practical.

Contact: Dr. Jeff Hodgson (615-974-5294)