The Great Race
Levi Tillemann Simon & Schuster, 338 pages, $28
Any doubts that electric cars are the future are rapidly blown away within minutes of driving a Tesla Model S. It is not so much the rapid acceleration, but the smooth and relentless supply of power from its electric motor. That is the thing about electric motors: They produce a twisting force called torque instantly. So much torque, in fact, there is no need for a gearbox. It is a shame then that Levi Tillemann did not crown this car the winner in his book "The Great Race: The Global Quest for the Car of the Future," instead wimping out at the end by declaring the quest is a "race we all run together."
Tillemann's book is about the car guys, mostly those employed by the giant carmakers in America, China and Japan, and their titanic struggles to bring electric vehicles to the market (and, at one point, in the case of General Motors, trying to kill them).
The book has the crunchy detail required for a compelling insight into the technological, corporate and political machinations of the industry, and there are intriguing twists and turns.
Tillemann, an energy expert, writes about the car guys with the grasp of an insider. This seems to have been gained from founding a company that tried to bring a low-emission car engine to market and by having led negotiations with Detroit. Fluent in Chinese and Japanese, he is able to take the adventure to the heart of the world's other automotive powers.