Last night we finally watched the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?”
It’s always a bit disheartening to learn that, because of the “big guys” (the rich white old men of the government, the oil companies and the automakers), the American consumer was never really given the chance to own the true electric car, which uses no gasoline.
About a decade ago, GM released the “EV1” model, an electric car that was the first step in the right direction (that is, a vehicle that didn’t run on smog-spewing foreign oil). They let a few thousand people lease the EV1 models in California and Arizona. When demand started to build, but other factors caused GM to stop production, GM took all their EV1 cars back, with force. They literally smashed the poor, innocent cars to bits and pieces, promising to “recycle” the parts. This didn’t go down without a fight, as fervent EV1 drivers staged a round-the-clock vigil to keep the few cars from the junkyard. GM won.
As highlighted in this 2006 article by Bloomberg News, the death of the electric car was caused by a sort of perfect storm of factors (mostly rich guys noticing how consumers drooled over the shiny gigantic-ness of SUVs – the anti-Christ to electric cars.)
As a result, while gas prices continue to escalate, and global warming is irrefutable, current efforts to improve the first versions of the electric car are amazingly sparse. Right now, the push to create “plug-in” cars seems the most hopeful innovation on the horizon – unlike electric cars, hydrogen fuel cell cars, and hybrid vehicles (which still have a pretty crappy MPG ratio), “plug-ins” allow drivers to go long distances without needing to recharge, one of the biggest drawbacks to older electric models.
However, again, it seems like production efforts of the “plug-ins” are moving at the pace of a demented turtle — have you seen any of these cars on the street?
Neither have I.
(Update: The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that “GM Vice Chairman Robert Lutz said yesterday that the company hopes to launch a family of electric vehicles that would share many parts with GM’s mainstream models. GM still needs suppliers to develop the batteries required for electric vehicles, and it isn’t yet certain the suppliers will come through. GM already is mapping out plans to produce a wide range of electric models beyond the Chevrolet Volt, which it has vowed to launch in three years or so.”)