The Genereral Motors EV1, the first electric
car introduced in California in 1996.
Was electric all that impractical? A now classic documentary on why
the electric car was doomed on American highways is getting more notice - as gas prices soar to over $4 a gallon. Did the oil companies
really have a hand in the technology's demise?
In the 1990s
oil was getting scarcer and the pollution produced by combustion
engines was becoming recognized as a very serious problem.
to demand some solutions that would save their world, their bank
accounts and their breathing from gasoline's bad effects.
Around the world,
there was rising concern about pollution, rising oil prices with
reduced reserves and fear of the growing influence of international
government officials, car company owners and researchers began looking
at ways to revive and improve the old technology.
be a way that cars powered by electricity could compete in the open
market with their gas fueled cousins?
Government Steps In
In 1995 the California Air Resources Board adopted
the Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate which made it vital for car manufacturers who
wanted keep selling cars to come up with an emission free fuel source. In 1996
GM launched the EV1.
the eight years it was on the market, hundreds of Californians became electric
car drivers. Among the notables who appear in the film are EV owners Mel Gibson,
Tom Hanks, Alexandra Paul and Peter Horton who are still driving their EVs and
with an oil-friendly Bush administration in power, the CARB regulations were repealed.
The EV1 was pulled and destroyed. About the same time Toyota killed the production
of the RAV4 EV. The electric car was dead.
Original Tesla Pierce-Arrow The concept of a competitive electric car was
not something new. A little research reveals that Tesla, who pioneered the use
of electricity for power with Edison back in the late 1800s, had driven a modified
1931 Pierce-Arrow powered by electricity for long periods of time - and at speeds
of up to 90mph, very fast in comparison to the driving speeds of the day.
newspaper interviews he explained that the energy to run the car came "...from
the ethers all around us." In 1931, this theory was considered demonic, delusional
or a scam.
took his invention and went home in disgust. When he died, the secret died with
him. He never revealed how his power source worked, but work it did!
Use Gas? If it is possible to create an energy source that is clean and
quiet, produces no pollution, is readily available, performs as well (or better)
than a gas powered combustion engine and is free and unlimited why are
we still using oil and gas for power?
The film "Who
Killed the Electric Car?" is the story of the success and failure
of the electric car of the 1990s. Major car manufacturers actually
built and made electric cars available to the public - many of them
are still being driven today. But then the process stopped.
there a conspiracy? Were electric cars eliminated because of pressure
by the car companies, oil companies and wealthy capitalists? Did the United States
government and car companies cave under the internal and oil company pressure
to preserve profits instead of our environment and our money?
Did a source
of free, clean, renewable energy threaten the billions of dollars
in profit that these companies earn each year? To many consumers,
the answer to that seems obvious.
cars run cheaply on a nonpolluting fuel source. The engine has little wear and
tear because there aren't all those moving parts that the combustion engine needs
- cars can last practically forever with no servicing. Cheap, clean and designed
to last... who wouldn't want one?
to the Electric Car
The electric cars produced by the major car companies in the 1990s
could run for about 50 - 120 miles before they need to be recharged.
Even today's models need a charge after 200 miles. Those who have
experienced their cell phone or laptop battery running out choice
at the wrong moment know the frustration.
Sure, you can
find somewhere to recharge, but you were stuck at the electrical
outlet until the car was charged enough to get you back on the road.
Need For Speed The other drawback of the electric cars that were marketed
in the '90s was that they were slow. Top speeds of around 40 - 60 mph, limited
range and nowhere to refuel - would you buy one? Add to that the 'lease' instead
of purchase option...
the Electric Car?" presents the car companies saying that they
spent tons of money developing and producing electric car models
and no one wanted one. They finally sold a few, but not enough to
keep pouring money into production and advertising costs.
The movie does
make it seem reasonable to accept a conspiracy theory between the
big oil companies, the car companies and, yes, even the government.
Yet making cars that no one will pay for was not a good business
model. The death of the EV might have been a shame, but it made
good business sense.
the Movie Doesn't Ask
Why were the car companies were producing an EV that could only
move at 40 mph for a hundred miles or so. If Tesla could drive a
car powered by electricity at 90 mph with unlimited range in 1931,
why couldn't that technology be reproduced in the mid 1990s?
officials say the cars didn't sell...others say they weren't marketed
to sell. It seems that neither of these were the real problem. What
killed the electric car was a that it was never made to sell. This
movie provides an interesting look at some real issues, but doesn't
address the car industry's biggest failure.
The Author... Chiff.com Editorial Team More about electric cars around the Web: