Friday, July 14, 2006

Who Killed the Electric Car?

At work they showed the new documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? last night. (I'm proud Sony Pictures Classics picked this up).

It made me want to buy an electric car, right now. Trouble is, now there are no affordable ones for sale anymore. Thanks to a coordinated effort of lawsuits, anti-PR campaigns, and oil-baron friendly government leaders, big car companies have dropped their focus on EV for hybrids and lesser technologies. As the film illustrates quite well, EV really is the best of the technologies out there now, AND it meets the needs of 90% of people in this country. But it IS a threat to the status quo we've had for the last 80 years. It has no need for gas. It needs fewer parts. Requires less maintenance. It can be refueled at home.

GM decided that even though it had spent a billion dollars making one of the best cars ever made, it would stop production, and crush all the ones that existed (ending the leases for all those who had one, and hauling them away to be scrapped). It and others sued California to end the requirement for such cars (and won, thanks to a committee member who worked for a competing hydrogen fuel cel firm) Ironically though, all the development of low-emissions automobile technology lit a fire under Japanese car companies to get into it themselves (hence, the success of the Prius).

What's frustrating to me now is, all this technology is just sitting there. The public wants it. But's it's too expensive. If you do a search for EV, you'll find most automobile manufacturers were intent on selling by early 2001 or so. We would have had real, working, EV cars. Now, basically there's the Prius, a decent hybrid but still reliant on oil. A sports car was built (by the EV1 engineer featured in the film) that is faster than both the Porsche and Ferrari, can go 300 miles without recharging, and has zero emissions. But it is not available for sale. Aaargh! His website keeps suggesting the possibility of vehicular greatness, but sadly, nothing can actually be bought right now unless you build it yourself.

The next big thing then, will be plugin modifications to hybrids.

UPDATE: General Motors responds to criticisms in the film, and to a rant in the New York Times.

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