Thursday, January 3, 2008

Murder Most Brutal- The Death of the Electric Car

Last night I watched "Who Killed the Electric Car" directed by former EV1 driver, Chris Paine. I got so frustrated, that I had to pause the movie a couple times, and pace around like a mad woman until I was ready to keep watching.

I don't remember much about the electric car when it came out. I vaguely remember having a discussion with my dad about the battery life, but I certainly don't remember seeing any commercials for it, nor do I remember the electric cars being readily available like the Toyota Prius is.

Well it turns out, the electric car wasn't readily available. You pretty much had to be a celebrity to get one, and even then you had to go through a million hoops before GM would grudgingly consent to let you drive the damn car. Even then, GM would only let you LEASE it, so that they could take it back from you when your lease ended. Which they did. Yup, in the end, GM forcibly TOOK back every electric car on the roads. GM took electric cars from people willing to pay good money for them. And then what did GM do? They crushed the cars.

Why? Why on earth would GM make it so impossible to get one of their products?

The movie doesn't really explain why a company would be quite so cannibalistic about their own product, though Paine suggests that part of the reason is that electric cars cost almost nothing to maintain, so GM got worried that they would lose out on maintenance fees if the electric car became too popular.

But it wasn't just GM consipiring to keep the electric car away from the American consumer. The movie fingers other culprits such as big oil and, most distressingly, the California Air Resources Board. See, the California Air Resources Board is a branch of the California EPA and it's designed to serve and protect Californians, right? Except, they didn't. Instead, the board chose to serve and protect GM and Texaco by gutting the California Zero-Emissions Vehicle Law.

So what does this all mean? Basically, that we COULD all be zipping around in electric vehicles right now, but that Big Oil and Big Auto colluded to take away the electric car, the government sided with the corporations, and the American consumer never put up a fuss.

Okay but what about those batteries? Wasn't the electric car's battery pretty unreliable.

Actually, yes, the first battery installed in the original electric cars was unreliable because GM chose to use an inferior battery. The batteries for the second generation of electric cars lasted 100 miles per charge. Which does present a problem for long car trips, but as a commuter car, 100 miles per charge is plenty. Drive to work, plug your car in, and by the time you drive home your car will be fully charged again. But NOW we have even BETTER batteries. So today, an electric car could go 300 miles without needing to be charged. How often do you drive more than 300 miles in a day? Once a year? Twice? Hell, for those handful of times, you can just RENT a gas-powered car with all the savings you'll get from not having to buy gas every other day of the year.

What's so frustrating is that this technology exists in the here and now. We're in an oil crisis, gas prices are high, and global warming is becoming more and more of a problem. Electric cars should be a no brainer. We should all be driving them or at the very least, we should all be driving hybrid plug-ins. But we aren't.

What about those hydrogen fuel cell cars we keep hearing about? Well, the movie was pretty disparaging about those cars. First of all, the technology isn't currently available and probably won't be for at least another 20 years. Electric car technology is available NOW. Secondly, hydrogen cars are not as clean as electric cars, because electric cars can be powered by solar and wind powered electricity. So why all the fuss about hydrogen fuel cell cars? Well Big Oil and Big Auto figure, by making a huge to-do about a technology that is at least 20 years off, they can take our attention away from electric cars, and still continue to make money off of those fossil fuel burning cars.

It was definitely depressing and frustrating to watch this movie, but it was also highly informative, and I urge you all to watch the movie and after you watch, take action.

1 comment:

Shorty said...

Yes! I had the exact same reaction after watching this movie. I think I may have blogged about it on my old Friendster blog, I'll have to go back and look...anyway, the moral of the movie is: PAY ATTENTION. Know what environmental state boards are doing (and not doing), know what laws are being considered in state and federal congresses and make yourself heard. When Illinois and other great lake citizens spoke up to oppose allowing BP to dump more pollution into Lake Michigan, they were heard, and the permit was denied.

So don't despair, we can make a difference!