Friday, November 21, 2008

Who Killed the Electric Car?

This documentary deals with the history of the electric car, its development and commercialization, mostly focusing on the General Motors EV1, which was made available for lease in Southern California, after the California Air Resources Board passed the ZEV mandate in 1990, as well as the implications of the events depicted for air pollution, environmentalism, Middle East politics, and global warming.

The film details the California Air Resources Board's reversal of the mandate after suits from automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, and the George W. Bush administration. It points out that Bush's chief influences, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Andrew Card, are all former executives and board members of oil and auto companies.

A large part of the film accounts for GM's efforts to demonstrate to California that there was no demand for their product, and then to take back every EV1 and dispose of them. A few were disabled and given to museums and universities, but almost all were found to have been crushed; GM never responded to the EV drivers' offer to pay the residual lease value ($1.9 million was offered for the remaining 78 cars in Burbank before they were crushed). Several activists are shown being arrested in the protest that attempted to block the GM car carriers taking the remaining EV1s off to be crushed.

The film explores some of the reasons that the auto and oil industries worked to kill off the electric car. Wally Rippel is shown explaining that the oil companies were afraid of losing out on trillions in potential profit from their transportation fuel monopoly over the coming decades, while the auto companies were afraid of losses over the next six months of EV production. Others explained the killing differently. GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss argued it was lack of consumer interest due to the maximum range of 80–100 miles per charge, and the relatively high price.

The film also explores the future of automobile technologies including a deeply critical look at hydrogen vehicles and an upbeat discussion of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technologies.

Click here for the official website.

Buy this documentary on DVD now...


Anonymous said...

Dear friend, I just discovered your documentary blog yesterday. Thank you so much for creating a source of knowledge like this. When I can afford it, I promise I will donate to help you keep it all going. Ideas like the ones in these videos should be freely and easily accessible to all peoples of the world. I'm convinced that our survival depends on it.

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


cinndave said...

I've seen this film before and it was terrific. And maddening.

The DVD is good. They have some left out footage that sounds important. They did a comparison of the emissions and energy consumption associated with each type of vehicle. Charts and everything. Electric cars used half the energy, and had lower emissions of everything, except sulphur when half of the energy comes from coal plants.

They also showed some interview footage of the GM lobbyist who said something interesting. He said the California law was seriously flawed. It said 10% of all cars sold must be zero emissions by 2000, which was impossible because not enough people would buy them. Instead of making 10% of cars Zero emissions, they could make 100% of cars 10% cleaner over a corporate average, like the recent CAFE act does for gas mileage. Same net result. Minimal trouble for business and engineers. And the improvements might even make their way into cars outside of CA, making the emissions reduction ever better.