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Cutting to the Core

Who did kill the electric car?

There is a recent documentary titled "Who Killed the Electric Car" making the rounds through the video rental stores.

I haven't seen the movie yet but it got me thinking, "Whatever did happen to the electric car?"

During the 1990s several car companies were trying to perfect an electric car but apparently General Motors (GM) had something on their hands, a car that went from zero to 60 mph in eight seconds while producing zero emissions.

This was an electric car known as the EV1 and could travel up to 140 miles before having to be recharged.

GM leased more than 800 cars to consumers for three years with the understanding the cars would be returned to GM after the lease was up. Citing a lack of interest and expense GM stopped making the cars and destroyed nearly all of them.

The biggest problem that I can see with an electric car is how far one can go in it. One hundred and forty miles is OK if you're just driving around the Lower Valley, but a trip to the Tri-Cities or Seattle would be out of the question.

Is that why the car was killed? I don't know. If it takes hours to recharge a car then I would say yes.

Like I said, I haven't seen the movie yet, but reviews I read online give me a pretty good idea of what's it about and who really killed the car.

Big oil is definitely listed as an enemy to the electric car, but does that surprise anyone? I'm sure the oil companies did everything they could to make sure this car was never mass produced to the American public. Ethical? No. Illegal? I don't see how unless the oil companies were killing off all of the electrical car engineers.

The Bush administration is also referenced heavily in the movie. It is pointed out that Dick Cheney, Andrew Card and Condoleezza Rice are all former executives and board members of oil and auto companies.

And you know what? I wouldn't be surprised if those three did give a nudge or push in favor of oil companies over this issue. I have no proof but it's just something I don't have a problem believing.

GM's excuse for disposing of the cars was an apparent lack of demand from the public. The cars were relatively expensive and the range of up to 140 miles, and I've seen that number as low as 80-100 miles, is enough to make me believe that.

In the 1990s, $34,000-$44,000 was a hefty price tag.

But I think in the long run it was the consumer who failed to make the electric car a reality.

The electric car is an expensive project for any car company. The initial investments by GM and other car companies were high and the demand just wasn't there. Sure, if the price went down and the distance an electric car traveled was increased I think there would be plenty of demand.

GM isn't stupid. If they could bring a cheap, reliable electric car to the market I think they would. If they could do this everyone would buy an electric car. People would give up the gasoline cars for these new cars that buzz down the road at 70 mph and emit zero emission. GM would clean up and there isn't enough pressure the oil companies or the Bush administration could apply that would stop GM's pursuit once that company saw dollar signs up ahead.

I don't see any riots in the streets from consumers demanding an electric car. I don't see any riots in the street demanding cheaper gas for that matter. Take Sunnyside for instance. AM/PM has the cheapest gas in town but I see cars at the Chevron station on South First Street filling up with some of most expensive gas in town.

Why? I don't know. But if consumers aren't even trying to get the cheapest gas in town why should I believe they would be willing to buy the cheapest running car in town?

I hope the electric car isn't dead and it makes a comeback sometime soon. But with people buying SUVs and seemingly not worried about the price of gas, why wouldn't the oil and car companies keep prices high and cheap cars unavailable?

After all, they're in it for the money.

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