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Old 07-19-2007, 5:11 AM   #1
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Who killed the electric car

Who Killed the Electric Car? is a 2006 documentary film that explores the birth, limited commercialization, and subsequent death of the battery electric vehicle in the United States, specifically the General Motors EV1 of the 1990s. The film explores the roles of automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, the US government, batteries, hydrogen vehicles, and consumers in limiting the development and adoption of this technology.
It was released on DVD to the home video market on November 14, 2006 by Sony Pictures
The film 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
The film features interviews with celebrities who drove the electric car, such as Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Alexandra Paul, Peter Horton, Phyllis Diller, and Ed Begley, Jr., a bi-partisan selection of prominent political figures including Ralph Nader, Frank Gaffney, Alan Lloyd, Jim Boyd, Alan Lowenthal, and ex-CIA head James Woolsey, as well as news footage from the development, launch and marketing of EV's.
The film also features interviews with some of the engineers and technicians who led the development of modern electric vehicles and related technologies such as Wally Rippel, Chelsea Sexton, Alan Cocconi and Stan and Iris Ovshinsky and other experts, such as Joseph J. Romm (author of Hell and High Water and The Hype about Hydrogen). Romm gives a presentation intended to show that the government's "hydrogen car initiative" is a bad policy choice and a distraction that is delaying the exploitation of more promising technologies, like electric and hybrid cars that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase America's energy security. Also featured in the film are spokesmen for the automakers, such as GM's Dave Barthmuss, a vocal opponent of the film and the EV1, and Bill Reinert from Toyota.
The last half hour of the movie is organized around the following hypothesized culprits in the downfall of the electric car:
Consumers
Lots of ambivalence to new technology, unwillingness to compromise on decreased range and increased cost for improvements to air quality and reduction of dependence on foreign oil. Although these allegations are made about consumers by industry reps in the film, perhaps explaining the film's "guilty" verdict, the actual consumers interviewed in the film were either unaware an electric car was available, or dismayed that they could no longer obtain one.
Batteries
Limited range (60-70 miles) and reliability in the first EV-1s to ship, but better (110 - 160 miles) later. Towards the end of the film, an engineer explains that, as of the interview, the same technology available in laptop batteries would have allowed the EV-1 to be upgraded to a range of 300 miles per charge.
Oil companies
Fearful of losing business to a competing technology, they supported efforts to kill the ZEV mandate. They also bought patents to prevent modern batteries from being used in US electric cars.
Car companies
Negative marketing, sabotaging their own product program, failure to produce cars to meet existing demand, unusual business practices with regards to leasing versus sales. The film only explains this behavior once, saying that electric cars needed fewer expensive repairs and would hence not make the car companies as much money over the long term as gasoline-powered cars. The film also describes the history of automaker efforts to destroy competing technologies, such as their destruction through front companies of public transit systems in the United States in the early 20th century. It also, in one interview, mentions that automakers introduced important safety and emissions innovations including seat belts, airbags and catalytic converters only when forced by government legislation.
Government
The federal government joined in the auto industry suit against California, has failed to act in the public interest to limit pollution and require increased fuel economy, has promoted the purchase of vehicles with poor fuel efficiency through preferential tax breaks, and has redirected alternative fuel research from electric towards hydrogen.
California Air Resources Board
The CARB, headed by Alan Lloyd, caved to industry pressure and repealed the ZEV mandate. Lloyd was given the directorship of the new fuel cell institute, creating an inherent conflict of interest. Footage shot in the meetings showed how he shut down the ZEV proponents while giving the car makers all the time they wanted to make their points.
Hydrogen fuel cell
The hydrogen fuel cell was presented by the film as an alternative that distracts attention from the real and immediate potential of electric vehicles to an unlikely future possibility embraced by automakers, oil companies and a pro-business administration in order to buy time and profits for the status quo.
The movie's conclusions:
Consumers — Guilty
Batteries — Not Guilty
Oil companies — Guilty
Car companies — Guilty
Government — Guilty
California Air Resources Board — Guilty
Hydrogen fuel cell — Guilty
Has anyone seen this? I've seen the preview but have not had the chance to watch it as yet so I would be interested to hear some feedback.
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Old 07-19-2007, 8:56 AM   #2
 
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Re: Who killed the electric car

I love the fact that patents are a tool only the big companies can afford. Anyone who bolts together a kit in their garage would not be able to be competition, because they have likely stepped on at least several hundred patents. There are a few other tricks the big automakers can use to prevent competition from the small guy. One is safety testing.

This was the same thing that stunted competition for Personal Computers back in the 80's. Lots of well to do people started their own production of IBM compatible computers would end up getting a visit by a couple of IBM's lawyers. "We have several patents. You owe us royalties." You'd laugh at how obvious these patents were and say, "I'll see you in court." "OK, that's fine, but we have several thousand other patents relating to your product. Let's make a deal... and you need to sign this NDA." The royalties were designed to put the guy out of business and nothing could be said of the deal because of the Non Disclosure Agreement. The other tool IBM used was FCC type certification. They swamped the FCC with applications, eliminating their competition from getting any competing peripherals approved. So IBM had the monopoly on aftermarket products.

Only when there's an avalanche of people making these electric car kits will the automakers fail to enforce their monopoly on sales.
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Old 07-19-2007, 10:13 AM   #3
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Re: Who killed the electric car

I have seen it, and it is OK...Much like a typical documentary, but with a economic-political edge; it is worth watching..I wouldn't buy it, but renting is good.

Patents are not only for the rich or big companies, but require actual originality...That is where most small inventors go awry, because they do not do any research about the "state of the art," they just make their really cool thing...

I agree that shelving patents is terrible...I would suggest we add to patent law a "use" clause (There is one now, but it can often be worked around) with some serious teeth, requiring a surrender of the patent if you don't actually produce the product for sale/commercial/public use within 3 years.
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Old 07-19-2007, 6:58 PM   #4
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Re: Who killed the electric car

Originally Posted by analogbear View Post
I agree that shelving patents is terrible...I would suggest we add to patent law a "use" clause (There is one now, but it can often be worked around) with some serious teeth, requiring a surrender of the patent if you don't actually produce the product for sale/commercial/public use within 3 years.
I agree 100% here it highlights yet another stupid law that could be easily changed, how old would that law be do you think? I know very little about these matters but it would seem that they should be reviewed and updated on a regualr basis. The idea that a company can slow or stop progress that will benefit the planet as a whole is pretty disgusting.
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Old 07-19-2007, 11:37 PM   #5
 
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Re: Who killed the electric car

my company is feature in it.....fiberforge check us out
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Old 07-20-2007, 12:21 AM   #6
 
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Re: Who killed the electric car

People like to make it sound like some big conspiracy - the evil corportations out to screw the world for their own benefit.

But the main reason is - "consumers - Lots of ambivalence to new technology, unwillingness to compromise on decreased range and increased cost for improvements to air quality and reduction of dependence on foreign oil."

Why would I want to pay more for a vehicle that has far less range and less performance. I own a turbo 4wd for performance and I often travel more than 400 miles in a day, sometimes as much as 600 miles. I couldnt live with an electric vehicle that only gets 100 miles. Yes its fine for commuting, but I cant afford it as a 2nd vehicle (or in my case 3rd since I own bike + car)

Make an electric car that does the 1/4 mile in 14s, can offroad, has a range of 200-300 miles and can be refueled in less than 10 minutes and costs less than my Subaru Forester XT and you would have a sale.
Oh surprise - it cant do most of those things let alone do it for a reasonable price.

So what killed the electric car - that fact that it isnt competitive against internal combustion driven vehicles for the majority of consumers.
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Old 07-20-2007, 8:38 AM   #7
 
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Re: Who killed the electric car

Originally Posted by dicknose View Post
Make an electric car that does the 1/4 mile in 14s, can offroad, has a range of 200-300 miles and can be refueled in less than 10 minutes and costs less than my Subaru Forester XT and you would have a sale.
Aren't there any people who just want a vehicle to get to work and back? And trips to the grocery store? Just fast enough to make it on the freeway and I'm ok with that.

I'm not getting into work any quicker with a 500 horsepower vehicle. I can get the same times as anyone else in legal traffic on my 150cc scooter. That little thing can do circles around most cars between stoplights anyway.

Now I do have a 1000cc sportbike. I like to take it for long rides far far away from the madness in the city. Otherwise, I will only use less than 20 horsepower out of it for normal commuting.
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Old 07-21-2007, 10:57 PM   #8
 
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Re: Who killed the electric car

Its true about the power. I mean people have mocked the Smartfortwo and stuff because it's only does 130km/h but my argument is 130 is still 30 kilometers an hour faster then any posted speed limit in the province..so it really doesnt matter. Granted being able to step on it and give'r **** is fun but i mean if i could cut my costs dramatically for commuting to work with something that clicks along at highway speeds then it'd be worth the investment
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Old 07-22-2007, 11:57 PM   #9
 
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Re: Who killed the electric car

Originally Posted by dattaway View Post
Aren't there any people who just want a vehicle to get to work and back? And trips to the grocery store? Just fast enough to make it on the freeway and I'm ok with that.
Families who want a 2nd car...

Not much good for singles or 1 car families as they need the more general purpose vehicle.

The problem with 2nd car for the family is that they often want one that can also fit the family.
Or if they have a family hauler then hubby wants the "fun" car.

Thats the problem - the downsides to the electric car limits the market.
You either need
- single vehicle household who are happy to pay a premium to be green and dont need drive long distances. Thats a hard sell.
- multi vehicle households who are happy to have a 2nd car just for commuting.

And comparing it to a scooter isnt a great comparison. A scooter is very cheap to buy and depreciation is usually the biggest running cost of a new vehicle (far more than fuel, especially for something doing low miles)
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Old 07-23-2007, 12:16 AM   #10
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Re: Who killed the electric car

Hey I would run the kids to school in an electric every day to save on fuel. Then when I get in the petrol from time to time it's going to feel like a rocket. but then again there is this article I found ...

It's called the Lanver Evolution MIEV, which stands for Mitsubishi In-wheel Electric Vehicle. Like its name indicates, the EVO MIEV has four electric motors located in the wheels packaged neatly with the brake assemblies and steering hardware. We posted on Mitsu developing this technology on one of its Colts, but the system on this EVO is different in that it features a hollow-doughnut construction that locates the rotor outside the stator, as opposed to vice-versa in a common electric motor. This offers benefits in terms of power output, space efficiency and weight, the latter of which directly affects the vehicle's handling. The all-electric EVO MIEV will be competing in the Shikoku EV Rally 2005 being held August 27-28 on the island of Shikoku, Japan. Mitsubishi is using the event to test the system's range and durability in various environments. Currently the company is one of the few researching in-wheel electric motors, the development and mass-production of which could help draw positive attention to Mitsubishi the same way the Prius did for Toyota. And just imagine a real hybrid EVO with in-wheel electric motors and a 350+hp 2.0T. Mmm… that'd be fun.
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Old 07-23-2007, 12:49 AM   #11
 
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Re: Who killed the electric car

Wait till gas costs $6 a gallon. And then see who wants an electric car!

Lots of people will swap to scooters and motorcycles but it will be harder in the cold states at winter time.

I have seen the documentary, and no way they should have destroyed the cars. Why not let the people who leased them buy them? That just didn't make sense, except that they did want any of them on the road.

The EV1 had lots of pep and speed. Was smooth to drive and with the new tech on batteries would be able to go 300-400 miles a charge. Not to mention they don't break down that often.

Remember too that these cars were made in the early 90's. Had they6 released then and continues to work on them, 10-15 years later they would have been that much better!
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Old 07-23-2007, 1:00 AM   #12
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Re: Who killed the electric car

I think it's as simple as this, they will let us have electric cars when they work out how they are going to get their revenue model to work as well as fossil fuels. Imagine a world full of cars that were quiet fast and did not break down with low running costs? The economic fallout may just have been to great in the 90's but now we are fast running out of options.
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Old 07-23-2007, 8:17 AM   #13
 
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Re: Who killed the electric car

Originally Posted by .OrgOwner View Post
And just imagine a real hybrid EVO with in-wheel electric motors and a 350+hp 2.0T. Mmm… that'd be fun.



I'm thinking of the unsprung weight of 350 horsepower's worth of electric motors. I'm working with electric motors that weigh 50 pounds per 10 horsepower. That car is going to handle just like a forklift.
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Old 07-24-2007, 10:50 AM   #14
 
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Re: Who killed the electric car

In the real world the enviromental damage done by the mining to extract materials for batteries is horrific. I saw some pictures of the mining facility in Canada where the majority of the material for electric and hybrid car batteries come from and it is devastating.

How about the mineral resources needed to wind electric motors. The price of metals is skyrocketing along with everything else recently.

Refueling an electric car requires power generation capacity and where is that going to come from? Burning coal? Where are the emissions savings in that? Have you ever seen the most cost effecient method of coal mining in action the strip?

Hydro electric? Lets just build more and more damn's.

Maybe if we would look at nuclear energy options the cost of electric production in the long run could be reduced enough to make electric cars economical and environmentally more friendly.

I remember a few years ago California was hit by rolling brownouts for most of a summer. Increased demand and an aging national power grid are already taxing electrical transmission capabilities in metropolitan areas during peak usage times so it just makes sense that as load increases by recharging your car the power grids need to be updated and expanded upon. I wonder where the money for that will come from?

In the long run the cost of an electric vehicle is higher to the environment and the owner than an internal combustion engine.

I am not against electric powered or alternative fuel vehicles if a more effecient economical solution were found.

Personally I think quantum mechanics or high energy particle physics is where its at. A nuclear fusion reactor the size of football with a 100+ year service life or an encapsulated microscopic black hole are the energy sources of the future. Batteries and electric motors are just a baby step in the direction we need to go.
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Old 07-24-2007, 11:02 AM   #15
 
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Re: Who killed the electric car

Oh I forgot to mention combustion of hydrogen and oxygen. Ok good idea i like it almost as much as I like gasoline plus it's by products are actually pretty green, but free hydrogen is not all that common so it has to be produced. Electrical seperation of hydrogen and oxygen from water is expensive so a friendlier method would need to be employed.
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