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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Movie Review: Who Killed the Electric Car?

This movie succeeds as propaganda. It explores the rise of the zero-emissions mandate in California, followed by its successful dismantling by corporate lobbyists and a compliant California Air Resources Board. The truth is, though, the GM EV1 and its cohorts weren't going to be successful. If you were to buy an only car, you wouldn't buy one with a limit 100 mile range unless there was infrastructure to permit refueling (maybe battery swap stations? but the logistics behind that would have been tough).

Lest I sound like a Republican right-winger, I'll remind readers of this blog that I log about 8000 miles a year on my bicycle, 4000 for commuting alone, so I'm as rabid an environmentalist as they come. But precisely because a range of 100 miles isn't better than what I can do on a bicycle, the only reason I'd ever get in a car was because I needed to go far in a short time.

The gasoline-electric hybrid is a much better idea, and the plug-in hybrid an even better one. But the pure electric car wasn't going to happen unless battery technology got dramatically better (which it hasn't --- battery technology has been getting better linearly, not exponentially), and there was infrastructure to support it.

In any case, this is not a bad movie --- it accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to insinuate a conspiracy theory around the dismantling of the electric car programs. Unfortunately, any amount of deep thinking by a typical consumer would show that the conspiracies it insinuates cannot possibly be true.

Ultimately, our transportation problems would be much better solved by building a robust and comprehensive passenger rail system than by trying to tinker with the private automobile, but I guess that won't happen until gas gets to $200 a barrel and beyond.


PonderingFool said...

I did not think the movie came across as saying if GM & the automakers with Big Oil hadn't kept the electric cars on the down low that we all would be driving electric cars (Ed Bagley Jr. notwithstanding). Most of the other comments were that for those in urban centers who are relatively close to everything or multiple car households they were great cars to have. There is a market for that. They are people with disposable incomes. Early adopters of most technologies are. The marketplace is now going towards hybrids and plug-in hybrids which is why we are getting them. The tax incentive that encouraged SUVs is being closed and gas prices are pushing people away from such vehicles. If the electric cars were allowed to exist the technology would be further along and the hybrids would have probably been out sooner, especially of the plug-in kind for the masses. Why didn't GM and the automakers when they were cutting a deal with CARB offer to make hybrids instead?

Pat R said...

Watched "Who Killed the Electric Car" recently (great documentary), then i heard that GM and Tesla are making another run at the electric car (yay for progress!) hopefully development of this technology can go on unhindered by the corporations that depend on oil consumption.