Tuesday, May 15, 2007

EV1: Old Age and Treachery

Just in case somebody has not seen or heard about Who Killed the Electric Car? then click the link and read on. It is not just a sorry tale of a motor car or "shucks, I sure hate to pay high prices at the petrol pumps", it is a tale of physcopath corporations with planetary impact way beyond the story of a single car model.

Let's re-cap: 1980s California had a real air polluction problem. Spurred on by the likes of General Motors who had developed electric vehicles like the Solarracer, the state government introduced the mandate for Zero Emission Vehicles.

GM as with any large scale organisation responded in two ways: positively, they commissioned the EV1 using the same young, enthusiatic team that built the Solarracer and negatively, trying it dammest to halt the ZEV legislation.

I don't think GM expected the EV1 to be anything except a huge flop. They certainly tried their hardest to stop its own product succeeding. The management team expected the young team to produce a lemon of a car (they didn't, they in fact produced probably the finest Electric Vehicle available in the world at the time!), they put a young inexperienced team in charge of selling the car (who against expectations, went out selling with missionary zeal!). But thereafter the will of the company succeeds: the manufacturing lines are starved of resources, the design team is not immediately informed of new battery technology, the advertising was, frankly, perverse and finally there were "surveys" conducted to new owners to warn them away from the car!!!

As the EV1 owners club (now a largely quiet bunch) chronicles in its archives up to 2000, it was really hard for anyone to get hold of one of the cars!. The site is now dedicated to the "Who Killed the Electric Car" documentary.

But the ultimate method of killing the car was the most effective: GM didn't sell the car, the car was leased! That way as soon as the ZEV legislation was removed (as soon as Bush got into office) then, the car was towed away and CRUSHED! In the documentary, you may find this hard to believe, but your heart really goes out to the owners that had clubbed together to stand guard over the last 70 EV1s in a GM compound, waving a giant cheque for $1.9million, protesting "We want our EV1s!". The police move in. There are arrests. The cars are loaded up, carried away and then smashed to pieces.

Check out YouTube for the EV1 "last ride". March 2000. No commentary, just the quiet, quiet drive of the EV1 zipping around californian streets before it was reclaimed by GM for crushing. The EV1 looks and sounds just like the 1950s vision of the Future Car. It brings a tear to my eye that I won't have that experience. Look at the photo... a line of EV1s: that's how it should have been.

It's the same old story of old age and treachery beating youth and enthusiasm. Don't assume there are hydrogen cars coming along anytime soon. Hybrids too could be just bait and switch! Meanwhile we go to war over Oil, and California still has an air pollution problem. There is more to this story but I've written enough. Check out the links.

Go buy or rent the DVD. It has 5 star rating. It's not just me that feels this.