Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Doc Review: "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

I had heard about "Who Killed the Electric Car?" back when it first came out but didn't think too much about it beyond remembering to put it on my Netflix queue. What makes this such an amazing story for me is that it was simply not talked about publicly until now. Despite the extensive research I have done concerning alternative vehicles, the fact that I was so quick to jump on the Gas/Electric hybrid bandwagon, and the fact that I lived less than a half mile from the GM Training Center that is heavily featured in the film and passed the EV-1 protestors dozens of times as they sat on the sidewalk, even I was unaware of the magnitude of what their protest represented. The documentary is the story of the brief existence of a few models of cars that operated solely by plug in electric power, most notably, the American designed and manufactured EV-1. GM’s EV-1 was literally not for sale in its brief existence, the only cars produced were offered for lease and were then all recovered by the manufacturer at the end of lease terms. Many of the lesees were celebritiesĂ‚—Ed Begley Jr., Tom Hanks, and Peter Horton, who was shown as the last person to have his EV-1 taken away. (The appearance of EV-1 supporter Mel Gibson pre-drunken arrest but in full wild man of Apocalypto beard is odd in itself, but maybe he wouldnĂ‚’t have been stopped on the PCH had he been driving his old EV-1 instead…) What the documentary shows is that while car companies claim that they did “massive” campaigns to advertise their models of electric vehicles, they repeatedly claim that consumer demand was almost non-existent. Though ask almost anyone, and none of them could tell you what the EV-1 was or who made it. Car companies could easily cite that no one wanted their electric cars but left out the reason being no one had heard of them. And even in this fascinating look at alternative vehicles, the most interesting interviewee was Stanford Ovshinsky (and his cute little wife Iris), who essentially invented the battery that made the EV-1 go and now is found in every hybrid car on the road. (Even more interesting was the glimpse he provided of solar roofing shingles that if implemented would probably change the world as we know it.)

On March 15, 2005, when the final 78 EV-1s that were being stored at the GM Training Center lot were loaded on trucks to be taken away to be destroyed, I was sitting in my apartment down the street unaware that this was the death of the electric car and thus the end of a viable solution to the oil crisis, to the pollution problem and to move the United States into the automotive future.

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