Saturday, November 18, 2006

Who Killed the Electric Car? – Released To DVD It's worth seeing no matter what your political persuasion.

I rented and watched this movie, with curiosity and skepticism, and felt sympathy for General Motors and other car companies that are disheartened and amazed that California can place such enormous compliance requirements on auto makers, that no other state would even think of trying.

I believe I could understand why GM could see no return on investment for development of the electric car. I tried to not let the movie appeal to my emotions but pay attention to the compelling information that was presented.

A few impressive assertions that the movie communicated to me was:

A. That the battery technology for more practical range, per charge, was available but the rights to that technology was purchased by GM, who sat on that technology and then later sold it to the oil companies to be removed from deployment in the market place, for the time being.

B. Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology has enormous technological hurtles to overcome to be practical to the mass market while plug-in rechargeable electric cars are already proven to be practical because you can refuel the car at home every night while your sleeping.

C. The electric car did not seem practical as a single principal vehicle to own because of the limited driving range but the gas/electric hybrid cars, that Honda and Toyota are selling, answer this dilemma by maintaining compatibility with our current widely available fuel source, but utilizing rechargeable electric power at the same time.

D. The real positive outlook regarding hybrids is that they can evolve into plug-in rechargeable hybrids that allow you to drive the first sixty miles of your day, using virtually no gas, yet you still can rely on gas when you need it.

One thought I have pondered is that GM spending a billion dollars for the development of an entirely new car technology is very low-cost when you look at what car companies spend just to develop a new gas powered model. It seems like for GM, under the Clinton Administration, development and marketing of a zero emissions car was part of the cost of preserving their privilege to sell their entire line of GM products in California, so keeping the development costs down and still loosing money on just the electric car was do-able so that they could be profitable in California with their gas powered line of products. So GM tried real hard to keep the development costs down. Then when Al Gore failed to win the white house, the status-quo could not be maintained. Now GM could appeal to a new president, who respected the right of corporations to only develop and market products that are profitable, and the incentive to continue with the money loosing electric car was lost. I don't know if President Bush was in collusion with the oil companies by letting the electric car die or if he just believed that big government should not mandate the production and sale of products that only loose money.

I never got emotionally caught up in GM crushing the electric cars. The cars were never sold to anyone, only leased. The cars were no longer going to be supported by it's manufacturer.

The movie did draw attention to the fact that the oil companies actively opposed the development and marketing of the electric car which hurts their image in the public eye.

I started to view this movie thinking I was going to see a lot of environmentalist crying over a failed pipe dream but instead I found it entertaining and educational to get a taste of a growing community of people that want to see transportation become cleaner and less dependent on the volatile oil business - and that this community is in-fact seeing progress and success.


patrick 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 continue forward uninterrupted by the powers that depend on oil consumption.

Robert Scott said...

Yeah, and this movie has taught me how to analyze GM's behavior as they plot their launch schedule for their second attempt at an electric car. Their projected shipping date for their next electric car is just after mid-term elections so, if the political landscape changes and the American people give the House and Senate back to the Republicans, GM will no longer feel the political pressure brought to bear on them to manufacture and market an electric car.

And then they can say, "Oops!" "We just could not get the battery technology right." We'll have to scrap the electric car development again." "Sorry!"

I don't believe any of the big three auto makers will make electric cars that are practical. It will only come from new companies, using emerging technologies, like Tesla Motors, founded by some guys who started out writing software for a living.