Who Killed the Electric Car?
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IN 1996, ELECTRIC CARS BEGAN TO APPEAR ON RAODS ALL OVERCALIFORNIA. THEY WERE QUIET FAST, PRODUCED NO EXHAUST & RAN WITHOUT GASOLINE. 10 YEARS LATER, THESE FUTURISTIC CARS WEREALMOT ENTIRELY GONE. WHAT HAPPENED? WHY SHOULD WE BE HAUNTED BY THE GHOST OF THE ELECTRIC CAR?
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Rent this and do your grandkids a favor.
It's not only eye opening and informational, it's very entertaining too.
This movie. GUILTY. The world does not revolve around California. The ME state. All about ME.
No data is ever mentioned in this documentary. BTW, NiMH batteries, nor any other technology is sufficient for the energy (duration) needed to run a pure EV for 300 mi. No mention of how much this technology costs for what little it does vs. conventional alternatives. Last time I checked, this a free market and this does not compete economicaly.
Has anybody mentioned the cycle life of batteries? They more you recharge and discharge the sooner you shorten the life of the batteries. Lead acid batteries need to be replaced every 3 years at a cost of ? Not mentioned. There's a whole field of them in the back of the EV1.
NiMH batteries? $1500-5000 per pack. Life span? 8-10 years per calendar life, 3 years with daily use. Average car life cradle to grave: 15 years. Not my problem, let's blame someone else when they are old. Lithium ion? even shorter and more expensive, plus like Sony's laptop batteries, explode when uncomfortable. Then you have to recycle them or will people?
How about a manual transmission car driven properly with either biofuels and driven properly? Enviros are too lazy to learn the whole picture and understand physics and learn how to drive properly and efficiently like Europeans do. The automatic transmission throws away 8% efficiency off the engine power because it is not direct drive. The CVT wastes the same at highway speeds. A Prius would be more efficient if it was a manual clutch gearbox, but greenies are too lazy to learn how to drive properly and efficiently. They want a remote control and the ability to blame the manufacturer when it does not get 50 mpg.
Why on earth would the oil companies not support a business model that makes them sustainable? Electric does not do that. Why would they support it? Common sense. Do you really expect otherwise?
Does the car industry see a business model that can make them money even with economies of scale. No, not until battery technology improves.
An automatic Volvo gets the same mileage as an SUV, are these attacked? No. What's the difference, both are owned by smug, wasteful people. Oh, one had good intentions that don't matter.
Daytime running lights waste fuel, are annoying to other drivers, have absolutely no quantified benefit through any study that was not funded by safety activists, car companies, or lighting manufacturers. in fact, they are proven to increase safety issues, as they distract drivers focal points. Are there any efforts against this? No, this movie is worried too much about intentions rather than actions.
No mention of ethanol and biofuels and their benefits and issues. Too convenient.
Get a clue then make a movie.
A good example of people will believe anything from Hollywood.
BTW, I drive fuel efficient cars and find most of the automotive greenness to be uneducated. Take a Skip Barber course and learn how to drive, before pontificating.
GM made a great car and several thousand people agreed to buy one. When it came out, only a handful of people actually backed it up and leased one. They proved that they had the ability to make an electric car, but it was waaaay too expensive for them to ever support such a low-production vehicle.
If they actually allowed people to buy out these cars, no matter what the contract, someone would have found a way to sue GM into giving them maintenance and support. Considering how they lost all the $$ in the first place, they would not be able to support a car with new batteries and other parts.
December 20, 2006
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
"Who Killed the Electric Car?" caused a furor when it was released this year. The movie hammers away at GM and its EV1 electric car. (Sony Classic Pictures)
It's the kind of thing you hear over dinner every week in Detroit, but it comes as a surprise when a top executive with Toyota leans across the table to make the point.
"The movie 'Who Killed the Electric Car?' was terribly one-sided," Ernest Bastien, Toyota Motor Sales vice president for vehicle operations, said intensely. "It was not balanced at all."
We were talking in Charlotte, N.C., a couple of weeks ago. I was there to drive Toyota's new 2007 Tundra pickup, and the change in topic was completely unexpected.
If it's not surprising enough to hear Toyota defending GM, try this on for size: The film's director pretty much agrees.
"We let Toyota off the hook for how they subverted the program" to sell electric cars because GM had a higher profile, director Chris Paine told me over the phone Sunday.
The automakers, of course, don't think they subverted anything.
GM's Saturn EV1 electric car and Toyota's RAV4-EV electric SUV failed for the same reason - customers didn't want them - said Bastien, who was point man for Toyota's short-lived effort to sell the RAV4-EV in California.
GM delivered about 800 EV1s to customers from 1996 through 2000, while Toyota delivered 342 RAV4-EVs in 2002-03.
The film, which suggested GM sabotaged a promising technology that could reduce fuel consumption and pollution, caused a furor when it was released earlier this year.
The movie also intentionally ignored Toyota's experience to make its case, Bastien said.
"We shared all our experience with the RAV4-EV," but the filmmakers intentionally omitted it, he said.
He said the movie's suggestion that GM "chose not to make money on a car people wanted to buy in California" is ridiculous.
"They spent a huge amount of money advertising that car in California," Bastien said. "People wouldn't buy them."
Toyota did everything it could to attract buyers to the RAV4-EV, too. It subsidized the price, so customers paid $279 a month - the same price as the company's hit Prius hybrid. The price included an expensive home charging station.
Toyota used the same savvy Internet-intensive marketing model that fueled the Prius craze. It even gave its dealers a sweetheart deal so they could make twice as much selling a RAV4-EV as a Prius.
To no avail. Toyota sold about 300 RAV4-EVs in 2002, compared with 20,119 Priuses. Buyers waited in line for the hybrid. They avoided the electric car like it was a downed power line and Toyota, like GM, pulled the plug on the project.
"Customers are not willing to compromise on things they need," Bastien said. "They need cruising range. They don't want to worry about running out of fuel, and they don't want to wait five hours to recharge. The movie didn't give any consideration to that fact."
Filmmaker Paine bought a RAV4-EV, but he's not buying Toyota's explanation.
"I don't agree that they made a good-faith effort to sell the car," he said. "Their priority was the Prius. The EV1 and RAV4-EV were never properly marketed.
"Toyota was no better than GM."
Which brings us back to the original question: Why was the movie so much harder on GM?
It made a better target.
"GM handled it so poorly," Paine said.
His crew filmed protesters outside Toyota's offices, but the company's security guards came out and gave them bottled water and Toyota key chains.
GM, Paine said, turned the water sprinklers on protesters. GM insists they were timed sprinklers, and the protesters just happened to be there at the wrong moment.
Whatever the case, the GM footage was more dramatic, entertaining video. It made it into the movie. Toyota wound up on the cutting-room floor."I don't want to say that we picked on GM," Paine said. "The EV1 was the iconic electric vehicle. That's why we focused on GM."
Let me translate that: GM ended up in the crosshairs because it invested the most time and effort into its electric vehicle. The futuristic EV1 was designed from the start to be a revolution. It was the poster child for electric vehicles. The sedate RAV4-EV looked like just another small SUV.
GM declined to comment.
The nail that sticks up will be hammered down, as they say. GM was the nail. "Who Killed the Electric Car?" was the hammer.
And Ernest Bastien deserves credit for sticking up for the truth, regardless of hammers.
Contact MARK PHELAN at 313-222-6731 or email@example.com.
Original FYI column by Dave Barthmuss on the EV1.
June 23, 2006
Who Ignored the Facts About the Electric Car?
By Dave Barthmuss
The film EV Confidential: Who Killed the Electric Car? showcased the intense passion for GM's out-of-production EV1 electric vehicle. I understand why. It was great technology for its day, a great concept and a great car. GM was and is proud to have brought the electric vehicle concept as far as it did and further than any other electric vehicle project attempted by any other automaker around the globe. Sadly, despite the substantial investment of money and the enthusiastic fervor of a relatively small number of EV1 drivers - including the filmmaker - the EV1 proved far from a viable commercial success.
But the story for GM does not end with the final credits on the movie. I've been the person who has spent the last few years answering the questions of why GM discontinued the program. Although I have not seen the movie or received an advanced DVD as others have from the film's producers, I can tell you that based on what I have heard there may be some information that the movie did not tell its viewers. The good news for electric car enthusiasts is that although the EV1 program did not continue, both the technology and the GM engineers who developed it did. In fact, the technology is very much alive, has been improved and carried forward into the next generation of low-emission and zero-emission vehicles that are either on the road, in development or just coming off the production line. For example:
GM's two-mode hybrid system designed for transit busses have been placed in more than 35 cities across the U.S. and Canada. Perhaps many have seen these cleaner-burning diesel-electric mass transit vehicles. The buses use technology developed for the EV1, such as the regenerative braking system.
The Saturn Vue Green Line, which will hit showrooms later this summer, incorporates a new, more affordable gas-electric technology. The Saturn Vue Green Line will be priced at less than $23,000 and offer the highest highway fuel economy at 32 mpg of any SUV, hybrid or otherwise.
GM is co-developing with DaimlerChrysler and BMW Group a new two-mode hybrid system for passenger vehicles. This new two-mode hybrid technology will debut next year in a Chevrolet Tahoe full-size SUV, which will offer a 25 percent improvement in combined city and highway fuel economy when joined with other GM fuel-saving technologies. Technology born in the EV1 is incorporated into this new two-mode hybrid system.
GM's fourth-generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, which enhances the technology found in today's HydroGen3 fuel cell vehicle, (currently in demonstration fleets around the world), will be introduced later this year and will represent a leap forward toward a production ready version of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. For the longer term, GM sees hydrogen and fuel cells as the best combination of energy carrier and power source to achieve truly sustainable transportation. A fuel cell energized by hydrogen emits just pure water, produces no greenhouse gasses, and is twice as efficient as an internal combustion engine. Although hydrogen fuel cell technology was cast as a pie-in-the-sky technology by the moviemakers, GM is making great progress in fuel cell research and development and is on track to achieving its goal to validate and design a fuel cell propulsion system by 2010 that is competitive with current combustion systems on durability and performance, and that ultimately can be built at scale, affordably.
Add to all this GM's leadership in flex-fuel vehicles that run on clean-burning bio fuels such as corn-based ethanol and our new "active fuel management" system that shuts down half the engine's pistons at highway speeds to improve fuel economy, and we feel we are doing more than any other automaker to address the issues of oil dependence, fuel economy, and emissions from vehicles. And we are committed to do more.
Lastly, because the movie made some harsh criticisms of GM for discontinuing the EV1, let me set the record straight:
GM spent more than $1 billion developing the EV1 including significant sums on marketing and incentives to develop a mass market for it.
Only 800 vehicles were leased during a four-year period.
No other major automotive manufacturer is producing a pure electric vehicle for use on public roads and highways.
A waiting list of 5,000 only generated 50 people willing to follow through to a lease.
Because of low demand for the EV1, parts suppliers quit making replacement parts making future repair and safety of the vehicles difficult to nearly impossible.
Could GM have handled its decision to say "no" to offers to buy EV1s upon natural lease expirations better than it did? Sure. In some ways, I personally regret that we could not find a way for the EV1 lessees to keep their cars. We did what we felt was right in discontinuing a vehicle that we could no longer guarantee could be operated safely over the long term or that we would be able to repair.
In turn, GM engineers used EV1s for cold-weather testing to continue the technology transfer to hybrids and fuel cells. We also donated them to universities and museums. In fact, we donated an EV1 to the Smithsonian and are now being wrongly accused of a conspiracy with the museum because they removed the car for renovation of the National Museum of American History. I can assure you that this is nothing more than unfortunate timing.
So as right and as good as our intentions were, we understand that the moviemakers see them as wrong. We'll accept that criticism, but don't punish GM for doing a good deed. Rather, work with us and give us credit for taking a necessary first step in developing technologies that hold the potential to change the face of automobile transportation. That's what GM engineers are doing everyday.
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