Who Killed the Electric Car?

Ann and I watched Who Killed the Electric Car? recently. This documentary is both intriguing and infuriating. The synopsis below from IMDB.com is a good overview. After I watched it, I began to question free market solutions to big problems. It certainly appears that huge corporations colluded to stop a threat to their cash cows.

Link: Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006) – Synopsis.

"In 1996, electric cars began to appear on roads all over California. They were quiet and fast, produced no exhaust and ran without gasoline………..Ten years later, these futuristic cars were almost completely gone."

‘Who Killed the Electric Car’ is a documentary which unfolds a complex set of events around the development and demise of modern electric cars stemming from California from the early 1990s to 2006. The film maker, Chris Paine, has woven together interviews and archival footage of over 65 people involved with the events. The time line of events in the film moves back and forth several times but this is not to the detriment of the storyline.

The movie starts with a brief history of the first electric cars created in the early twentieth century, and how they were killed off nearly 100 years ago as gas powered cars became cheaper. The movie then paints the current picture of gas car problems being smog and related health problems, CO2 emissions, global warming. Later, the use of the US Military in the Middle East is also mentioned, but the loss of life and financial costs are not mentioned.

The film then moves back to 1987 when, with the SunRaycer, General Motors won the World Solar Challenge, a solar electric car race in Australia. GM’s CEO Roger Smith challenged the same design team to build a prototype practical electric car which became known as the Impact when announced in 1990. The project expanded to small scale production vehicles with the aim that it would give GM several years lead over any competitor car companies.

The Californian Air Resources Board (CARB) saw this as a way to solve their air quality problem and in 1990 passed the Zero Emissions Vehicle Mandate. The ZEV Mandate specified increasing numbers of vehicles sold would have to be Zero Emission Vehicles. "For the car companies there was only two options. Comply with the law or fight it. In then end, they would do both."

The movie continues to reveal what the car companies and other participants did to kill the concept and reality of the electric car, plus the efforts of EV supporters to save their EVs.