29 June 2007

Who Killed The Electric Car?

Saw a great movie the other night - Who Killed The Electric Car?

It's a fascinating, convoluted story of technology, politics, economics, marketing, statistics and human foibles as well as human potential. It is full of interviews with people who drove (and loved) GM's EV1, and explores the reasons for GM's decision to recall and crush every single one of them (the cars, not the people, although the people did feel crushed to see their cars destroyed).

Obviously, this is a film with a point of view and an opinion to express. The filmmaker wants to see electric cars on the roads, and in my opinion he makes a pretty good case that 1) the technology is mature, 2) the market demand exists (or could exist, if a company would just try a little). I happen to share those opinions, but I think it's important to recognize them for what they are - opinions. The engineer in me would have liked to see a little more hard data, but I also realize a movie isn't the best way to present the kind of deep data I want, so I'll let them off the hook.

The film answers the title question with Guilty verdicts for Oil Companies, Car Companies, the Government and, perhaps surprisingly, Consumers. Who gets the "not guilty" verdict? The batteries. In fact, an engineer explains that recent improvements to battery technologies could extend the EV1's range significantly (to 300 miles, as I recall).

Now, this is not a simple issue by any means. We do need to ask about the environmental impact of generating enough electricity to power these cars. Zero emissions at the tailpipe doesn't mean zero pollution overall, and if we're burning coal to produce electricity, it's the equivalent of coal-burning cars. Sort of defeats the purpose. We also need to look hard at consumer demand, etc. But I sure would love to see us stop buying so much oil (see Post-Oil era post1 and Post 2)

(For another interesting alternative, check out MDI's Air Car, which I blogged about previously)

1 comment:

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 go on unhindered by the corporations that depend on oil consumption.