Who Killed the Electric Car?

I just watched the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” and was simultaneously both saddened and uplifted.

I was saddened because I was forcefully reminded yet again how corporations, despite the fact that they are comprised of and led by human beings, behave in ways that are fundamentally at odds with the long-term interest of the human race.

Practical Zero Emission Vehicles that produce 1/40 of the greenhouse gases of equivalent petrol/gasoline cars are not just feasible — they have existed for over a decade; why would corporate executives at oil and car companies sell out the human race by aggressively suppressing this technology?

Of course the answer is “profits.” But don’t these people have children? Aren’t they concerned that their Faustian bargain makes no long-term sense whatsoever? How do they live with themselves?

I was also disturbed to discover that hydrogen fuel cell technology, which I’d always been a supporter of until watching this movie, actually makes no sense at all, either from an economic standpoint or an environmental one.

And why did the California Air Resource Board scrap the state’s zero emission vehicle mandate? Was it simply because the chair, Alan Lloyd, had a conflict of interests, having also become the chair of the California Fuel Cell Partnership? If so, how does he sleep at night?

On the other hand, I was uplifted by the resolve of the various campaign groups that fought to save General Motor’s ill-fated but well-loved EV1 electric car from it’s murderous creator. Although they ultimately failed to save the car, which GM forcefully repossessed from lessors at the end of the lease agreement, they succeeded in raising public awareness and in demonstrating to GM that there is, in fact, significant consumer demand for Zero Emission Vehicles.

It was also gratifying to see that many of the arguments used against electric vehicles by American car manufacturers are being actively disproved by Japanese car manufacturers, who are making profits by selling hybrid vehicles.

The technologies to dramatically reduce vehicle emissions already exist; electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, fuel cell vehicles or alternative “biofuel” vehicles are all proven technologies. What’s needed is the resolve — from both legislators and consumers — to force corporations to make the environmentally-sensitive cars that we want and need. They certainly can’t be trusted to make them otherwise.

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