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Who Killed The Electric Car?

Brian Carr

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Well, I guess I'm on a bit of an environmental kick the last couple of days. Last night I watched An Inconvenient Truth which I followed up tonight by watching Who Killed the Electric Car?, a look at what happened to the electric cars produced in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Essentially, the documentary centered around the origins and demise of General Motor's EV1, an electric car that was seemingly on the verge of becoming an American phenomenon, only to have the rug pulled out from under it. Obviously, this film wasn't a true documentary as it was very slanted (i. e. very pro electric cars), but it still brought up a lot of interesting points.

Essentially, electric cars were around before internal combustion cars, and were actually the favored automobile in the early 20th century due to being quiet and exhaust free. However, with the rise of Big Oil, along with the mass production practices and efficiencies of internal combustion cars, electric cars sort of fell by the wayside until California enacted radical “Zero Emission" legislation in the early 1990s.

It's no secret that California has some of the world's worst air quality and in order to combat the smog and health problems that were developing due to the poor air quality, the California State Legislature passed the “Zero Emission" law, which required a certain percentage of cars sold in California be zero emission. This meant that the big car manufacturers needed to come up with an electric car - and quickly.

So, General Motors, Toyota, Ford, essentially all the big car manufacturers, began to roll out these electric cars, all while fighting California's new “Zero Emission" law. In the process of unveiling these vehicles, there seemed to be plenty of demand building, however, one thing would eventually lead to the other and by early 2004 the electric car had been officially killed.

The movie spends most of its time spreading the blame among several groups: the American Consumers, the American Federal Government, the car manufacturers, the California Air Resource Board and Big Oil were pointed out as the main culprits.

Anyway, I've probably already given away too much, so I'm not going to sit here and list the reasons why each of the aforementioned groups were to blame, but there are two statistics from the film that absolutely floored me and I think are important to share.

The first statistic shows the rise in combined annual profits of three of the world's largest oil companies - ExxonMobil, Chevron-Texaco and ConocoPhillips:

2003 - $33 billion

2004 - $47 billion

2005 - $64 billion

2006 - $72 billion

Keep in mind all of this is happening as oil prices are rising. When I saw this exponential increase in profits (up 115% in a four year span) all I could do was shake my head.

The other statistic that left me speechless was the tax breaks available to owners of hybrids and/or electric vehicles vs. owners of 6,000 pound SUVs. In 2004, the tax break available to a person who drove a hybrid or electric vehicle was $4,000. Not too bad, I mean, I'd take it. That is until I saw that an owner of a 6,000 pound SUV could be entitled to a $100,000 tax break. Yes, a six figure tax break for owning a gas guzzling highway tank. Unbelievable.

Anyway, because I'm assuming you've visited this site because you have an interest in either getting better gas mileage or the environment in general, I would highly recommend that you rent or buy Who Killed the Electric Car?

Please visit Daily Fuel Economy Tip for more gas saving tips like this. The better driver you are, the more gas and money you'll save. It's a win/win situation!


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