Friday, June 6, 2008

Is The Electric Car Really Dead?

Who Killed The Electric Car is a film that documents the rise and fall of the EV1, an electric car made by General Motors in 1996. In response to the alarming smog problem in the Los Angeles basin, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) had just adopted the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate, requiring 2% of new vehicles sold in California to be emission-free by 1998, 10% by 2003. The EV1 was GM's solution, a vehicle that ran on 100% electricity, cost the equivalent of 65 cents a gallon to operate, and produced zero emissions. They did not allow consumers to buy them, but instead offered them a closed-end lease for three years, with no renewal or residual purchase options. Upon the expiration of the leases, and despite overwhelming enthusiasm for the EV1's performance and environmental benefits, GM destroyed the cars and discontinued production.

The film explores the many reasons for GM's decision, including the powerful auto and oil industry lobbying efforts, the oil companies' fight against public charging stations, and the Bush administration's lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate. This is a must-see film for anyone looking for alternatives to our current fossil fuel dependence, and it ends with a hopeful look into the future of alternative fuel technology.

That future is now for students from West Philadelphia High School Academy for Automotive and Mechanical Engineering. They have created a flex fuel plug-in hybrid that gets 100mpg, and are serious contenders for winning the Automotive X Prize, a competition challenging "the world's best and brightest minds to design, build and demonstrate vehicles that are super-efficient and production-capable."

As for mass production, a few companies have developed models that will move electric cars beyond their expensive, celebrity-toy reputation:
  • The Chevy Volt will use a common 110–volt household plug. For someone who drives less than 40 miles a day, which is the majority of Americans, the Chevy Volt will use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions.
  • For about $20,000, you can buy a Triac EV . It has a 100 mile range, can go 80 mph, and is "as simple as plugging in a toaster".

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