Who Killed the Electric Car (Movie Review)

who killed the electric car movie review

What would you say if I told you that General Motors (GM) created an electric car for the Californian market that was easy to use, looked great and was so efficient that it made the Toyota Prius look like a petrol guzzler … and then repossessed all the cars from owners who loved them … and had them crushed to prevent anyone else finding out about them.

This is a true story told in the 2006 documentary film “Who Killed the Electric Car” narrated by Martin Sheen which explores the birth, limited commercialization, and subsequent death of the battery electric vehicle in the United States, specifically the General Motors EV1 of the 1990s. The film explores the roles of automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, the US government, batteries, hydrogen vehicles, and consumers in limiting the development and adoption of this technology.

It was among the fastest, most efficient production cars ever built. It ran on electricity, produced no emissions and catapulted American technology to the forefront of the automotive industry. The lucky few who drove it never wanted to give it up. So why did General Motors crush its fleet of EV1 electric vehicles in the Arizona desert?

The year is 1990. California is in a pollution crisis. Smog threatens public health. Desperate for a solution, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) targets the source of its problem: auto exhaust. Inspired by a recent announcement from General Motors about an electric vehicle prototype, the Zero Emissions Mandate (ZEV) is born. It required 2% of new vehicles sold in California to be emission-free by 1998, 10% by 2003. It is the most radical smog-fighting mandate

With a jump on the competition thanks to its speed-record-breaking electric concept car, GM launches its EV1 electric vehicle in 1996. It was a revolutionary modern car, requiring no gas, no oil changes, no mufflers, and rare brake maintenance (a billion-dollar industry unto itself). A typical maintenance checkup for the EV1 consisted of replenishing the windshield washer fluid and a tire rotation. But the fanfare surrounding the EV1’s launch disappeared and the cars followed. Was it lack of consumer demand as car makers claimed, or were other persuasive forces at work?

Fast forward to 6 years later… The fleet is gone. EV charging stations dot the California landscape like tombstones, collecting dust and spider webs. How could this happen? Did anyone bother to examine the evidence? Yes, in fact, someone did. And it was murder.


6 responses to “Who Killed the Electric Car (Movie Review)”

  1. The withholding of economically viable scientific and technological advances which could and would greatly benefit a community reliant on motor vehicles is bad enough, it is theft by deception and a moral crime of great magnitude when the knowledge is withheld because of the overwhelming greed of a (relatively) small number of people.

    GM supposedly use a portion of the money we pay for their products for Research and Development to make better vehicles for the consumer, not to hide worthy developments and devise ways of forcing the consumer to part with yet more money unnecessarily.

  2. I don’t generally subscribe to conspiracy theories. However, I must say that preview did look pretty interesting. Oil companies definitely have a reason to do it, so it’s plausible.

  3. Yea looked like oil company didnt like the idea, it wouldnt consume almoust no oil products, and bad for machanicks too, but good for clen air. I think govorment will look for economy until they are chocking with bad air, but hope its not gonna be too late.

  4. As a consumer, there is still doubts and all of those in terms of new technologies as people as still not used to it. I think that the development of all of this new line of cars is still not finished, a few more years maybe and a few more before people are gonna be ready to adapt to them. This are my concerns with the new technology with cars.
    1. cost
    2. scarcity of resources – mechanics, parts, source of power-not as available as gas on gasoline stations
    3. maintenance/repair

  5. While it is true that oil companies don’t want change, there will come a pooint at while no amount of suppression of anything will do any good, as it will make overwhelming economic sense to use electric vehicles instead of internal combustion.

  6. I wouldn’t put it past the oil industry to squash development of non petroleum based energy. In Cleveland electrical based transportation is something that’s not even heard of!

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