• Oct 15th 2006 at 3:26PM
  • 52

I didn't go see the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? when it was originally released in theaters on June 28th. For whatever reason, many of you may not have either. So I'm happy to report that the film is available to watch in its entirety (and in good quality) right here on the site thanks to Google Video. It seems to have been uploaded by Truth911.com at some point (don't know when), what by all measures appears to be a conspiracy theorist site. But I'm less interested in the site that did this than in the movie itself, which I just watched in full for the first time.

My thoughts about the electric car and the pursuit of alternative fuels and power sources has certainly changed after watching the film, though I'm reticent to say the documentary presented a fair argument for its conclusions. Like many modern documentaries, the film relies heavily on emotion and the pulling of heart strings while at the same time presenting some misleading claims as facts. Check out this article by Karl Brauer, editor of Edmunds.com, to see these claims presented as they should've been. However, the film did leave me with a sense that a) regardless of its motives, GM missed an opportunity to parlay its investment in the EV1 project into further research and development on new battery technologies or at least hybrid drivetrains that could present electric propulsion in a package more acceptable to the mainstream consumer, and b) that hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are currently benefiting from a big PR push right now that doesn't guarantee in 20 years that they'll be able to offer better performance and range than a pure electric vehicle, especially considering how fast batteries are advancing thanks to other industries that heavily rely on the technology (i.e. the personal computer industry).

One particular point I liked in favor of EVs was the lack of infrastructure they require. The idea of not having to visit a gas station every week or so because the energy my vehicle requires can be delivered to my garage across powerlines is certainly appealing, and lack of a delivery infrastructure is one of the major impediments facing not only hydrogen, but also other alternative fuels like E85 ethanol.

Anyways, I highly recommend you watch the film, if not just to have it under your belt and to be able to say you saw it. Feel free to discuss its finer points in the comments after you're done, but keep it intelligent and on point.

Also, here are just a few great related posts from AutoblogGreen about the film and issues surrounding it that have been published since its release in theaters.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      Andrew (#57) --

      Range is a different issue with electric cars than with gasoline cars because you start each day with a full battery by plugging your car in at night. If your employer is cooperative, you can even end each work day with another full charge.

      You need an airbag all of the time because a car wreck is unexpected. You don't need 250 miles of range all of the time because driving 250 miles in one day is a planned event. If you had an EV, you could rent a gasoline car, use a car sharing service, or own an additional gasoline car for long trips.
      • 8 Years Ago
      GM killed the electric car, plain and simple.

      An earlier poster noted that car companies are FOR PROFIT, and that is exactly the reason why they pulled the plug - there is nothing else for consumers to buy from them for years. There are no oil changes, no antifreeze, no belts, no hoses, no spark plugs, no spark plug wires, no distributors, no pistons, no valves, no filters etc, etc... Why would any business do anything to hurt their profit in the future?

      To the comment about blackouts I say bullcrap, most of the cars would be recharged over night when the demand for electricity is low. And not everyone will stitch to an electric car right away, hence additional capacity can be provided as needed.

      To the comment about absence of market for EVs I say bullcrap. Majority of people who leased EV1 wanted to buy them at the end of the lease. There was a waiting list in thousands for new customers. Production EVs are traded on ebay at the premium years after they've been produced. Just take off your rose-colored glasses and take a look around.

      To the IQ comment, when I observe people around me I wonder if they can even spell "IQ". They are a fine product of education system that breeds conformity and raises consumers that are told what they want by the marketing departments, no critical thinking is needed.
      That Hummer H? is a fine example of the utter idiocy and overindulgence, yet "people" still "want" it. They should really add a tag line to their ads - "Like a Block", cause design-wise it looks like a fridge...
      • 9 Years Ago
      No closed caption?
      • 8 Years Ago
      The movie was not as bad as I thought, but I don't agree with it.

      1. The EV movement of the 1980's and 1990's was due to one government body (CARB) and not due to mass demand. The EV's were "hothouse flowers" could not survive without mandates. If a product can be "killed' by repealing mandates then it was not likely viable.

      2. What about other car companies? I *can* agree that GM has done stupid stuff and will continue - but what about Toyota and Honda etc? Are they saying that *all* the auto companies are in some kinda black-helicopter conspiracy?

      3. The EV mandate was dumb. O.K this sounds simplistic, here is what I mean: the government *should* regular emissions, but should *not* pich which technologies to use. Spending billions to put a few % EV's on the road is silly, much cheaper to clean up the entire fleet 10%. Several auto makers offered to meet the overall goal with cleaner IC engines but CARB would not budge (until the end where common sense won).

      4. I do agree hydrogen / fuel cell cars are decades off and may never be practical. Ethanol ditto - waste of taxpayer money.

      5. The whole EV range issue was not accurately portrayed. Saying most days people travel less than 80 miles is like saying I don't need an airbag because most days I don't get in a wreck.

      Consider: I am busy and sometimes forgetful. I drive my car (high mpg 4 cylinder) until the low fuel light comes on, then I pull in the nearest station. Imagine I run out of charge "only" twice a year. No way pain in the buht.

      6. Finally the movie came off as irritating and propaganda-like, a little like a music video.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Electric cars are just too expensive to make and maintain. Contrary to the evinronmental wackos, car manufacturers are FOR PROFIT and not a NON PROFIT. Maybe if some of these leftists actually RAN A BUSINESS, they'd get this simple economic concept.

      Sure, it would be great ot have electric cars or other modes of transporation that didn't rely on foreign oil (we could have tons of domestic oil but the same environmental zealots who hate oil companies made it even more difficult to drill here in the US) but the technology is with gas engines..and soon diesel engines. Until other technologies become cheaper, we are stuck with gas burning engines.
      • 8 Years Ago
      How many miles do *you* drive every day? My commute is 24mi each way and I have been driving one of those saved-from-the-crusher Ford EV Rangers round trip to and from work without paying for a drop of liquid fuel. Actually, I don't pay for the truck's electron diet, since I use public charging, the leftover relic of the EV mandate.

      I pity folks in their oversized SUVs (usually with one passenger), mostly because their egos are involved in the purchase rather than anything that resembles common sense. If you have more than one car, why not have at least one EV? My other car is gas-powered, for those times when 50 miles is not far enough, and for my wife's in-town commute.
      • 9 Years Ago
      I agree this is not so much a conspiracy as a conflict of interest for Gas powered car makers. There is also no doubt that the Petrol industry funded a lot of FUD to shoot this down as this does not favor them.

      I want an electric. It is practically the end of the need for maintenance. Use brushless hub motors and your drivetrain is maintenance free. The only thing to deal with is battery replacement. Flywheels or ultra-capacitors may help there. Then it would be totally maintenance free. Either way there is a magnitude less maintenance.

      Except for vacations, I don't drive more than 100kms per day, so range is no biggie.
      • 9 Years Ago
      The segment on the auto-repair industry was eye-opening. I'm not sure how much money the car dealers make on service vs. sales, but you could see maintenance being a lot simpler with no oil, gas, fuel injectors, intake, exhaust, emissions controls, simpler 2-speed tranny, etc. It sounds like there's almost no maintenance... just swap out the batteries every 8-15 years.
      • 8 Years Ago
      "Funny how no other automaker has made a purely electric car."


      And if it was possible to post more links, I could go on.

      While I don't disagree that the market was a huge factor in the EV's lack of success, lets not forget that they were never for sale. For anyone who says, "GM made them and no one bought them", please remember that they were never available to buy.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Re: EVs getting electricity from dirty coal power.

      Where I live, 70% of our power is from large hydroelectric generators, and 9% is from coal. The cost is $0.09/KWH.

      We can also pay ~10% more for "green" power, which is 97% wind and 3% solar. The cost is about $0.10 per KWH.

      For the state of California, 39% of its power is from coal, so I assume 61% is cleaner. Your state may vary.

      Re: EVs being less efficient than gas:

      I read on Wikipedia that the EV1 used 0.2-0.4 KWH/mi. At $0.10 per KWH, that's $0.02 to $0.04 per mile. At $3/gallon, the EV1's cost equates to 75-150 MPG. And this is 10 year old technology.

      I think Tesla Motors also quotes $0.02 per mile (150 MPG equivalent)

      Gasoline does pack a huge amount of energy for its size/weight -- I agree. But that doesn't mean it's more efficient.

      • 9 Years Ago
      I've never seen a more fictitious "documentary" than this monstrosity. I really can't remember anything in this film that wasn't either inaccurate or a flat out lie. People always joked about hoe Hollywood plays fast and loose with the truth, but this movie takes the cake.
      My favorite idiot theory in the filmwas the one where
      supposedly GM used the cancellation of the zero emissions law as an excuse to cancel the EV1, notwithstanding the fact that GM was the only automaker paying any attention to the law and that GM then stepped up development of the FUEL CELL vehicle,
      another zero emission vehicle. GM certainly has an odd way of sidestepping the law, doesn't it? The whole movie is chock full of similar idiot ideas, only
      swallowe by those who know nothing of the EV1 or the history of the electric car. I note that the EV1 was a piece of exorbitantly expensive crap that took 8 hours to recharge, cost $44,000 to build, has batteries that cost $15,000 and lasted about 5 years, and after three years couldn't be relied upon to get you 25 miles down the road and back. Oh, yeah, the EV1 was a BIG loss.
      The 1907 Detroit Electric could go as far as the EV1
      on a charged set of batteries. In 90 years, the electric car hadn't advanced one iota in driving range and time of recharge. Now there is an Altair superbattery that the Tesla should be using, but either because of ignorance or arrogance has not switched to. They're keeping their crappy $20,000
      Rube Goldberg battery pack system that won't last more than 5 years. The Tesla will be obsolete when it's delivered to Hollywood's electric car crowd. And I doubt that any of them will even be aware of it, as
      they ignorantly continue to urge the public to buy a now inferior technology. Wait for Phoenix Motors'
      electric cars and pickups and SUVs. You can recharge their batteries in 10 minutes and the flow 4 times faster in any temperature and are completely
      environmentally friendly and they can be recharged
      more than ten times as many times as a lithium ion.
      It's the revolutionary battery that will finally make the electric car a reality. Thank God. No more crappy EV1's.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Not sure the movie was uploaded legally. It's a screener copy of the film. In any case, I enjoyed the documentary, and found it to be even-handed given the biased premise.

      Why would GM have recalled and crushed the EV1's, unless they wanted to kill the demand? What other vehicle has been exterminated due to lack of demand? The production of the car was run like an experiment, and when the CARB legislation theatened the bottom-line they manipulated the market to get an out. If it was simply a lack of profit potential, they would have left the cars on the road until the end of their natural lives. GM could even have capitalized on their pioneering designs to have a viable hybrid in today's market -- the green VUE notwithstanding.

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