Monday, July 27, 2009

Thoughts on "Who killed the electric car?"

I just got done watching Who Killed the Electric Car?

I enjoyed watching this little documentary and found out a lot about a car I do not remember hearing about. They basically decide everybody involved on all sides are at fault for not having the electric car "widely" available today. The car companies for fighting so hard to have it fail while at the same time paying lip service to the lack of interest on a car they completely fail to properly market. The oil companies because we all know people making billions don't want to make less money and that all oil execs are basically vampires. Then the government and their evil plot to keep us from anything not oil related. Then the consumer who failed to realize the car was perfect for them. I liked the movie but I had some issues with it.

First off I took issue with them finding fault with the consumers of America. I find it hard to believe that people who knew nothing about the existence of the car can be at fault for not buying it. Supposedly it was marketed in California and Arizona but I am not aware of anyone who had one. From what I could tell from the story the car companies made it nearly impossible to get from the electric car waiting list into one of the cars. Which means that if I knew about it I would have run into the issue of being a poor college student. Oh yeah and the small issue of not in the market for a new car. In fact, I still have never owned a new car because they are freaking expensive. So I would have had to wait until the became used cars before it was an economically viable option for me. They never became used cars because the companies leased them and did not sell them to people. When the lease ran out people had to turn them in and most did not have the option to get an extension on the lease. Actually from what I could tel no one was allowed to extend the lease.

Second issue was the description of the car as sexy. The focus of this documentary was GM's ev-1. It had the weird rear wheel that was half covered thing like the first Insight did. The rest of the design was better looking then the Insight was (is?) but I would not attach the word sexy to it. Then there was a lot of talk about the car being fast but they did not really give me an understandable measure of what that meant. They did not use the standard measure of 0 to 60 in whatever seconds so I had to take their word for it. It is one thing to assume that I am interested in electric cars and there by have an issue with the oil companies. I don't like paying for gas and my car has broken down enough to seriously burn the idea of ever enjoying driving a car again. So that is a belief I can allow them to assume. I can not allow them to assume I will believe that a car was "fast" without any real data to back that up. It is a line too far out there for me.

Next down the list is getting 60 to 120 miles per charge. They are right, most of my driving would comfortably fit between these estimates. I don't go near 120 miles in one day on a normal day. However, what do I do if I want to visit my dad's? His house is almost 200 miles away. What would happen to me in that situation? Assuming we had built a recharging station, how long would a recharge take? And yes the answer does matter. Say that somehow I got the car when I was in college... when these things first came out. I would not make it from Flagstaff to Phoenix.... ever. My first job after college was probably 60 miles round trip.... was I expected to recharge at work? I can imagine that going over well. Basically that leaves me with a couple options for making a trip of 200 miles I rent a gas fueled car, I ride the bus (shudder), I take the train (which seems kinda nice), or I sit at a refueling station that might exist for an unspecified amount of time while I recharge. I guess I could own two cars.... how about that for the ol' pocketbook. A car for distance trips and my "getting around town" electric car. So no matter what they say the limited range is an issue. Maybe not the insurmountable obstacle that some people think it is but definitely an issue.

Then we get into the big business issues. This is a weird country where making money is desired unless it is too much money. Yes Big Oil is bending us over the gasoline table and they will continue to do so as long as they can. We are capitalists; deal with it. The thing that isn't fair is when the government fails to help parties interested in competing with the monopoly. Make no mistake that Big Oil is a monopoly; there might be a handful of companies but they definitely work together to keep their profits rising. The actions of the federal government to stop the California Zero Emission policy was wrong. We have had to force auto makers to change how cars were made for every advancement. Seat belts, air bags, miles per gallon and emissions standards. So California was doing what needed to be done. Of course when push came to shove they buckled but you try not giving in when the US government, Big Oil and major car companies are breathing down your neck. Especially when 2 of the 3 help you get elected to office.

The car companies. What can be said besides "OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS ARE STUPID!!!!" I think the last few years have shown how this is only one story where they shot themselves in the foot. The American car companies are doing their best to kill themselves from what I can tell. Good job guys! Of course this movie pointed out that the foreign companies followed GM's lead in destroying their electric vehicles as well. Even though they have more hybrid options they aren't doing as much as they can. The funny thing is if the big 3 had started working on better fuel economy as they were scrapping the electric vehicle they might have been doing better. The cars I have looked at in the past that were American car companies hybrids have been barely better then the regular cars. How about upping the fuel economy in a completely gas run car? Who does that hurt? I guess the oil companies.... but not completely as we would still be buying gas. It's not like they don't keep screwing us over all the time anyway whose to say they couldn't do so even with better fuel economy. What if gas prices stayed at 4 or 5 bucks per gallon but I was getting 50 to 60 miles to the gallon? I would be happier and I would know that even though the cost to fill up was more I could go twice as far per tank. Add value to the product. Instead the bigwigs at GM decided let's put our money into a car that is lucky to get 8 miles to the gallon... Go Hummers! Here is a good example of the consumer being retarded. The Hummer is such a retarded status symbol!

Anyway the movie was interesting and entertaining and thought provoking; even if it seemed to side step some of the issues and show them as not being worth discussing. I would have liked more technical facts and less wealthy people telling me how ultimately orgasmic their experience with the ev-1 was. I got the point very quickly that people who had the car loved the car. I did not need to have them beat that into my head.

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