Next in the player, with fingers crossed, was Who Killed the Electric Car?, a documentary investigating the rise and fall of the EV1, a battery-powered car produced by GM from 1996 through 1997. A truly amazing story of corporate greed and lack of foresight, sad and unnerving in today's world of $4 a gallon gas.
The EV1 was only offered through a lease program and the most disturbing scenes came after the leases were up and GM essentially confiscated the cars. They were so paranoid about the car that they took these virtually new cars and had them crushed, tearing them from the hands of folks who loved them. California's CARB (California Air Resources Board), headed by a hydrogen fuel cell investor, killed the ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicle) minimums in return for empty fuel cell promises, which is a brilliant strategy - promise something far in the future and then fight it like hell when the time comes.
It was a sad and damning film, even if it did gloss over some of the electric car problems, like battery disposal and costs. Most of these could have been overcome when it became more popular, but GM didn't want it to. There's a surreal scenario where CARB told GM it would have to sell the EV1 as long as there was a proven demand. So, of course, GM did its utmost to kill the whole idea, from bad to nonexistent advertising to laying off sales and research teams. Funny, if someone stops selling something, demand falls off, eh?
It did end with some hope. The new breed of hybrid cars offers up a possibility of a "plug in" version, whereby it charges via a simple plug in your garage, so it doesn't use any gasoline if it doesn't need it. A limitation of the EV1 is its short range of about 100 miles or so, although virtually no one needs a further range in normal day to day usage. Maybe some day we can try again, although the EV1 marks are real opportunity loss.