By on February 15, 2015

gm_ev1

Living in Northern California, electric cars are a common sight – all you have to do is look in the left lane. There are numerous Tesla Model S’s, Nissan Leafs, and the occasional Ford Focus or Chevrolet Spark EV. Plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion and C-MAX Energi, and the Prius hybrid can be seen every day. BMW is planning on releasing plug-in hybrids of its core models like the 3-Series and the X5 in 2016. Four years ago, that wasn’t the case.

Back in 2011, when the documentary Revenge of the Electric Car was released, Tesla was attempting to sell the last of their Roadsters and the Model S was still a prototype. The Volt and Leaf were about to go on sale in electric car-friendly states (like California). Gas was never below $3 a gallon that year. In 2015, there are at least 15 electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles with more on the way. Tesla is worth billions of dollars, even though it sells only one car, the Model S which in the documentary then-Jalopnik editor-in-chief Ray Wert refers to as “vaporware.” Today, gas is less than $2.50 in California.

In the Revenge of the Electric Car, director Chris Paine creates a follow-up documentary to 2006’s Who Killed the Electric Car?, which focused primarily on the mothballing of General Motors’ EV1 and investigating the reasoning behind automakers’ investing less money in electric vehicles. Paine wants to explore why large automakers like GM and Nissan are placing large bets on electric as well as find out what’s driving Tesla as well as an individual working out of a small warehouse to play in the electric vehicle market.

From 2007, the documentary follows three people who are leading the push into electric cars, Bob Lutz, Carlos Ghosn, Elon Musk, and Greg Abbott. Bob Lutz and Carlos Ghosn are portrayed as “The Man” at the world’s largest automakers, who are putting their jobs on the line in order to create electric car models. Elon Musk is illustrated as the visionary Silicon Valley CEO who is ‘disrupting’ the auto industry with his electric sports cars. Greg Abbott is the hippie who runs a cottage-industry business installing electric powertrains in classic cars, with an electrified Porsche 356 Speedster serving as a showcase of his skills.

The documentary emphasizes that building an electric vehicle is a difficult task that involves plenty of money and other resources. Bob Lutz discusses the effort he put in to get GM executives to green-light the Volt into production as GM lost plenty of money on the EV1 project. Ghosn extols the virtues of the Leaf’s affordability and mass-market appeal rather than discussing the possibilities of the project going sour. Musk expresses his views on how Tesla is the car company of the future. Abbott stresses that his electric cars are the best for the environment since he puts electric powertrains into existing cars. But none of these men know when they talk about these subjects about whether their bets would pay off.

Paine shows that not everything goes smoothly. In the case of Tesla, the documentary shows a warehouse full of Roadsters with defects that range from defective powertrains to dents on the cars’ bodies during shipping. There are meetings where Musk has to address Tesla’s cash flow problems. In GM’s case, the Volt needs to go for extra aerodynamic testing even though it debuted at GM’s 100th anniversary celebration. It also didn’t help that GM was being bailed out in 2008 and had to answer to Congress and government representatives. Abbott’s warehouse for his electric cars is burned down and his equipment is uninsured.

By 2011, when the documentary was released, Tesla had received its $400+ million loan from the Department of Energy. The Volt and Leaf were on sale and customers were just learning about their technology. Greg Abbott had finally found a place to rebuild his electric-vehicle conversion shop. Numerous other automakers such as BMW and Toyota were readying their electric vehicles. Gasoline prices weren’t seeming to go down anytime soon, and the federal and state incentives for electric vehicles were increasing. Meanwhile, America’s electrical grid was progressively turning to alternative sources of energy, making the operation of an electric vehicle cleaner. America largely knew the electric car was making a comeback.

It must be written that TTAC doesn’t come off well in Revenge of the Electric Car. During the time this documentary was being made, TTAC editor-in-chief Robert Farago was writing his “Tesla Death Watch” series of posts, screen caps of which appeared in the documentary while describing Tesla’s troubles. Though Tesla Motors was teetering on the brink when Robert Farago was writing his posts (and it took a loan from Daimler to keep Tesla afloat), the “Tesla Death Watch” comes off as shortsighted. When Paine films Musk’s reaction to Tesla’s initial public offering, Musk specifically references the “Tesla Death Watch” posts and says the people writing those posts will have to wait longer.

In my opinion, if there’s any individual who comes off as an electric car visionary, it’s Carlos Ghosn, not Elon Musk. From the start of the documentary, he seems very confident about the Leaf, allowing the film crew to shadow him to important meetings and discussions. In one conversation, he dismisses Mitsubishi’s i-MIEV, saying that it’s too expensive and won’t sell. At the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, he evaluates other companies’ approach to electric vehicles and allows the press to hear his opinions on them. Even his answers to the press come off much better than those of Elon Musk in the documentary, when asked about the sales potential of the Leaf.

If you watch the documentary, most people who follow the automotive industry won’t be fazed by the content exhibited. Considering that GM did not go out of business, that Tesla did not fail, that the Leaf is on sale, and Greg Abbott still has his electric Speedster, and more than 20 electric and plug-in vehicles on the market, we know the electric car worked out fine. Left lanes across California during rush hour are full of them. But you should watch Revenge of the Electric Car (it’s on Netflix right now) as it illuminates the challenges endured by manufacturers to get electric vehicles onto the market. You’ll see firsthand the amount of stress, sweat, and anxiety that went into creating today’s electric vehicles.

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end, once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. He still hasn’t driven a Nissan Leaf, despite his neighborhood being full of them.

 

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89 Comments on “Review: Revenge Of The Electric Car...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I still think declaring a victory for the “electrics” is also short-sighted. They’re still expensive (without incentives) “Range anxiety” is still a real issue and determining their real value over the ever increasing efficiency of ICEs is still arguable

    This story is not over, we’ll see

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Valid points, but IMO, EVs did win a battle although not the war (yet).

      I haven’t watched this movie yet, but now I’m eager to see it. I’m excited to see something that will remove the foul taste of Who Killed the Electric Car? from my memory.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      For me, range anxiety is total BS. I’ve never had a problem with range or charging. I have ICE cars available as a backup to my Leaf, but really haven’t needed them. The last month or so has been almost exclusively under 50 mile trips – usually in 14 degree weather and heavy snow. Haven’t had a problem with range and charging at home has been all I’ve needed.

      Saving money really isn’t an issue for me. I like the quiet and smoothness. Everyone gets hung up on cost savings, but I don’t really think that’s what’s driving EV sales. The driving experience is really great and for some of us more than makes up for any disadvantages.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        “I have ICE cars available as a backup”

        Having a back-up goes a long way in relieving anxiety. Some people only want/need one car

        I passed a Tesla on the expressway yesterday. It was 4 degrees F outside. I actually wondered how far he was going. I had range anxiety for him

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I have Hertz as a backup. Which isn’t much of a backup (not because of Hertz, but because I’d need to spend more of my time in rental cars in order to deal with the range and recharge time problems.)

        This is the problem that caused EVs to lose the market leadership that they had in 1900. Over a century has past, and this basic issue has still not been fixed.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          I read an interesting theory about the original demise of the electric car. The theory went that it was the electric starter that nailed the coffin lid on electric cars. You had to be fairly robust to crank-start a car which limited it’s use. Electric starters allowed anyone who could steer and shift gears to drive

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            To be fair, cars in 1900 were expensive and unusual. There wasn’t much of a market.

            Henry Ford probably had a lot to do with rise of the gas car. He built the Model T so that a farmer could keep and maintain it. That meant designing the car to run on gasoline and homemade ethanol; an EV wouldn’t work in a rural environment.

            I would imagine that steam would have been dominant if it didn’t have so many hazards.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            “To be fair, cars in 1900 were expensive and unusual. There wasn’t much of a market.”
            Detroit Electric being a good example. Passengers rode in the very padded back seats, whilst a chauffeur, steered the tiller. It was built as an upmarket buggy

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            The Detroit Electric was marketed to women drivers as is clearly evident in their advertising

            http://www.authentichistory.com/1898-1913/1-industrialization/5-automobile/1-advertising/Anderson-Detroit_Electric_Chainless_1911_Cosmopolitan_pg64L.jpg

            http://www.authentichistory.com/1898-1913/1-industrialization/5-automobile/1-advertising/Anderson-Detroit_Electric_Chainless_1911_Cosmopolitan_pg64L.jpg

            These were NOT chauffer driven limosines

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            They certainly were Chauffer driven After helping restore one, and looking up the history of their use.Women could drive them as a “ladies car”, so did physicians, but upper class ladies had chauffers

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “The Detroit Electric was mainly sold to women drivers and physicians who desired the dependable and immediate start without the physically demanding hand cranking of the engine that was required with early internal combustion engine autos. A statement of the car’s refinement was subtly made to the public through its design which included the first use of curved window glass in a production automobile, an expensive and complex feature to produce.”-Wikipedia

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit_Electric

            Don’t let facts get in your way, you never do

            “Starting a gasoline automobile was a fairly complicated and most “unladylike” procedure–engaging the hand brake, setting the spark and throttle, hand-cranking the engine until it started, hoping it wouldn’t kick back and break a wrist (or worse), then racing back into the vehicle to reset the spark and fuel before the engine stalled. **Consequently, the electric was the choice of wealthy women, as it gave them more freedom than a coach or gasoline car with a chauffeur**. City doctors were the second target market for electric manufacturers. Unfortunately, electrics gained the reputation as women’s cars. They were simply not manly, not for the adventurer.”

            http://www.dejohnsonauthor.com/detroit-electric.html

            You never tire of being wrong, do you?

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            I know that Dimwit,” Upper Class Ladies” liked to be chauffeured around, as they did with the harder Petrol cars

        • 0 avatar

          The biggest problem that EVs have today is that same that they did in the days of the Detroit Electric and Woods Dual Power hybrid, gasoline is such a good liquid fuel that we can afford to waste 60%+ of its energy in the form of waste heat and it’s still practical from a technical and economic viewpoint.

          As far as intrinsic drawbacks to battery powered cars, the terms “energy density” and “charging time” have been around for more than a century as well.

          • 0 avatar

            Detroit Electric were operated from the back seat. The front seats, when fitted, were for passengers. The tiller was rear of the door.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “Detroit Electric were operated from the back seat”

            … and the term “back seat driver” was born. Usually a woman who owned a Detroit Electric

            It all makes sense now

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            No, it was the front seat, It was separate on some of their enclosed models. Bit like a modern bus , with two passengers in what would be sofas rather than seats behind
            Car had two tillers and could be driven from front or rear seats
            This car had a range of 105 km before the batteries had to be recharged and a top speed of only 35 kph.
            To reverse the car the driver’s seat was rotated and a duplicate set of controls used. Steering was by a tiller held across the driver’s lap.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            It could be operated from either the front or back seat.

            By a UAW chauffeur that was supplied with every car.

            /sarcasm

          • 0 avatar

            I’ve photographed 5 Detroit Electric cars, models from 1914 to 1931, and have spoken with Jack Beatty, who collects them, on a few occasions. All of the Detroit Electrics that I’ve seen h ave had a single set of tillers, including those of Clara (Mrs. Henry) Ford and Helen Newberry (Mrs. Henry) Joy (who ran Packard), which both women operated themselves, btw, and didn’t use chauffeurs.

            As I said, all of the Detroit Electrics that I’ve seen have a single set of tiller controls, located just aft of the left side door, right adjacent to the rear seat. There are also some pedals located on the floor, positioned to be operated by a driver sitting in that back seat position.

            I suppose that it’s conceivable that a driver could sit up front and reach back for the tillers, but they’d have trouble operating the pedals.

            I’m not saying that there weren’t any Detroit Electrics operated from the front position, but I’ve never seen one like that. If you could point me to a photo of a front operated Detroit Electric, I’d appreciate it.

            I’ll try to contact Mr. Beatty to clarify.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “This car features beveled glass running lights, a curved windshield, plush upholstered interior, an elevated rear seat and tiller steering controls which allow the car to be driven from either the front or the back seats.”

            http://montanafolkfestival.com/pages/posts/1914-detroit-electric-car-301.php

          • 0 avatar

            “and tiller steering controls which allow the car to be driven from either the front or the back seats”

            Video or it didn’t happen.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Ronnie Schreiber,
            Worked on a 1917 DE, it had both controls. The cars were pretty much the same till the Companies demise in the mid 20’s

    • 0 avatar
      jdogma

      Range anxiety? Range reality is more like it. How many people have a car they haven’t driven more than 140 miles from home. That’s how far 280 miles of range gets you if you don’t travel along routes with rechargers. And who wants the inconvenience of a long wait? Electrics make great second cars for sure, but they are a luxury item.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I haven’t driven that far from home for probably a couple years.

        The flaw in your the argument is the assumption that every car needs to do 100% of what you will ever need one to do, despite:
        1. it is unreasonable, and
        2. current cars don’t do it, either.

        You can’t tow a boat with a Civic, yet they sell. You can’t take the family on vacation in a Corvette, yet they sell. An F-150 won’t fit in many parking spots, yet they sell.

        Instead of thinking in absolute terms, instead think in distributions. How close to 100% of one’s trips does a car need to satisfy to be acceptable. (Again, it isn’t the full 100%–I can’t haul sod/fertilizer/trees in the back of my car or move my couch/appliances. However, that doesn’t stop me from buying a car.) For people with more than one vehicle–which most households have–the threshold will be lower. Let’s just assume that number is 85%, meaning if a vehicle satisfies the needs of 85% of your trips, it sufficiently meets your needs to be buyable.

        The second number to consider is what percentage of the population needs to be satisfied to sell enough cars to be viable. If this number is small, you have niche product; if it’s large, then you have a potential mainstream product. EVs don’t need to be as mainstream as a Camry, but they can’t be a boutique, either. Everyone’s driving patterns are different. The range that meets my needs is not the same as what meets yours. Fifty miles might satisfy an eighth of the population (again, “satisfy” means covering a certain percentage of their trips). One hundred miles might satisfy half of the population. Two hundred miles might satisfy three-quarters.

        Whatever those numbers are, EV makers have to satisfy them, but they shouldn’t over-satisfy them, either. Unlike adding a bigger fuel tank, batteries are large, expensive, & heavy. They should add enough range to hit the numbers they need, but not any more. And it it doesn’t satisfy one person’s particular need–that’s OK!

  • avatar
    05lgt

    How have leaf sales responded to changes in gas prices? Miles driven would be nice to track with fuel price too, but where would the #’s come from?

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      Sales didn’t budge: http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2011/01/nissan-leaf-sales-figures.html

      Carmax has a bunch of low mileage, off-lease Leafs (Leaves?) for $14-$16K. Anyone know what the lease/purchase breakdown is? I see that some lease deals include free 480V charging (80% in 30min).

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      If it was a UAW Chauffer, he would drive slower, ask for a lot more money and would not be too aware where he was going LOL

  • avatar
    Pch101

    EVs have minimal market share and they lose money. The problems are nowhere close to being solved.

    In any case, it’s a supply problem. Develop a better power storage system (batteries and otherwise), and the problem goes away. Selling more EVs isn’t going to fix the technology problem; that requires guys with lab coats doing research who can figure out how to increase the range and reduce the refueling time in a cost-effective manner (hopefully with less weight and bulk.)

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      It’s also an economic issue too. There are better and higher capacity batteries. Tesla can make extended range systems. Granted, the battery market is in desperate need of the next “big thing”, but there options and they cost money.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        They lose money because of the inherent economic problems.

        The government is getting this wrong. We could have massive EV adoption without any need to induce it if the power storage problem was fixed. Instead of subsidizing EVs and specialized automakers, we should have a Manhattan Project of sorts to improve or replace the battery.

        If successful, it could not only transform society but it would also not require any consumer bribery. Make an EV that can work without compromise, and internal combustion will become history in no time.

        • 0 avatar

          +10 to all your comments.

          Cars represent only 15% of greenhouse emissions, less than meat eating. If i were running the show, there’d be a carbon tax to deal with GH emissions, and I’d be inclined to let the market sort out how to deal with cars.

        • 0 avatar
          wumpus

          Cost of Manhattan project in 2015 dollars: $26B
          Sales worldwide of cell phones (*per year*): $280B

          Oppenheimer had his pick of the world’s top physists. Your plan would either employ chemists who can’t make a battery worth selling, or take real chemists out of real R&D facilities and have them make powerpoint slides instead of batteries.

          There is a reason to fund R&D. There isn’t a good reason to add government funding to an already red-hot market. I won’t begin to claim that the cost of a cell phone is anywhere near 10% of the cost (of course, the Manhatten project took more than 5 years. If 2% of the price goes to battery R&D it is a wash).

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            There isn’t much of an incentive in the private sector to make revolutionary gains in power storage, since it wouldn’t be possible to monetize the improvements.

            For consumer products, the gains would be marginal. (A phone could be a bit smaller and would charge up more quickly, two benefits that mean very little and aren’t worth a high price.) In any case, the benefit comes from essentially giving away the technology — if this worked, the licenses should essentially be given away or provided for next to nothing in order to spur adoption.

            So it would be a money loser, particularly in the short run. The gains would come from environmental improvements and turning the Middle East into an irrelevant sandbox — for US foreign policy, air pollution and climate change, it would be a home run.

          • 0 avatar

            If there was truly a revolutionary improvement in power storage, it would probably find venture capital and people trying to monetize it. Incremental improvements perhaps not, but something like big fractional increases, 25-50% improvements in energy density or recharge time would probably find investors.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Nope. There’s no opportunity to charge a price premium to recoup the costs.

            An electric Corolla for the mass market would cost the same as a gas powered Corolla; the average consumer won’t pay extra. So there is no reason for TMC or its peers to pay a premium for the technology, which is what would be needed in order to spur significant investment.

            Not everything lends itself to being monetized. This is one of those things. The benefits are largely non-economic or indirect.

          • 0 avatar
            Charliej

            Some people seem to think that cell phones and electric cars are the entire market for rechargable batteries. Not so. There is an even bigger market just waiting for a better battery. What is the problem with solar energy? It only works for half the day. Batteries are needed to store the electricity generated during the day until it is used during the night. When batteries are removed from service in electric cars, they are repurposed as storage for solar generated electricity. Read the MIT magazine Technology Review. Or, even better sign up for the free Technology Review email service. There you can read about the possible improvements coming in battery technology. You can also read about the venture capitalists putting money into start up companies. Obviously all of the new technologies will not work. However, there are enough avenues to research that the problem will be solved. Working to incrementally improve battery technology has resulted in batteries that hold thirty percent more charge than ten years ago. Incremental improvements will continue to improve batteries. Add in the different technologies being developed and three hundred mile range is in reach. What comes after that, who knows, but it will be interesting to watch it happen. Panasonic purchased JVC and Sanyo to get their battery making expertise. It seems to have paid off.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s a classic Chicken & Egg situation.

          Without strong demand for EV’s to generate sales for the batteries; money to research better battery technology is hard to come by.

          Without a battery breakthrough, OEM’s will not make an EV (except to comply with regulations and at the same time ask folks not to buy them).

          The Govt did back both battery suppliers and car manufacturers, its not all ‘bribery’ as you put it.

          It appears Nissan’s approach to building batteries in house will become the model of choice at least in the short-term. Tesla are now going in-house with battery production as well, and have hired some top PHD minds to develop the best possible battery packs.

          Its not clear at this time if battery tech will jump start EV sales or EV sales drive battery research. In the end both have to happen, we just don’t know what the sequence of events will be.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            We don’t need more battery suppliers or OEMs. We need scientists who can make a better way to store power. There is no chicken-egg problem — in their current form, batteries suck for automotive propulsion, and OEMs are not in a position to do much about it.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “Without strong demand for EV’s to generate sales for the batteries; money to research better battery technology is hard to come by.”

            Are you suggesting that EVs are the only products that would benefit from better battery tech? That’s rather myopic, I can think of a hundred devices that would be more useful with improved battery technology. I think there’s a huge demand right now for more research

          • 0 avatar

            Pch has it right. And, BTW, nice thinking out of the box. In our current climate of governmental “efficiency” it will not come about. I think, exactly, yet another problem the market won’t fix.

          • 0 avatar

            @Lie2Me

            Sure there are many applications that could benefit from improved battery tech, but none quite like the automotive sector.

            A traction battery needs to last the life of the car, just like the engine of an ICE. Replacements should be the exception not the rule. This isn’t a requirement of a laptop or cell phone, so research for improved durability hasn’t been pressing until now. So making a battery last over 10 years is kinda unique to Automotive.

            Traction batteries are exposed to a very wide range of temperatures. Improvement in performance and durability are both needed for automotive. For other devices this would be a nice to have, incremental improvement.

            Impact at over 90+ miles/hr can be anticipated with an automotive battery. Safety is very important. This isn’t a design factor for a cell phone battery for instance.

            Tablets and Chromebooks have 10 hour runtimes and are lightweight. The need for 5x or 10x improvement in energy density while nice, isn’t being demanded. Different story for EV’s where additional range is needed.

            Horses for courses.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Auto makers didn’t just invest less money in the electric car, they fought against ARB mandates for ZEV vehicles and claimed that they needed more time because hydrogen fuel cells were going to be the future, even though GM had a technically viable electric car that had a range of up to 140 miles in it’s best version. HFC is looking even WORSE today than it was back then when compared to battery electric, and with new battery formulations such as lithium sulfer and new dual carbon cathode technology, and finally cost reduction scales of manufacturing such as the giga-factory, the next generation of batteries will be the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for. I wager that most drivers, once moved to electric, will never go back to gasoline, as someone who is a veteran of a cynical war that was largely based on oil, I’m very excited to see us kick oil to the curb! Its funny how things worked out, if it weren’t for Nissan and Tesla, we’d probably still not have zero emissions vehicles.

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    I like eclectic vehicles. Why should everyone drive the same thing? That’s a strange anxiety.

  • avatar
    stroker49

    The Tesla death watch was oly a little premature, it will come. EV is a really bad idea. Plug ins-yes.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      If these EV’s lived up the hype, they would be everywhere. Instead many articles comment on the near death experiences of the companies making them

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      No, Battery EV is the future. The TSLA deathwatch (of car manufacturing, not batteries) will happen when the real battery electric competition arrives. I do not believe they will be able to compete with the likes of Nissan’s next generation on the low end, or Mercedes/Porshe on the high end, who are both reportedly pursuing battery electric.

      TSLA will become a major battery supplier and pull out of the car game completely. It will be more profitable for them and good for their shareholders. Right now, they have their space all to themselves, however, in reality, if the model S hopes to compete, it has a lot of things that will need improved at the pricepoint it sells at once the big players come into the market.

      • 0 avatar
        RedStapler

        A probable scenario is in 3-5 years a Tesla is pushed out of the EV market by Nissan/Renault, GM and BMW.

        Their charging network and gigafactory gives them the potential to become some combination of disruptive innovator to the oil and electric utility industries and/or tier 1 supplier to the major automakers.

  • avatar

    As soon as everyone gets $135,000, we can all buy a Tesla Model S P85D!!!
    …or Two HELLCATS!

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    Ah, the days of the Tesla Death Watch. That’s when I first started reading TTAC.

    As much of a fan of EVs as I am, I thought the original Who Killed the Electric Car was mostly conspiratorial crap. One guy in the movie said, “Automakers would sell you cars that ran on pig [dung] if they thought you would buy them.” He’s right. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is spent dwelling on dubious conspiracies, none of which seem to have stopped Tesla, Nissan, et al.

    EVs are only now coming into their own due mainly to improvements in battery technology, and they just weren’t ready for prime time prior to then. And yes, they still have a way to go. Again, I’m saying this as an EV fan.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      Basically, you are assuming that GM acts rationally. The CEO, board of directors, and the rest of the Cxx crew might be willing to sell a car that burns pig dung, but every other manager from line supervisor to VP of Buick has a specific fiefdom, and will fight to the death any change that doesn’t specifically need that fiefdom. Look up the history of Saturn to see what happens to even a conventional car made and sold slightly differently when it meets the GM buresaurus.

      I wouldn’t argue that “Who killed the EV” might see this and be willing to portray it as an evil collaboration to kill the EV (and the biosphere along with it): I’ve read “Unsafe at any speed” and realize that all the things that Ralph Nader was right about didn’t mean he was sane. It’s just that GM really *is* willing to kill anything that isn’t a conventional car, because it is run by people (just a few rungs down the ladder) who certainly will.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Who Killed the Electric Car? really got me when its story changed within the movie: first there were so many people who wanted the EV1 that GM couldn’t make enough, then they said that GM’s ads were so bad no one knew what it was, then they blamed the population for not wanted an EV.

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    I’m just sorry I can’t get all those old GM EV1’s and crush them again…

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Batteries for EVs need to become more efficient. That takes some hard research and lots of money and most American companies are averse to this for two reasons: 1. Basic Research? That’ll drive down our quarterly profits and we don’t want that! Never mind that line of thought deserves its own rant. 2. So we DO come up with a world-beating battery for EV’s; the Chinese will blatantly ignore patent laws and reverse engineer it; so that gives us a 9 month lead time, tops. I live in DC and take trips to SC and IN. EV’s will become more popular when I know I can stop at a Pilot or TA, plug in, take my restroom break, eat a meal, get some more coffee, go unplug, and go on my way. This recharge should take no more than an hour. Only then, with about an hour recharge time, will EVs become mainstream.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      A battery with a 500 mile range and a five minute charge is available but the oil companies are suppressing it along with the 100mpg carburetor

      It’s true, I read it on the internet

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        It’s not entirely unreasonable to believe that some really spiffy battery tech is locked up in the vaults of Exxon/Mobil, Chevron, BP, et. al.

        Of course, they’re only delaying the inevitable.

        • 0 avatar
          Truckducken

          Are the Trilateralists involved?

        • 0 avatar
          an innocent man

          Yes it is unreasonable. Do you realize how much money they could make off of advanced battery tech, if they had it? They’d still make plenty off of oil, this would dramatically increase profits.Why would they choose to only profit from oil? Am I to believe oil companies are not only greedy, but picky?

  • avatar

    I think Farago was right on with the Tesla death watch. They were saved by deus ex machina (Daimler & the US Taxpayers), and they wouldn’ thave survived without CARB credits and taxpayer-sponsored subsidies.

  • avatar

    Feel free to challenge my opinion, but I think that electric cars died simply because they aren’t profitable.

    Tesla has to sell their cars to *the rich* because of the cost of R&D, the cost of batteries and the cost of aluminum construction.

    The average American can’t afford one- yet goes to sleep having wet dreams about them.

    Then there’s the costs of trying to build the supercharger network and swap stations which will only work with TESLA’s.

    GM killed the EV because they knew that the tech wasn’t there yet.

    Guess what: IT STILL ISN’T.

    Elon promised us all “affordable EV”.

    $70,000- $135,000 ain’t affordable for the average slob.

    • 0 avatar
      Spartan

      I agree with most of your post, but I disagree that the technology isn’t here. The technology is here. However, extended range is what needs to be improved in addition to expectation management by the population. GM wasn’t exactly asleep at the wheel with the technology, however 2008 happened and kinda derailed the Volt. I think we’d be having a very different conversation if there were no 2008 crash, because GM would have had a helluva head start had the Volt came to market earlier.

      Now, as for expectation management, people want 600+ mile range cars for $30K. That’s just not going to happen anytime soon. We can expect 150 mile range cars for $30K within the next decade or so, but in order for that to happen, people have to buy Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) Chevy Volts, BMW i3s, Teslas, etc. The industry will invest in the market if the market invests in them.

      • 0 avatar

        when I say ‘isn’t there’, I mean that you have to choose between:
        Battery life, Battery capacity, Charging speed, Battery Endurance and COST.

        Can’t get all of them to be just right.

        With the exception of acceleration, a $40,000 Genesis AWD delivers far more value than a $135,000 P85D.

        • 0 avatar
          Spartan

          Sure, a Genesis does deliver more value, but cars like the Tesla Model S, particularly the P85D, don’t sell on value. Cars like that sell on emotion. That’s coming from a guy who actually likes the Genesis and the new model is on my short list.

        • 0 avatar
          wumpus

          Except there are few six-figure cars out there that can’t match a Genisis if you ignore a big feature.

          Try to compare a Hellcat vs. a Sonata while ignoring acceleration while you are at it.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        ” The technology is here. However, extended range is what needs to be improved”

        We have the technology to travel to the next solar system, now if we could only figure out how to live for 200 years to get there alive

      • 0 avatar

        The technology won’t be more than niche until the range and refueling provides the convenience,of internal combustion, at the cost of ICE.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          While I think the range does need to improved on low cost EVs (which is happening by the way) to go mainstream, the refueling is faster and more convenient than ICE. It’s been almost a month and I haven’t had to stop during a trip for a public charge.

          I’ve been plugging in at home and plugging in at my destination if I need a charge to make it home. That means not having to go out of my way to a gas station, having to deal with a financial transaction at the pump, then freezing my ass off while pumping, and finally, maneuvering my way out of the gas station and back onto my route. It also means not having to deal with the time to get an oil change. When are ICE’s going to be that convenient?

          With an EV, if you only have to charge at home and at your destination, the recharge time isn’t a factor and the EV is more convenient. My thermometer just hit -1.5 – enjoy pumping your gas!

          • 0 avatar

            If the government goes whole hog:

            #1 improves solar panel energy delivery
            #2 makes charging stations and charging sockets ubiquitous at workplaces, malls, movie theaters, etc
            #3 subsidizes or incentivizes EV technology, we could one day have enough “cleaner” energy to run large numbers of EV and reduce air pollution.

            …or we can keep financing bombing runs in foreign countries.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      Neither are HELLCATS, actually :-)

  • avatar
    STRATOS

    Looking outside with all the snow and -25c temperature ,i would never even think about trusting an electric vehicle to get you anywhere. I wonder how much energy there would be left to heat the car. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimgorzelany/2014/03/24/the-cold-truth-icy-temps-can-slash-an-electric-cars-range-by-more-than-half/

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I’ve gone about 50 miles in a Leaf equipped with their most recent battery formulation and a heat pump in -2 to -4 (or something like that – my memory is getting hazy) temps at highway speeds. I used pre-heating while it was in the garage, and during the drive used mostly the seat heat and occasionally the heat pump. I also ran the car in “B” mode – the most aggressive regen setting. It wasn’t bad and I could have made it about 65 miles if I needed. There was a fast charger at the 35 mile mark, but I was able to skip it and charge at my destination. Two co-workers had ICE vehicles that wouldn’t start that morning.

      Looking at the AAA article the Forbes article is based on, their dyno tests show 43 miles at 20 degrees. In 14 degree weather, driving at 65+ mph when I could in the left lane with the heat pump defrosting the car and didn’t have a problem going about 50 miles. Probably could have made it 65 miles.

  • avatar
    mechaman

    I recall the complaints about GM’s EV, that it was purposely made to be unappealing. Flash forward a few years, and allofasudden folks want them. Didn’t GM say that those EV1’s were prototypes, not for sale but for lease?

  • avatar
    mechaman

    I could rock an EV for my work-grandson-from school cycle on a weekday basis. If I had a place to plug in a Volt, etc., it would be worth a look. Odd, in Chicago-land, I’ve seen a good two dozen (or more) Teslas, about three Leafs. Hm?

  • avatar

    Wouldn’t you be curious if GM had started the EV1 project let’s say two years ago? It is such an interesting shape, simultaneously ultra-low drag as well as oozing “transportation of the near future”. Actually, the EV1 was more ahead of its time than anything Tesla produces. In other words: the EV1 begs to start making an EV2. I wouldn’t be surprised if GM could shave off substantial weight, as well as improving range. Perhaps something like this: https://localmotors.com/sevehicle/iphone-on-wheels-neither-car-nor-motorscooter/

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    Electric cars are in the left lane, and for that matter, in existence simply because governments at the state and federal level have given mandates that they be so. You get to drive your electric/hybrid solo in the HOV lanes (at sub optimal speeds)because “they” say you can. You can “afford” these vehicles because some government is giving lots of our tax money to car makers and buyers to “prove” there is a demand for them. This is the total extent of success for these cars.

    • 0 avatar
      mechaman

      At some point, the use of oil will be at an end. I am bothered less by the government spending money to aid electric car success than on a phony war, which has had, and will have more expensive consequences than giving money to a company making electric cars.

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