The Death of the Electric Car

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The 1996 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? explores the factors behind the demise of General Motors’ EV1, the popular and elusive electric car of the early 1990’s. The EVI was popular with the public, and it was clean, fast and efficient. This video sets out to solve what is effectively a murder mystery – the plug was pulled on the EV1 in 2002 after only 1,000 of these cars had been produced by GM, most of which were subsequently destroyed by the company in a secret location in the Arizona desert. It is evident that the electric car faced significant opposition in California during its short life. In terms of political forces, the EV1 was opposed in principle by the United States federal government, who actually joined automakers in a lawsuit against California for implementing the regulations that inspired the development of the electric car in the first place. The US government also discouraged the popularity of the electric car by offering staggeringly high tax incentives to purchasers of large gas-guzzling vehicles such as the Hummer. The California Air Resources Board, or CARB, started the initial incentive to develop the electric car with its zero-emissions regulations for automakers, but in the end CARB was clearly seen to cave under industry pressure and give their support to the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles instead. The electric car was also challenged by economic factors. Because the EV1 was not being mass-produced, it was never able to benefit from the cost reduction that comes with economies of scale. Because of this, the car was more expensive for consumers, which limited its market to those who could afford it. The social factors contributing to the death of the EV1 are more ambiguous. GM ... ... middle of paper ... ...about 300 miles (compared to the 70 miles of the first-generation EV1) . Environmentally, US air quality is worse than it was 20 years ago, and consumers have begun to notice. This will likely contribute to an increased demand for zero- and low-emissions vehicles. Legislation has once again been introduced providing tax incentives, rebates, and even free parking for purchasers of hybrid and electric vehicles. By 2005, over 200,000 hybrid vehicle rebates were cashed in the US, and this number continues to rise . Increasing environmental awareness, coupled with a responsible American government and improved technology, have all contributed to the comeback of low-and zero-emissions vehicles in the US. It remains to be seen whether the automakers and oil companies will once again work to halt this progress, or embrace it as the technology of a more responsible future.

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