Who Killed the Electric Car?


[This is a guest post by Neil Chambers. TreeHuggerTV will premiere a piece on "Who Killed The Electric Car?" on Monday June 26. -Ed.] I had a chance to talk to the Chris Paine, director of Who Killed the Electric Car? and Chelsea Sexton, Executive Director of Plug-In America, about the upcoming release of the movie on June 28, 2006.

The movie documents the history of the electric car in the country as well as the rise and fall of the GM EV-1. The story lays out how BIG OIL and BIG CAR COMPANIES killed the programs for electric cars. The story of the electric car is pushed by many interviews with EV drivers and celebrities expressing their love for the automobile. When I talked with Ms. Sexton, we talk about the emission differences of a combustible engine to a car powered by being plugged-in. The amount of pollution from the EV is dependent on the type of energy plant producing the energy.

In a phone conversation with Paul Scott, co-founder of Plug-In America, he explained that he has a 3kW photovoltaic array installed at his home that provides power to both his daily life and to charge up his Toyota RAV4 EV. In the case of Mr. Scott, his SUV has little environmental impact due to the fuel source of the battery charger. On a national level, it will be some time until PV energy is a 100% available.

With statements from the Department of Energy such as "coal is the nation's major fuel for electric power, and natural gas is the fastest growing fuel" along with "more than 90 percent of the power plants to be built in the next 20 years will likely be fueled by natural gas" and renewables representing a small percentage of the countries energy, would EVs get the seal of approval from an independent eco-certification program for automobiles if one existed? I'm not sure. There are many questions about emission-amounts unresolved along with issues surrounding the batteries used to power the vehicles.

One thing for sure is that alternatives need to be more embedded in the market. 99% of the fuel for cars and trucks in the US is gasoline. The Prius has shown great success in the market place which has spawned other companies to introduce hybrid technologies. With Tesla Motors — "The New American Car Company" - releasing its Tesla EV at midnight on July 20, the electric car will officially be undead.

The Tesla EV is rumored to have a 250 mile range along with a price tag between $80,000 to $90,000. Tesla Motors wants to compete with other companies such as Porsche by designing into their vehicles high performance.

I'm not a 100% about the science of the movie or the electric car. Carbon sequestration and renewable sources have a long way to go before rehabilitating our addiction to foreign fossil fuels. With statements such as "Oil is the lifeblood of America's economy" on the Department of Energy website, there can be no denying the need for new and fresh ways of dealing with consumption in America.

See also: ::Plug-Ins, EVs, and Consumer Power: an Interview with Paul Scott, ::Smithsonian Kills the Electric Car, ::THTV - An Eco-Film Festival (includes sneak peak at Who Killed the Electric Car?)

[This has been a guest post by Neil Chambers. -Ed.]