Smithsonian Kills the Electric Car


After having the chance to see major environmental issues on the big screen in An Inconvenient Truth, moviegoers will have another chance to see relevant subject matter in action with Who Killed the Electric Car?, which will open at the end of this month (see THTV sneak peek of Who Killed and our interview with Paul Scott). The documentary tells the story of the now legendary EV1, a work of engineering genius and the only mass produced electric vehicle to (yet) grace our roads. It just got harder, however, to actually see the famous car in person, even behind a velvet rope. After revoking and destroying their EV1s, General Motors gave a handful of them to museums as historical pieces. Now, the only fully intact EV1 on display has been removed from view at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., to make room for a robotic VW Touareg designed by Stanford University, what the Washington Post called a "high-tech SUV."This has made for suspicious news as it comes just before the opening of the documentary (which is critical of GM, among others), and doubly so because GM is one of the museum's largest financial supporters. The hall in which the EV1 sat is, in fact, named after GM, the company that shelled out $10 million in 2001 to help pay for its construction. When asked in 2001 if General Motors would have any say in the exhibits shown in the hall, museum director Spencer Crew told the New York Times, "Absolutely not." A spokeswoman for the Museum told TreeHugger that the EV1 had originally only been intended to be on display for only a few months when it was went up in March, 2005, and that GM did not weigh in on the decision. The spokeswoman reiterated that museum sponsors do not influence exhibits, but said that the Smithsonian does not have plans to display the car further.

Chris Paine, director of Who Killed the Electric Car?, told TreeHugger, "If the Smithsonian is pulling the EV1 and replacing it with an SUV they
should put that EV1 back where it belongs: On the Road. SUVs are the
dinosaur and electric cars are the promise. Putting the EV1 into "storage"
as they've said is just so wrong."

(The EV1 pictured above, as seen on display at the Smithsonian, was leased to Phil Karn, who had to return the leased car to GM in 2000. He later matched the VIN number and discovered where his beloved vehicle had gone.)


(This from the original owner's manual of the EV1. Image credit: National Museum of American History)

Interested in electric cars? Check out: 17 Electric Cars You Must Know About