I just finished watching this movie. It doesn't make you feel good (unless you work for the oil companies I suppose). I was already aware of a lot of the bits and pieces of this story. I had read about key battery patents being held by oil companies. I was aware that most of the electric vehicles developed by auto manufacturers around the turn of the century were taken back by said auto companies and destroyed. I was aware that the auto companies felt that there was not enough demand to support an electric car market.
What this film did is to pull together all these pieces into a presentation and makes clear the various parties with interests that would be threatened by a successful electric car industry. I should not be surprised but still was a little by the amount of conflicts of interest of various decision makers in the california decision to abandon electric cars. I was also not aware of the extent of GM's (apparently deliberate) sabotage of the EV1 market and the extent to which they wanted to erase any evidence that these cars even existed. They claimed there was no demand for the cars yet many lessors of the EV1 begged GM to let them keep the cars, and offered to buy out the lease. During the time that they were producing and leasing the cars they always had a waiting list of customers. Even today you can see that the remaining electric cars that are now 10-15 years old are still commanding high prices for used cars. Every so often I see an electric Ford Ranger from the late 90s go up for sale (on ebay or some other site) and it seems like they still sell for around 25K. So it seems to me that there is a market for electric cars. Another thing that the film makes clear, and it is obvious once you see it, is the extent that the push for fuel cell technology is just a stalling tactic, or bait and switch, or whatever term you want to use for it (another run at the football). The idea of fuel cell cars has so many problems it is hard to know where to start. But you can see why there is support for it by car makers and oil companies. It is mechanically complex so it will require a lot of maintenance. It will have to be refueled somewhere, so someone will be able to sell you fuel and a fueling station. And of course it is way off in the future so everybody can continue business as usual in the meantime.
This film may have some factual problems. I don't know although I am sure that GM and others would argue that it does. But that doesn't erase the general idea of this film - there was a developing electric car industry that was prematurely killed for the wrong reasons. It seems to me like the result is that the electric car industry has been set back by 10-20 years. Think about what kind of vehicles we might have available today if this program had continued. It's just too bad.
Here is what I think is going to happen. I think that the electric vehicle is going to make a comeback in the near future. Since US carmakers are not willing to develop it, they are going to get kicked in the ass (again!) by the Japanese car makers. Eventually someone, like perhaps Nissan with the Leaf, is going to come out with an electric car that is going to be successful. People are going to like the idea of plugging in at home and not stopping for gas. People are going to come to realize that they a car that only has 100 mile range is perfectly fine because most daily driving is far less than that. And the more people that try it, the more people will get used to the idea and then we can finally get past the idea (myth in my opinion) that electric cars won't sell because they don't have enough range. Then the floodgates will be open. I have no illusions that an electric car will be suitable for everyone, all the time. But I can see a future where it is normal for a household's second car to be an electric vehicle.
Anyway, enough ranting by me. I don't want to get too political. This movie just agitated me enough that I wanted to write about it. Thanks for reading.