by joelado, Sun Nov 28, 2010 at 02:48:49 PM EST
I want to be able to see the trailer for “Revenge of the Electric Car,” but I can’t see it until there are 10,000 hits of the Face Book page for the movie. So I need your help. Please click on the linkhttp://www.facebook.com/revengeoftheelectriccar go to the top of the page and click that you like the page. If a mere 3,000 something of you do that I can see the trailer.
There are very few things that I can point to that I can say influenced my way of thinking. There are even less things that I can point to that I can say that through their influence they changed my life. Looking back at the last 10 years of my life I can see that being involved, in the most cursory of ways, with the movement s of the EV1 electric car club in California was one of those pivotal moments in my life that ended up changing my life for the better. I went from simply wanting a product that didn’t use petroleum as its fuel, to actively working to give everyone in the world the choice of traveling personally using fuels that didn’t use petroleum as a fuel. In the course of this experience I found that my politics had changed and my view of the world had changed. What could have made such a profound change in my way of thinking? It was a simple mistake of being aware of the possibility of something and then having that something taken away.
The first related influence that occurred in my life which was later to affect and profoundly change my life was that I lived through the two oil crises of the 1970s. Those events influenced my way of thinking towards alternative fuel and energy. During that period was when I first learned about electric cars as well as ethanol and other alternative fuels. I learned that we could make the change then to alternative fuel because I actually saw those changes happening in my neighborhood. A few families in my hood had purchased Sebring Vanguard Citicar electric vehicles. Our family participated by getting Gasohol, which was a mixture of 90% gasoline and 10% ethanol available from distributors like the American Eagle Gasohol stations that sprang up around America.
The last of the oil crises seemed to end with Ronald Reagan in 1980. However, my fascination with alternative energy and fuels didn’t end. I spent a good deal of time thinking about alternative fuels and energy. I speculated in my mind about all the things I heard and combined them in my head. I found myself asking questions like, “Why couldn’t we join solar power with electric vehicles and power them that way?” Crazy as that might seem, I wasn’t the only one who thought that way and five years after Ronald Reagan was elected into office the first Tour de Sol was born in Switzerland. The Tour de Sol was a race of vehicles powered by converting the sun’s rays into electricity with solar panels on the actual vehicle and using that electricity to power the car. The idea caught on all over the world and lead to the creation of the World Solar Challenge. The World Solar Challenge was different from the other Tour de Sol races. It was like the Super Bowl of solar car racing. In order to enter the race you had to have at least won or nearly won a previous solar vehicle race.
The World Solar Challenge caught the eyes of the executives of GM who were struggling with unimproved and poorly made product lines that were loosing out to the Japanese. GM seemed in every way to be yesterday’s company, a dinosaur, big and lumbering and incapable of innovation or quality. The leadership of GM decided that they were going to enter this contest and show the world that its engineers were world class and that the company wasn’t just capable of coming up with something new, but able to push hard the very edges of what was possible. Of course GM was an old, lumbering dinosaur in reality so they had to hire an innovative firm to do this for them. They hired AeroVironment, a company headed by Dr. Paul McCready the creator of the Gossamer Albatross, the first human powered airplane to fly over the English Channel. AeroVironment made for GM the Sunraycer solar powered vehicle that averaged 65 miles an hour over the course from Darwin to Adelaide, Australia, and won the race a full two days ahead of second place vehicle. With a relatively small investment GM went from being seen as the “has been” of the automotive industry to the leading edge.
GM’s executives decided that they needed to keep these geniuses on the GM payroll and challenged them to make a marketable electric vehicle prototype to be used in the real world. AeroVironment did just that by coming up with the Impact, a two-seat car that offered sports car performance and nearly 100 miles range using lead acid batteries. The Impact concept car was introduced to the world at the 1990 LA auto show. It was a true sensation. Again, GM, the company left for dead on the side of the road during the 1980s, suddenly looked new, vibrant and innovative. Between the LA auto show in January to mid-April of the same year the press could do nothing in the automotive world but talk about the possibilities of an electric car and GM’s overwhelming lead in to the market if they should decide to produce the Impact as a product for consumers. Seeing how the electric car prototype had influenced everything in a positive manner for GM and not wanting to return to the bad old days of the 1980s GM’s CEO, Roger Smith announced on April 18, 1990 that the electric car would go into production.
Every event that happened along the way I was keenly aware of. Suddenly, something that I was hoping would happen as a kid going through the 1970s oil crises seemed to be happening in earnest. The California Air Resources Board locked in the reality of electric cars pushing through legislation requiring that electric cars be a big part of the vehicles sold in California with what became known as the “Zero Emissions Vehicle Mandate.” I was so excited. I began saving my pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars for the day that I would be able to buy an electric car. Little by little the cars were released in drips and drabs a decade later to the good people of California. Not only was there the Impact, which was renamed the GM EV1, but there were other electric vehicles choices too. There was the Honda, EV+, the Toyota Rav4 EV, the Nissan Altra, the Ford Th!nk and more. Oddly all were only available through lease. Toyota under pressure from the public eventually changed its policy over what to do at the leases end and some 300 Rav4 EVs were sold to the public. These other electric vehicles came into existence because of the power of the Zero Emissions Mandate. I waited patiently for the cars to become available to the rest of the country with my money accumulated in an account ready to be used as soon as the vehicles became available.
Then something completely unexpected happened. The Zero Emissions Mandate was changed and the requirements of producing electric vehicles were removed. Almost instantly the vehicles that had mostly been leased were being recalled. I didn’t understand what was happening. I went online to try to find out what was happening and I could see that the former leaseholders of the GM built EV1 had organized. I remember when Chris Paine began talking about wanting to make a documentary of what was happening. He set up a website for the documentary that was to be called “EV Confidential,” and on that website he posted pictures of crushed EV1s in the Arizona desert. Seeing those vehicles my psyche changed. I was angry. I learned that GM wasn’t the only company collecting up its vehicles and making them disappear. Honda had taken its EV+ vehicles from the dealerships and made them vanish. I later learned that they were shredded at a certified destruction facility. Nissan’s EVs disappeared. The EV1 Club quickly morphed into Don’t Crush, and the organization set its focus on saving the last remaining EVs from the fate that many of the EV1s, all of the Honda EV+’s and the Nissan EVs had experienced. They organized demonstrations to save the Ford Th!nk, which were eventually sent back to Norway where they came from. They saved the Ford Ranger EV, and they found 70 EV1s waiting to be crushed in a back parking lot of GM’s Burbank, California facility. What to do?
Together with the Rainforest Action Network the former EV1 Club now organized into Don’t Crush set up a vigil in front of the GM facility to stop them from crushing the last of these vehicles. Although I couldn’t be there with them I followed them into a website where they posted the actions and activities of their days protesting the crushing of these all-important vehicles. All the while Chris Paine managed to capture all that was going on with his camera. The organization to save the electric vehicle battled as hard as a non-violent protest can battle. They captured national attention in both the print media as well as television. I followed their daily moves through the website genuinely angry about what was going on. When their story hit the cover of the Washington Post I knew that the movement in California that had started so small now had a national reach. A small band of really pissed off citizens had managed to get the attention of millions. But who was going to know their story? A newspaper front page might be great but it is only good for wrapping fish a day later. How do we keep up the push to change not just California’s thinking but also the nation and perhaps the world’s? Chris Paine went on to gather the support for his documentary “EV Confidential” whose name was now to be “Who Killed the Electric Car?” attracting Dean Devlin of Stargate fame as the executive producer and Martin Sheen as the narrator. The vigil was over and all the cars that could be crushed were crushed so Don’t Crush became Plug-In America and changed its focus from saving existing electric vehicles to looking for ways to bring back the electric car.
In the end the movie “Who Killed the Electric Car?” I believe had the greatest amount of influence on the general public, companies and Washington. There in one sitting a person who knew nothing about electric cars and the struggle to keep them as a choice for the American people could get a large part of the story. From its very beginnings 100 years ago to the breakthrough innovations in the Impact, from the California’s Air Resources Board’s Zero Emissions Mandate to the crushing of the vehicles. The movie gives you it all.
However, that isn’t the end. I hope you all know that in the intervening years GM has realized the error of its ways and is bringing an electric vehicle with a range extender call the Chevy Volt, that Nissan has reversed itself and is delivering the all electric Nissan Leaf, and that every major automaker on the planet has an electric vehicle program set to bring electric vehicles to market. It seems that what GM and the other automakers wanted to die didn’t die. None of the companies who were preparing parts and innovations for the Zero Emissions Vehicle Mandate’s new reality got the memo that the electric car was killed and therefore dead. They kept going and innovating. Alen Cocconi left the AeroVironment and formed a company that produced a 300 mile per charge sports car called the tZero. This car directly lead to the creation of the Tesla Motor Company’s roadster and the Venturi, Fetish, cars with 200+ mile ranges, dragster like acceleration and superior sports car handling. Though NiMH batteries that powered the EV1 came under control of the Chevron Oil Company, the development of the Lithium ion battery has continued to develop offering a much greater energy density than NiMH, which in turn provides either greater range or less space occupied. Time marches on and improvements continue to be made in batteries, motors and more, and again Chris Paine has managed to chronicle the rise of the electric vehicle phoenix from the ashes of demise in his new film “Revenge of the Electric Car.”
I want to be able to see the trailer for “Revenge of the Electric Car,” but I can’t see it until there are 10,000 hits of the Face Book page for the movie. So I need your help. Please click on the link http://www.facebook.com/revengeoftheelectriccar go to the top of the page and click that you like the page. If a mere 3,000 something of you do that I can see the trailer. Thanks.