In my childhood I always was a fan of everything which had wheels. Naturally the sports cars were my favorite. At that time, I did not care too much about the maintaining costs, including gas prices and not a bit about environmentally friendliness of these fuel devouring monsters. When I grew up, things had changed. I had started to be interested in a lot of other aspects. For example, the velocity of the car became less important when I saw a car, while the gas consumption gained a bigger part in my preferences.
The main cause of this was mainly because of fuel prices, but a little slice of my brain coded to care about the environment so it was obvious that my car cannot consume too much in order to maintain the condition of the air. Considering the mentioned facts about my “long” history with automobiles, I think it is clear why I choose the topic of electric cars to write about. This essay will be a case study of General Motors’ EV1 prototype and its way from the beginnings till the end, based on the virtuous documentary film of Chris Paine.
Of course I will provide some up to date data and I will complement it with my opinion to help the understanding of the topic. This case study maybe could look a little outdated but its story is a very good example of today’s economic, political interests and how interested groups treat unbeneficial situations. “I’m saving America by driving electric cars” – Tom Hanks A brief history As I mentioned before, this essay is based on the documentary film titled “Who Killed the Electric Car? ” directed by Chris Paine. The director’s movie created in 2006, so six years ago.
The status of electric cars had changed since then, but I thought this case is very expressive to present the battle of powers in nowadays world. The tale of the EV1 is one of the most controversial cases in the modern history of cars. Because of its very limited production and the huge media attention generated by the scandals, it became a very strong symbol of the electric cars’ success and failure also. (Greeencar. com, 2012) 1. Picture – General Motors EV1, source: www. motor-talk. de The beginnings of the GM EV1 rooted back to the 1980s.
A company specialized to energy efficiency researches, AeroVironment, started to develop a car which is totally powered by electricity. The leader of this project was Dr. Paul MacCready, a well-known aeronautical engineer from the United States, who unfortunately passed away in 2007. After years of development the concept car, named GM Impact was introduced to the audiences at the 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show. (AeroVironment Website, 2012) At that time, another important event happened. In the 1990s, California was in a pollution crisis because of the smog which had very unbeneficial effect on people’s health.
The California Air Resource Board had to find a solution for this problem, so they wanted to decrease the amount of gases coming from cars. Inspired by the recent announcement of General Motors about an electric vehicle prototype, they created the Zero Emissions Mandate (ZEV). It required 2% of new vehicles sold in California to be emission-free by 1998, 10% by 2003. It was a very drastic smog-fighting mandate. (California Air Resources Board, 2012) The first EV1 rolled out from the Lansing GM factory in 1996 and after three years the production had shut down in December 1999.
From the beginning GM sold more than 1000 cars in California, US. (Who Killed the Electric Car, 2006) “Coincidently” at the same time in December 1999, there was an interesting event. General Motors finalized the purchase of the Hummer brand. The Hummer is the opposite of the electric vehicle. It is an SUV, with high emission and high gas consumption. After this acquisition, in January 2000 Harry Pierce, vice-chairman of the GM said that there is no particular need to continue building electric cars. Naturally after several months the GM factory in Lansing changed to manufacture gasoline powered cars.
(GMHummer Website, 2012) In January 2002, GM and other eight car brand sued CARB to cancel the ZEV mandate, because the ZEV mandate is tries to regulate fuel economy standards, which is the supremacy of the federal government. In December 2002, Alan C. Lloyd, Ph. D. , Chairman of the California Air Resources Board is named the 2003 Chairman of the California Fuel Cell Partnership, which is an organization that helps fuel cell vehicle technology and infrastructure growth. In April 2003, The CARB modified the ZEV mandate and this way the electric car was killed.
According to the new version, auto makers no longer had to make electric cars but instead are required to roll out a mix of fuel cell vehicles, gas-electric hybrids and PZEVs (partially zero emission vehicles) from 2008. And after that, finally Dr. Lloyd had become Chairman of the California Fuel Cell Partnership. (Who Killed the Electric Car, 2006) Another accidental happening occurred also in 2003. President George W. Bush calls for research and development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicle technology because he thought that it will be the fuel of the future.
(MSNBC, 2006) In April 2003, GM announced that it could no longer provide parts to repair the vehicles, so they will not renew EV1 leases. They wanted to reclaim the EV 1s by end of 2004 and tow trucks are dispatched to impound vehicles from customers unwilling to return their EV1s. Later this year, in July 2003, a mock funeral was held for the EV1 to gain media attention to GM taking away the EV1s. In December 2004, following an information about EV1s, Chris Paine rented a helicopter to see GM’s hammering ground in Arizona. He found piles of crushed EV1s.
In February 2005, the “Don’t Crush” Campaign was launched, for saving the remaining 78 EV1s at GM’s Burbank storage. Activists also gathered $1. 9 Million for GM to return the withdrawn cars to its owners. In March 2005, activists learnt that GM was starting to transport the EV1s onto car-carrier trucks, so they blocked the road in front of the facility. The incident ended with the help of the Police Department, with some arrests. Dave Barthmuss, GM spokesperson stated in the film, that the transferred cars will be entirely recycled.
(Who Killed the Electric Car, 2006) According to Chris Paine, there were seven suspects in case of murder: * Consumers * Batteries * Oil companies * Car companies * Government * California Air Resource Board * Hydrogen Fuel Cell 2. Picture – General Motors EV1 build-up, source: West Hills Collision (2012) Consumers The first possible cause of the failure was the consumers’ behavior. According to GM, the demand was not big enough to be profitable and so they had to stop the production. At this issue I think we should look at the three regular questions posed to an electric car: How fast? , How far? , How much?. (Electrifying Times, 2003)
How fast? – For maintaining the battery’s duration, EV1 had an electric engine limited to 80 mph (130 km/h), but this reaches most countries’ maximum allowed speed so the limitation could be installed on every retail car in the market. EV1 reaches 100 km/h in 6. 3 second, which is also an average number at general cars. (Greencar. com, 2012) How far? – Nickel-metal-hydride batteries – the same technology that powers today’s hybrid vehicles – provided enough energy in Gen 2 (second generation) EV1s for a 160 to 190 kilometers, driving range. This length is far below an average person’s daily driving range. (Greencar. com, 2012)
How much? – In my opinion the approximately $35. 000 price for the car is not too expensive, especially not in the United States and especially not if we count the dollars which spared on gas expenditures. For example, a 2013 Ford Mustang’s price starts from $30. 750 and consumes 18 liters on 100 kilometers. (Greencar. com, 2012; Ford. com, 2012) After analyzing these facts, we can determine that the stated low-demand problem by GM has no real basis, because EV1 has everything what an average car have plus the maintaining costs are cheaper than an other car, so customers could have satisfy their needs with this electric car.
According to the movie, Who Killed The Electric Car? , the consumers were guilty with mitigating circumstances in the case of the murder. Consumers did not want to buy EV1 when gas prices were low and the American Dream suggested buying big SUVs. But we could not see auto producers and media convincing them otherwise. Questionable advertising, limited availability, weak first-generation battery technology, and simple lack of awareness gave consumers little incentive to consider EVs as a practical alternative to gas cars.
However the maintaining costs were fractions of a gas powered car, consumers considered EV1 as a second car parking next to the “normal” car. In turn the EV’s benefits to air quality were shared by everyone, not only by the owners. (Who Killed the Electric Car, 2006) Batteries The battery is often mentioned as a setback for electric car. It is thought to be not powerful enough or too expensive. First the GM EV1 was released in 1996 with an underachieving battery that has a capacity of only 95-130 kilometers per charge. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Americans drive an average of 50 kilometers a day.
We can see that this distance could be enough to most of the drivers. Two years later, a new battery was used in second-generation EV1s. It provided 160-190 kilometers with a charge. (Who Killed the Electric Car, 2006) The new battery naturally was more expensive than the old one, but in the long run, it could be cheaper than an internal combustion engine. With no moving parts to maintain or repair, the battery lasted the life of the car (especially since the car’s life was terminated before its time). Plus GM never mass-produced the new batteries, which would have reduced their cost.
(Who Killed the Electric Car, 2006) So finally we should declare that the batteries were not guilty in this issue. Oil companies Why did oil companies fight so hard to stop funding of public charging stations? Why did Mobil take out full-page national newspaper ads critiquing the merits of electric cars? Why did oil industry lobbyists pressure legislators? Electric cars may not have been a short-term threat, but in the future, they could have become one. The oil companies sell 156 billion gallons of gasoline per year. Because the demand for fuel increases every day, their profits and the amount of sold gasoline rises.
In lack of alternative sources nothing is threatening their position. Combined Profits of Exxon-Mobil, Chevron-Texaco, Conoco-Phillips in 2003 were $33 Billion, while in 2004 were $47 Billion and in 2005 were $64 Billion (Who Killed the Electric Car, 2006) Considering the facts above we can be sure that oil companies are very guilty in this case, because they do everything to maintain or raise their profits (but it is understandable in my opinion). Car companies After the modification of the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, every car companies (GM, Ford, Honda, Chrysler, Nissan, and Toyota) shut down their electric vehicle programs.
They killed their own “smarter” children because their other children earned more money for the companies. EV1 threatened the high amount of money GM got for its gas powered cars. If we trust in GM’s facts, they spent more than $1 billion on the development and marketing of EV1. If they threw away this money and terminated the EV1 program, it is clear that GM earned much more money than this little $1 billion. But we can analyze this issue not only from the car sales point of view, but the after-purchase aspects as well. A conventional car has lot of moving parts. They need repairs, exchanges, cleanings, etc.
The service costs make other considerably high profits to automakers through selling parts and the official brand services. As I mentioned before the EV1 has parts designed to work for a long time, maybe they could have been lifelong components. The EV1’s economical approach was a gain for consumers but a loss for the auto industry. When GM introduced the EV1, it was years ahead of American and Japanese competition in electric car technology, but instead of further development GM and the other American car brands started a war against the ZEV to kill electric vehicles.
These evidences show us clearly that car companies are as guilty as oil companies. (Who Killed the Electric Car, 2006) Government In October 2002, the Bush government joined the American brands in their lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate, because they also thought that the CARB put its hand in the government’s pocket by trying to control the fuel economy by itself. Then, in April 2004, the California Air Resources Board modified the ZEV mandate.
Anyway the Bush administration’s attitude to the electric vehicle programs is not surprising, because we know its links to the oil and automotive industries. (Who Killed the Electric Car, 2006) Naturally this means that the Bush-government is guilty. California Air Resources Board While the California Air Resource Board’s previous ZEV mandate helped the rise of the electric cars, CARB cannot hang on till the end to fulfill the substance of the directive. The CARB driven by the pressure exercised by the auto industry and the government modified the mandate. CARB Chairman (1999-2004) Alan C. Lloyd, Ph. D.
was maybe the biggest guilty person in this issue. As I mentioned before that he became the leader of CFCP, which company deals with the fuel cell technology. In his interview filmed for the documentary, Lloyd states that he remains convinced that the ZEV mandate was not feasible. (Who Killed the Electric Car, 2006) Hydrogen Fuel Cell One of the main reasons for shutting down the production of electric cars was the hydrogen fuel cell technology. The CARB stated that it has bigger potential than the electric engines. However both supporters and oppositional approve that it needs decades to be useable in everyday life.
(Who Killed the Electric Car, 2006) Furthermore, hydrogen fuel cells are produced by using electricity to convert it into hydrogen fuel. So it uses the same source but filling the power of electricity into batteries is much more efficient On the other hand, the hydrogen fuel cell is the “better evil” for oil and auto companies because the hydrogen is gained from fossil fuels. This paradox gave politicians the possibility to talk about saving the environment while benefitting the oil and car producers of America. (Who Killed the Electric Car, 2006) After these facts we can settle that the fuel cell is also guilty.
Conclusion Considering the mentioned story of General Motors EV1, we could be scared that we live in a world which is full of conspiracy, where the big companies and the government manipulate everything in order to reach their targets. And this could be true in some ways. But we should look deeply inside ourselves too. I am the supporter of the view that every person in the world is selfish and want to maximize its “profit” in every situation. We can call this theory as Classical Realism or the newly implemented “House-ism”, but in nowadays world I think this is the most appropriate concept to utilize.
Protecting the environment is important, at least for those who can earn money with these, or finds spiritual satisfaction through it. Either way people support the idea to “maximize their profit”. Another aspect is what Professor Wirtz mentioned. He sketched the world where all the people in the world are prostitutes. He proved on some of my group-mates that this view is true. For example he asked us about a yearly salary for working in China. Of course this little experiment is not completely valid but the results showed that there is an amount of money for everybody for doing anything.
If I were the CEO or President of the mentioned guilty groups, perhaps I would do the same in the same situation, so in my opinion the guilty parties are guilty in case of killing the EV1, but did nothing what almost every one of us would do when we smell the scent of money. Bibliography * AeroVironment Website (2012), In memory of Dr. Paul MacCready, (online), (Accessed: 30th December 2012), Available at: http://www. avinc. com/about/dr_maccready/ * California Air Resources Board (2012), Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Program, (online), (Accessed: 31th December 2012), Available at: http://www. arb. ca.
gov/msprog/zevprog/zevprog. htm * Electrifying Times (2003), GM yanks the plug on electric car, (online), (Accessed: 30th December 2012), Available at: http://www. electrifyingtimes. com/GM_yanks_EV1. html * GMHummer Website (2012), HUMMER History, (online), (Accessed: 31th December 2012), Available at: http://www. gmhummer. com/history/history. htm * Greencar. com (2012), 20 Truths About the GM EV1 Electric Car, (online), (Accessed: 30th December 2012), Available at: http://www. greencar. com/articles/20-truths-gm-ev1-electric-car. php * Motor-talk. de (2012), Better Place: Die mobile elektrische Revolution?
, (online), (Accessed: 30th December 2012), Available at: http://www. motor-talk. de/blogs/passat-cc-tdi-dsg/better-place-die-mobile-elektrische-revolution-t2114956. html * MSNBC (2006), Bush promotes fuel cells on Earth Day, (online), (Accessed: 31th December 2012), Available at: http://www. msnbc. msn. com/id/12436113/ns/us_news-environment/t/bush-promotes-fuel-cells-earth-day/#. UOFw4-TaVOM * Website of Ford Motor Company (2012), Ford Mustang Specs, (online), (Accessed: 30th December 2012), Available at: http://www. ford. com/cars/mustang/ * West Hills Collision (2012), The EV1