Monday, January 14, 2008

GM's Electric Dreams

With the Detroit auto show in full swing, Toyota announced plans to develop a plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle with a lithium-ion battery before 2010. This is bad news for General Motors, which is allegedly planning to introduce its own lithium-ion hybrid, the Chevrolet Volt, around the same time and build it in Detroit.

I say "allegedly" because GM doesn't have a great track record on promoting electric vehicles, and GM execs have already started fudging on if the Volt will actually be in production by the 2010 target date.

The sad tale of how GM developed and then crushed — literally — their electric EV1 is chronicled in the 2006 film Who Killed the Electric Car. According to Wikipedia:

"A large part of the film accounts for GM's efforts to demonstrate to California that there was no demand for their product, and then to take back every EV1 and dispose of them. A few were disabled and given to museums and universities, but almost all were found to have been crushed; GM never responded to the EV drivers' offer to pay the residual lease value ($1.9 million was offered for the remaining 78 cars in Burbank before they were crushed). Several activists are shown being arrested in the protest that attempted to block the GM car carriers taking the remaining EV1s off to be crushed.

"The film explores some of the reasons that the auto and oil industries worked to kill off the electric car. Wally Rippel is shown explaining that the oil companies were afraid of losing out on trillions in potential profit from their transportation fuel monopoly over the coming decades, while the auto companies were afraid of losses over the next six months of EV production."
Once you watch this movie, you'll find it hard to believe that GM will ever beat Toyota at the electric car game.

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