Who Killed the Electric Car?!

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by scubasteve_911, Oct 13, 2008.

  1. scubasteve_911

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
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    Hello Everyone,

    I was wondering if anyone has seen the documentary "Who Killed The Electric Car?"?

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0489037/

    Basically, in a few words, GM created an all electric vehicle called the EV1. It had limited range, but other than that, was a fully functional electric car you can charge at home. They built an infrastructure for the charging in California. The oil and gas interests came along with GM and made the car disappear and created a distraction in form of the hydrogen fuel cell. They didn't allow people to extend their leases or purchase the car, they destroyed all of them.. It was extremely sad to watch, especially knowing that it is completely practical to do.

    Steve
     
  2. thingmaker3

    Retired Moderator

    May 16, 2005
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    There are a plethora of all-electric vehicles on the market or in pre-production. Nobody "killed" anything.

    Try a search on "Zap Alias" or "NMG" or "N.E.V." or "Tango."
     
  3. scubasteve_911

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
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    Really? The EV1 was in production in 1996! So, 12 years later, where are we? Do you actually see people driving around in electric cars? How can you dispute that GM dealt a crippling blow to this technology? I can see the point that they didn't actually destroy hope of building electric cars in the future, but they did debilitate the movement. They didn't only stop production and destroyed the vehicles, they ruined the infrastructure. They were installing charging stations all over..

    Zap Alias - sports car, not practical for consumers because of ridiculous expense
    NMG - One passenger car, give me a break..
    Tango - 108000$ 2 seater
    EV1 - US$33,995 to US$43,995 2 Seater, 12 years ago!

    All we have now are impractical solutions.. They do not have the manufacturing power to extend the savings to the consumers. It's all business!

    Steve
     
  4. scubasteve_911

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
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    Also, I am not saying that these people aren't now working on the technology, but it is the fact that they ruined it many years ago. If they kept on going with it, the competition would have needed to create competing electric vehicles, our world would be a different place. We would have more oil independance and would probably have avoided war in Iraq.

    Steve
     
  5. jpanhalt

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 18, 2008
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    I saw an interview with an SVP (or executive VP?) at GM last week on Nightly Business Report. He is in charge of development at GM and was commenting on the various EV's coming out of California. He took the blame for "killing" the last EV and gave some reasons, such as driving range. GM is still in active development of something much more affordable than the newest sports car from Silicon Valley.

    Unfortunately, I don't remember his name. He was a fairly large guy with what looked like chipped front teeth (as from playing hockey).

    John
     
  6. scubasteve_911

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
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    The funny thing about this is:

    Average miles per trip by purpose
    - Home to work = 11.0 miles per trip
    - Shopping = 5.1 miles per trip
    - Other personal business = 7.4 miles per trip
    - Social and recreational = 11.8 miles per trip

    The EV1 had a range of 160 miles, far greater than what we travel in a day. How many of us honestly exceed this? These are excuses by GM to why they cancelled the car. There is no reason why GM would destroy the existing EV1s for consumer complaints :(

    Steve
     
  7. jpanhalt

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    Jan 18, 2008
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    Steve,

    The GM VP gave far different numbers than you present. As I recall, he said average (median?) commute was closer to 45 miles, and range was in the 60-mile ballpark. Thus, no apparent problem, unless you got a call to pick up one of the kids on your way home from work (his example).

    An 11-mile average (median?) round-trip commute sounds awfully short for those who live cities. It could be one of those median/mean discrepancies -- a few people working at home might distort the average.

    I suspect median is a more appropriate parameter for assessing potential sales, but I frankly don't remember whether he said mean or median.

    John
     
  8. scubasteve_911

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
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    Very true, but the EV1's wikipedia page gives specifications of 160mi, which, we can probably all agree, would be suitable for our commuting lifestyles. Yearly trips to florida, maybe not!

    Steve
     
  9. beenthere

    Retired Moderator

    Apr 20, 2004
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    That you can purchase a 10 year old Geo Metro for the original dealer cost shows how clever GM is in marketing decisions.

    The average commute being used as a decision to pull the EV1 simply means that somebody at GM figured that there was a potential liability issue involved if anyone pushed the range in the winter and left little Susy stranded at her soccer game. Guess it looks like less of a loss to throw away sales than to have to settle in court.
     
  10. scubasteve_911

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
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    beenthere,

    And how is that scenario different than someone running out of gas?

    Steve
     
  11. beenthere

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    Just a guess about the reasoning. It does take much longer to charge batteries than fill a gas tank, plus gas stations are located much more conveniently.

    What makes sense to you? GM seems to act irrationally. Why would they cancel the Metro as gas prices were headed sharply up?
     
  12. jpanhalt

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    You can fetch a gallon of gas and easily carry it to the stranded car. It is ready to go in minutes. A 100-AH battery is not so easily carried. I would also suggest that the frequency of running out of gas is inversely related to the size of the "tank." For example, if you have a "10-day tank" you could only get stranded once every 10 days. If the tank were just a 1-day tank, you could be stranded far more often.

    One might argue that all the driver needs to do is to look at the gage. I am not confident that degree of logical behavior is practiced by the majority of drivers in our larger cities. Just look at the number of gas guzzlers with one person on board.

    However, regardless of the care with which a driver monitors the tank, exposure to being stranded is higher, and thus the frequency of being stranded will also be higher with a smaller tank.

    John
     
  13. scubasteve_911

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
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    Okay, So, we're at the point where we are arguing if the onus should be on the driver for watching their fuel gages? Is the 'safety' of gasoline the price we will pay for consuming a non-renewable resource, damaging our environment, and making the rich richer whilst we remain poor?

    Steve
     
  14. beenthere

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    I'm not really arguing for the validity of my interpretation. Given that GM made a seemingly irrational decision to pull a modestly successful electric car off the market (and destroy all of them!?!), it seems as if there must be some somewhat powerful motivation behind the move.

    Liability issues seem to drive a lot of business decisions, so I chose to imagine what liability issue might be motivating GM. Just a guess - can't defend the position at all.
     
  15. jpanhalt

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    Our society has rejected the notion that each person should be held responsible for his own actions. The same logic extends to "uninsured" people who seem to have plenty of money for food, liquor, drugs, and logo sportswear. Yet we still extend healthcare and many other things to them. An irresponsible driver will be a burden to all the other drivers, just as the uninsured are to healthcare.

    Most electricity in the US comes from so-called non-renewable sources. Electricity is just a way to transport it. Building electric cars first before the nuclear/other energy infrastructure exists is getting the cart before the horse.

    @beenthere,

    The GM VP mentioned the destruction as perhaps a poor idea in retrospect. Maybe it is a little like Boeing destroying all of the Northrup flying wings when it got the B36 contract. My guess is that the destroyed cars were written off as development cost and were not allowed to linger as potential liabilities should they fall into individual's hands.

    John
     
  16. scubasteve_911

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
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    John,

    I think you are reaching when you say that hospitals give free lunch to those uninsured. Have you watched 'Sicko'? Have you seen follow-ups to the documentary? Many of the insured are treated like garbage and the only uninsured people that are taken care of are terrorists in prison.

    You are correct about the non-renewable sources supplying electricity. We really need to jump on getting nuclear, solar, geo-thermal, and wind power stations. Although, the hydrogen fuel cell front should be trumped by this notion too, except even further due to another two steps inefficient.

    We need more people that are forward thinkers that do not get bogged down in traditional ways. We should inform the public on how to make changes, rather than putting up with big corporations exploiting us and our natural resources. There are technical solutions to a lot of our problem and we need to start handling them before it is too late.

    Steve
     
  17. jpanhalt

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    Steve,

    I have not watched Sicko, but I did live day to day with medical economics for 35 years. The care patients get is highly dependent on where it is rendered, not on what they pay. Statistical measures of quality are notoriously poor, which is best left to an off-line discussion.

    In short, 5 to 10% of patients are "self insured" at even the best private hospitals. In urban hospitals, that percentage approaches 80% or more. Care must be rendered (See: Federal Law). Sure, there is patient dumping, but there is slime in every profession. Of paying patients, Medicaid pays about 10% of charges, when it pays at all. Medicare is about 25% of charges, and insurance is about 20 to 35% of charges. Those numbers vary a great deal with specialty, practice organization, and insurance company. The catch is that "self-pay" is usually "no pay." Notable exceptions to that are the wealthy and certain religious groups (e.g., Amish).

    Unless a very high percentage of patients in our inner city hospitals, including 90% of pregnant women and children, are terrorists, I strongly disagree with the conclusion:

    Many of the uninsured are uninsured by choice. Who can't find something else to do with $250 per month per person or more? Yet, there is no accountability for that decision, which was my original point. The government knows that, so Medicare is deducted directly from Social Security, and you have no choice in the matter. Excluding Medicare, there is no similar leverage, and the irresponsible, uninsured are a real burden on healthcare.

    Back to the original proposition about the irresponsible driver running "out of fuel," there are other examples where in our society individual irresponsibility is a burden shared by all. Product liability, safety devices that virtually prevent the intended use of various tools, and simply removal from the market of useful products are just a few other examples.

    John
     
  18. thingmaker3

    Retired Moderator

    May 16, 2005
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    Yes. But then I live in a relatively forward-looking city.
    I've read copiously on the history of technology. There is no such thing as a "crippling blow." GM simply abandoned the technology because they saw too little return on their investment at the time. GM is only one maker among many. They set no trends; certainly they make no decrees.

    We have three choices:
    1) Whine, grumble, and cry. Maybe GM will hear us and resume production out of a sense of motherly duty.
    2) Support the manufacturers who are working towards a desired solution.
    3) Actively work toward realization of a practical electric vehicle. This is an especially good choice for an aspiring engineer with strong social ideology.
     
  19. jpanhalt

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    And I would add/modify #3: Develop realistic, alternative fueled, non-internal combustion powered vehicles, e.g., fuel-cell powered EV.

    John
     
  20. scubasteve_911

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
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    John,

    You've obviously dealt a lot with medical economics and know far more than myself. Perhaps your reality as a US citizen in regards to the medical system is much different than mine, since I am Canadian. I was outraged when I hear of people losing their homes because they have fallen ill, whereas in Canada, we wouldn't even imagine such an outcome from being sick. Regardless of insurance, you must admit that it will cost you when you become ill in the US. Either you are uninsured, partially insured, or fully insured, you pay.

    I guess we drifted off subject here. Basically, I wanted to show anyone reading this forum of an example of when a corporation was making choices in their own interest (inevitable because all corporations are profit driven!) and allowing people to be victimized. They halted technological development eventhough it would better society. I am hearing a lot of excuses for GM here. Sure, there are no perfect solutions for the world's problems, but there are better solutions! The EV1 was not without fault, yet it was and still is an attractive solution.

    Or, maybe this whining will make others aware of this so that they will stand up and fight back if it happens again :p

    I intend to! Although I am yet to see a decent electric vehicle that is financially feasible and can support at least two passengers. Hopefully it doesn't take too long.

    I truely believe that it is the responsibility of an engineer to come up with positive solutions to real problems. As mentioned in Zeitgeist II, what if the engineers working on the nuclear bomb put their time into something to better society, rather than causing destruction? They spent billions of dollars and had many brilliant minds!

    John, the fuel-cell, I believe, is a distraction towards simple electric power from batteries.

    Electric Energy + Water = Hydrogen + (oxygen)
    Hydrogen + transport truck = hydrogen delivered to fueling stations
    Hydrogen + fuel cell = electricity

    Whereas,
    Electric Energy - Transmission losses = battery charged

    We can see that there are less inefficient processes involved. I am not sure whether or not fuel cell disposal will rival battery disposals, etc. The only main advantage of the fuel-cell driven car is that it may be refueled quickly. They have talked about having battery swapping stations, but I am not sure how well that would go. Especially since batteries have a finite charge-recharge cycles.

    Steve
     
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