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As humans, we tend not to think about things until they’re thrown in our faces, figuratively speaking.  We don’t think about car accidents until we get rear-ended; maybe then we put down the cell phones and think more about the road.  We don’t think about cancer until our grandma is diagnosed; maybe then we up our antioxidant intake and slather on the sunscreen.  And here in Wisconsin, we usually don’t think much about our air quality.  We have good, clean air, and we leave the smog alerts for those big cities.

But now we too have to think about the particulate matter spewing out our tailpipes.  Over fifty counties in Wisconsin were under an air quality alert on Monday.  More or less, that means there was so much smog or particle pollution that it was unhealthy to breathe too much of it, especially if you have any heart or lung problems.  The day was foggy and thick, much like the night of the Airplane! landing (the fog is growing thicker…and Leon is growing larger!  Go see the movie if you haven’t, please!).  Except when the DNR is telling children to stay inside, it’s not so funny.

Like I said, this is Wisconsin.  Air pollution isn’t supposed to happen here.  But it does, and it will continue to.  Eventually, we’re going to run out of non-polluted places to go to, and then what?

Who Killed the Electric Car?

A look at the movie, Haley style: a running commentary as I watched it.

Opening scene – funeral, presumably for the car.  A little cheesy, but makes a good point.  There were more electric cars than gasoline cars on the road a hundred years ago.  Who would’ve thought?  Apparently these cars were like sitting inside huge lamps.  I feel like it would be very hot inside a lamp…

Ick!  Now we’ve got some pictures of lovely smog….“the black cloud of death.”  I’m glad I don’t live in California!  One gallon of gas burned=19 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  That seems like a ton.

All right.  Onto the Sun Racer!  Take a look at this little car – solar-powered, goofy-looking, pretty neat!  So GM challenges these guys to make an electric car.  The GM CEO even says that these cars will be the perfect commuting vehicles.  GM wants their marketers to develop a strong desire in the market for an electric vehicle, especially in Cali, where smog still reigns supreme. California’s in on the game, passing a zero emissions mandate in 1990.  And then, the Saturn EV1 is born.


The EV1 in all its glory...

And everyone loved it!  So other car companies joined in on the action, creating conversion (gas/electric) cars.  People are amazed by the lack of pollution, and Tom Hanks makes lots of appearances extolling their virtues.  Mel Gibson even pops his scarily-bearded head in.

Now, the skeptics show up.  Is the car big enough?  Strong enough?  Manly enough?

First the skeptics, then big oil (which funded most of the anti-electric movement).  Are electric vehicles really more environmentally-friendly?  (Which is why we need to be working to create clean electric energy – wind, solar, all that good stuff, but that’s neither here nor there.)  Are they only for rich people?

There seems to be some sort of poem going on now.  Or was that a car commercial?  I guess so.  The lady speaking sounds a bit too gravelly to be sexy.  And in America, cars are supposed to be sexy (ever watch Cadillac’s spokeswoman Kate Walsh?  Take a look at this). This begs the question: is GM really trying to market the cars earnestly?  And GM starts withdrawing its EV reach…laying off employees, closing factories, and moving backwards.

Headline: White House Joins Fight Against Electric Cars.  It looks like the government is leaning towards hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.  Again, Cali is all over it, with Arnold lauding their virtues and driving around a hydrogen-fueled Hummer.

We go to a meeting with the California EPA (at least that’s what it looks like to me), cause automakers sued the state because of the emissions law.  Eighty people showed up to support the electric car, and two showed up to support the automakers who didn’t want to comply with the zero emissions mandate.  Yet, in April of 2003, CA killed the mandate.

And then they took the cars off the road altogether!  How wild is that?  Ahh, protests…EV supporters showed up in CA to garner support for their cause.

Which brings us back to the funeral.  One of the GM marketers even cries…pretty touching, not going to lie. And GM has all the cars back…

And the crush them!  Oh my god.  They take them out to this racetrack in the desert and literally destroy them.  That is truly sad. Other electric vehicles are being taken off the road, too.  Some of these actually get shredded.  Just wild.

The activists think it’s wild, too.  They offer $1.8 million to GM to buy back the last 78 surviving cars.  GM never gets back to them.

California Air Resources Board, Alan Lloyd, GM, big oil, American consumers, batteries – all suspects in the killing of the EV.  GM says there was no demand, no profit (how on earth does Toyota do it?  Well, have done it, at least). Some people say Americans were too dumb to understand that EVs worked just as well as gas cars.  A very cute older couple (the Ovshinkskys) had already sold a long-lasting battery to GM, which then in turn sold it to Texaco.  Nice. Now we’ve got a tax break for people buying Hummers – I’m sure that is super helpful. Hydrogen cars.

“The average vehicle on the roadways today is less efficient than it was 20 years ago.”  Another sad fact.

Carter tries to eliminate dependence on oil, Reagen deregulates everything, Clinton tries to promote hybrids, and Bush…well, Bush is Bush. Here’s a good point: it took laws to get everything standardized with cars (think seatbelts, catalytic converters, airbags).

The verdict: I think we all killed the electric car.  Good news?  We’re bringing it back!  Tesla’s already done it, and Chevy (GM-owned is bringing out the Chevy Volt next year).

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August 2020