You have asked a question which involves many opinions but no
clear-cut answers! A combination of reasons have been cited as
inhibiting the mass-production of electric cars. Expense, limited
consumer demand, lack of continued government incentive, technology
issues and competition from auto producers have all been accused of
playing a hand in holding back mass-production.
The new documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car", is not backward
about stating several opinions.
"The electric revival comes as an opinionated new documentary film,
Who Killed the Electric Car?, has started playing in theaters in
selected cities around the country."
"The movie alleges that big automakers, oil companies and the
government sank promising electric-car technology that was taking root
in California in the mid-1990s. At the time, the state was mandating
that automakers make zero-pollution cars available for sale - and
electricity was the only technology at the time that filled the bill."
"The film singles out General Motors for special grief for having
created a futuristic electric car that became a Hollywood
enviro-darling despite its limited driving range and other drawbacks.
When leases ran out, GM collected its Saturn EV1s and sent them to the
crusher. Fighting back, GM has bought a paid-search link on Google.com
that shows up whenever the name of the movie or one its stars is typed
into the search engine. The blog item says the EV1 was a commercial
flop and that its engineering advances are being incorporated into
GM's next wave of hybrid and other advanced vehicles."
Buyers were passionate, "but there were never enough of them," GM
spokesman Dave Barthmuss said in an interview. "They were forced to
make too many tradeoffs" in convenience and range."
From "Electric cars lighting up again." USA Today. 8/8/2006
"The film about electric cars is a whodunit that opens with a mock
funeral for a murder victim -- GM's EV1, an electric, plug-in car
leased to customers in the late 1990s but never sold. GM executives
eventually killed the electric car program, recalled the vehicles, and
sent them to the crusher for disposal."
"In the film, filmmaker Chris Paine finds that GM, the oil industry,
the federal and California governments, and consumers all contributed
to the EV1's murder. The "defendants" are motivated in turn by greed,
incompetence, ignorance, and complacency."
A timeline of the electric car from the PBS documentary reveals that
as early as 1966, a Gallup poll indicated that 33 million Americans
were interested in electric vehicles. The Arab Oil embargo and the
rising interest in environmental concerns futher fueled this interest.
Several legislative incentives helped spur the manufacture of electric
vehicles, but the entire program gradually fell apart. The Toyotal
Prius is probably the best example to come out of this program and
still portends hope for the future.
2006: "A few pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids are in limited
production and new ones are on the horizon. Experts differ on how soon
rising oil prices, peak oil forecasts, changing fortunes at car
companies, and public demand for cars that run without gasoline will
resurrect the mass market for electric car in the twenty-first
century. The success of the gasoline hybrid Toyota Prius is a
See "Timeline: Life & Death of the Electric Car."
According to many, the technology is here and heightened consumer
interest is vital to spurring the auto companies to make a renewed
attempt at manufacturing electric vehicles.
"In San Francisco, for example, a coalition of environmental groups
and electric car advocates stood up at a news conference with Governor
Arnold Schwarzenegger's senior adviser on energy and the environment.
They unveiled a campaign to get local governments and businesses to
promise to buy plug-in hybrid vehicles if auto manufacturers ramp up
the production of the cars. Unlike pure electric vehicles, these
hybrids run primarily on electricity and then switch to gas or diesel
when the power runs out."
"Showing that there are enthusiastic buyers is a way to encourage the
auto industry to start mass-producing plug-in hybrids, said Sam
Haswell, spokesman for the Rainforest Action Network, one of the
Read "Pump volatility sparks electric car charge," By Kiley Russell,
Contra Costa Times October 22, 2006
This interesting snippet is from a 1997 article in Chemical and Engineering News:
"Marlyn J. Stroven, manager for electric-vehicle driveline, battery,
climate-control, and electromechanical systems at Ford Motor Co.,
Dearborn, Mich., agrees. "I doubt any manufacturer would voluntarily
have gone into production with an electric vehicle they have to sell
at two and one-half to three times the cost of their other comparable
products," he says. Although there is a "high percentage of people
that would give serious consideration to buying an electric vehicle,
that interest disappears real quickly when the cost gets more than 10%
above an internal-combustion vehicle."
"The toughest challenge is being able to offer a vehicle that "isn't
going to cost the customer more for less," Stroven adds. Because
electric vehicles serve a niche market, their price doesn't benefit
from economies of scale that customers expect from a high-volume
manufacturer like Ford, Stroven notes. "When customers walk into a
Ford or Toyota dealership, they're not used to paying more than twice
what they would pay for a comparable car that has an internal
combustion engine in it," Stroven says. "In fact, it will be many
years before Ford or any other manufacturer is able to make any profit
on their electric vehicles."
Read "ELECTRIC VEHICLES GEAR UP." Chemical & Engineering News. October 13, 1997
Technology issues are cited as a hinderance in the following blog article:
"ZAP, like FeelGoodCars, is trying to capitalize on the renewed
interest in electric cars, but unfortunately the technology is based
on 90s innovations. Lead acid batteries still have the same issues of
a decade ago. The other option are the pricey performance electric
vehicles like from Tesla Motors, but consumer need a choice that's in
better than a box but affordable to those who make less than
There's a danger that bringing out new/old EVs could setback the
market just as interest is about to peak. An electric vehicle that
can hit highways speeds and go at least 50 miles on a charge and cost
under $30K is a minimum for a viable consumer vehicle."
From "Retro EVs Need More OoMPH." Atotopia. Wired Blogs.
Read a bit more about battery technology in the following treatise:
"Electric Vehicles, the Cutting Edge Then and Now."
A variety of opinions concerning the viability of electric vehicles
and hybrids can be found on the following link
Also read "Escaping Lock-in: the Case of the Electric Vehicle," by
Robin Cowan, University of Western Ontario and Staffan HultÚn,
Stockholm School of Economics. 1996.
"TED Case Studies - The Electric Car. Number: 474"
For a book on the subject, you might want to get a copy of "The
Electric Vehicle: Technology and Expectations in the Automobile Age."
I hope these references help to provide some insight into the issues
and opinions surrounding the viability of mass-producing electric
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