Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Progress Report: Who Killed the Electric Car?

November 8, 2009


The 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? chronicled the strange and tragic demise of the General Motors’ EV 1 Vehicle, the first commercial plug-in electric car.

Film maker Chris Paine chronicled how GM, big oil, California politicians, and the white house all led to the demise of what should have been the future of transportation.

It was a brilliant documentary that showed how a good idea can get killed by corporate and political interests. California was the test market of the EV1, due to a strict emissions law that was overturned in 2003, and I still spot the electric vehicle charging stations when I visit home.

The ghostly remains of this environmental savior still haunt residents of California and Paine’s documentary showed this quite well. He featured extensive interviews with former EV1 drivers that showed how well affordable electric cars would work for the American public.

It has been three years since this memorial service for the electric car, what has happened since then?


As General Motors EV1 was on life support and its plug was getting pulled for the last time, computer engineer at founder of Network Computing Devices Martin Eberhard started the Tesla motor company.

The young entrepreneur gathered a pantheon of tech giants including Paypal co-founder Elon Musk, Google co-founders Sergey Brin & Larry Page, and former eBay President Jeff Skoll to invest heavily in the company.

Tesla Motors revolutionized the idea of who and what a motor company should be made up of. The plug-in electrics that Tesla would produce were not designed by the bigwigs in Detroit or Japan but the techies in California.

The switch from computers to an electric car was a natural one as laptops and other electronic devices had given Silicon Valley enormous experience with creating efficient battery power.

What came about was a marvel of engineering and a bold statement to the automotive community. The first car Tesla produced was not some small funny looking enviro car, it was… THE TESLA ROADSTER.

This beast could go 0-60 in 3.9 seconds and have a 244 mile range on just one charge. Porches have failed trying to outrun this car and they don’t look this good either. The roadster runs silently and has a sleek sexy design that anyone could envy.

The speed achieved in the Tesla Roadster comes from the electric engine which runs more efficiently than the typical internal combustion engine. The torque is leaps and bounds better because a battery distributes the power far better. EV1 owners stated the same sort of jolt that one gets from driving an electric car. As Tom Hanks said on the Letterman show, “That sucker goes. You can get a ticket.”

The Tesla however is built with 2009 technology and has a far more efficient battery system than the old GM models. It has a top speed of 125 mph and everyone who has driven one has been blown away by its performance.

Founder Martin Eberhard stated in this video that you don’t have to sacrifice speed and design for fuel efficiency. He believes that this type of electric car will get people to buy electrics.

If you have the money that is, the roadster is a 100k dollar car but Tesla will be unleashing the Tesla Model S in 2011 which will be around 57,000 competing with companies such as BMW and Mercedes. Tesla will further down the line create a car to compete with more affordable cars like the Toyota Carola.


A Better Place is another company that has emerged since the tragic death of the electric car. The company describes itself as “the global provider of vehicle services, accelerating the transition to sustainable transportation.”

Founder and CEO Shai Agassi started A Better Place to promote electric car technology but a new form of infrastructure that provides new solutions to creating efficient and environmentally friendly electric cars.

Agassi started the company after attending a World Economic summit in 2005, where global leaders were asked how can the world be a better place by 2020? His response was ultimately this company.

By implementing battery switch stations, charging stations, and EV network software that manages energy, navigation, and even customer service. Isreal, Denmark, and Australia are the first markets to sign on to Agassi’s system with Hawaii tenatively planned as well.

In the coming years we will see if A Better Place will give us a better electric car, and a better environment. PBS’s program NOW documented how A Better Place is setting up its system in Denmark.


A video of the NXR is displayed at a news conference in Syracuse, New York on Friday.   (Photo: Adam Fenster, Reuters)

Indian electric car company Reva announced late October 2009 that it will build a plant in New York for the manufacture of three seater hatchback electric cars known as the NXR.

It will be sold in the U.S. and Japan in 2010 with broader distribution rolling out in 2012. This announcement has shown that the future of the automotive industry is in electrics.

An Indian company coming to the US with anything but an electric car would seem insane, not only has the electric movement lead to a more environmentally conscious market it is leveling out the playing field for manufacturers.

Who could think fifteen years ago that a Silicon Valley or Indian car company could be successful? The reason these companies will continue towards success is that they are moving towards a sustainable future.

GM and the other bailout companies of Detroit are still stuck wishing for their pre-Toyota days of dominance let alone looking towards alternative fuels seriously.


With all these developments and probably more than this blog post can report, Chris Paine has announced a 2010/2011 film called Revenge of the Electric Car.

The film will document the rise of what looked like a fallen hero in the quest for an environmentally friendly world.

As Pain has written on his film blog, “electric cars are back from the dead and this time… they’re not turning back.”

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My personal tagline for the movie