Socialism is the Best Medicine

Socialism is the Best Medicine

Who Killed The Electric Car?

October 21, 2006


The 2006 film, Who Killed the Electric Car?, documents how General Motors (GM) launched a commercially-viable electric vehicle in 1996. The EV1 needed no gasoline; it ran on battery packs that could be recharged at home and at roadside recharging stations. About 1,000 were produced.

Drivers gushed that the EV1 “drove like a dream.” According to one enthusiast,

“It could do a U-turn on a dime. It was incredibly quiet and smooth. And it was fast. I could beat any Porsche off the line at a stoplight. I loved it!”

The EV1 needed little maintenance. With no internal combustion engine, there was no need for spark plugs, oil changes, or filter replacements. Best of all, there was no polluting exhaust. Despite these many benefits, every EV1 was pulled off the road, and almost all were scrapped.

Who killed the electric car? Director Chris Paine indicts the oil industry because it profits from oil-dependent vehicles. He blames the auto industry for refusing to restructure production and because it profits from the maintenance required on gas-fueled vehicles. He accuses the U.S. government because it serves the oil and auto industries.

Surprisingly, the film also blames “consumer wariness.” There is no evidence for this. The film shows how much people loved the electric car and how they organized against its demise. One group of protesters risked arrest to block the last fleet of EV1s from being hauled to the scrap yard.

It is a mistake to hold consumers responsible. The electric vehicle was never promoted as a viable alternative. Eager customers who lined up to purchase the EV1 were turned away with the lie that there was insufficient demand.

The myth of ‘consumer power’ hides who really holds the power in society – the capitalist class.

Ordinary people do have power, not as consumers but as producers. In one segment of the film, an auto-mechanic explains (with obvious pleasure) how working on the electric car is so much cleaner and easier than working on gas-run vehicles.

If working people ran society, we would have electric cars because they make sense. Profit would have nothing to do with it. What really killed the electric car was capitalism, a social system that can never do the right thing.


1 Comment

  1. February 28/08

    I watched “Who Killed the Electric Car” recently (great documentary), then I heard that GM and Tesla are making another run at the electric car (yay for progress!)

    Hopefully, development of this technology can continue forward uninterrupted by the powers that depend on oil consumption.


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