Mark Brandon is the Managing Partner of First Sustainable (http://www.firstsustainable.com), a registered investment advisory catering to socially responsible investors. In addition to Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), he may opine on social venturing, microfinance, community investing, clean technology commercialization, sustainability public policy, green products, and, on occasion, University of Texas Longhorn sports.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Movie Review: Who Killed the Electric Car?

A strange thing has occurred in my movie-going habits lately. Usually a consumer of the usual summer fare (minus the inanities of super-hero sequels), the last 3 films I have paid full price to see are documentaries, including Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and United 93. Ok, so I realize that the latter is not necessarily a documentary, but it was so true to the story that it felt like one. On Friday, I saw Who Killed The Electric Car, which chronicles the birth and demise of the Zero Emissions Vehicle.

In 1990, the state of California mandated a certain percentage of cars sold in the state to have zero emissions by a certain date. The auto manufacturers scrambled to come up with a ZEV. The most ambitious, most popular, and best seller was the General Motors EV1. These cars were plugged in and had a range of approximately 125 miles, more than enough for the average commuter to make it through the day on one charge. Enthusiasts loved it because of its pick-up, quiet operation, and (since this is Hollywood, after all) its cool factor. After a few years, despite robust waiting lists, the auto companies claimed there was little demand, and over the next several years, the car died a slow death. Because all EV1's were leased and not sold, GM repossessed every single EV1 and had them crushed.

Without their beloved cars, conspiracy theories were developed assigning blame on the car companies, the oil companies, federal politicians, state politicians at the California Air Resources Board, consumers, and even backers of hydrogen technologies. Who gets the MOST blame is, of course, the point of the movie.

Narrated by Martin Sheen, the movie is riveting in the way a Matlock episode is riveting. That is, you already know all the reasons and motivations for the crime at the beginning, but you still have to watch it. However, at the end, you have to hand it to the filmmaker for making the topic interesting.

I have one criticism. The film devotes the first quarter of the film to people singing the praises of the EV1, but since I lived in California at the time this is all taking place, they never mentioned the one serious technological drawback of the cars. It is true that, as actor Ed Begley Jr. says in the film, that the Ev1 will "meet the needs of 90 percent of the people", his statement should be amended to "it meets the needs of the 90 percent of the people 90 percent of the time". On most days, the average driver can make it on 1 charge. It is those few days where they can't make it on one charge that is the problem. If you need to drive from LA to San Diego one day, you would need to stop for eight hours somewhere in Orange County to re-charge. Of course, finding a suitable re-charging station was a challenge in and of itself.

Many of the rental car companies used EV1's. As it turned out, at LAX on the high demand days, the EV1's would be the last to go. Out of town travelers, with no idea how to plan for re-charging, would find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere with no power outlet in site. Towing was the only option. As is the case with Priuses today, the charges would also not last 125 miles as stated in the marketing brochures. It was the old "up to" rule, where in the optimal conditions, it can make it that far, but in reality, it's never that far.

The more virtuous among us (namely, my wife) would say that these are the times when you should plan for mass transportation or renting a car. However, I see the everyday driver looking at the possibility and just deciding to chuck the idea of the electric car.

Gladly, new technologies are on the horizon to address these issues. A plug-in hybrid should have all the benefits of the EV1, while being able to fall back on gasoline in those rare cases where longer range is required. While leaving the cinema, we were greeted with people handing out fliers for plug-in organizations. The literature stated that recharging a plug-in hybrid would be equivalent to gasoline at 77 cents per gallon. We'll see.

I give the film 3 stars out of 4.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kudos to you for acknowldeging that your wife is virtuous.

1:38 PM

 
Blogger DiSCo said...

Really trustworthy blog. Please keep updating with great posts like this one. I have booked marked your site and am about to email it

to a few friends of mine that I know would enjoy reading..
seslisohbet
seslichat
sesli sohbet
sesli chat
sesli
sesli site
görünlütü sohbet
görüntülü chat
kameralı sohbet
kameralı chat
sesli sohbet siteleri
sesli chat siteleri
görüntülü sohbet siteleri
görüntülü chat siteleri
kameralı sohbet siteleri
canlı sohbet
sesli muhabbet
görüntülü muhabbet
kameralı muhabbet
seslidunya
seslisehir
sesli sex

10:13 AM

 
Blogger Sesli Chat said...

Really trustworthy blog. Please keep updating with great posts like this one. I have booked marked your site and am about to email it

to a few friends of mine that I know would enjoy reading..
seslisohbet
seslichat
sesli sohbet
sesli chat
sesli
sesli site
görünlütü sohbet
görüntülü chat
kameralı sohbet
kameralı chat
sesli sohbet siteleri
sesli chat siteleri
sesli muhabbet siteleri
görüntülü sohbet siteleri
görüntülü chat siteleri
görüntülü muhabbet siteleri
kameralı sohbet siteleri
kameralı chat siteleri
kameralı muhabbet siteleri
canlı sohbet
sesli muhabbet
görüntülü muhabbet
kameralı muhabbet
birsesver
birses
seslidunya
seslisehir
sesli sex

6:22 AM

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home