G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the movie, Taken For A Ride

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reikiman
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G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the movie, Taken For A Ride

Over on electric_vehicles_for_sale someone mentioned a documentary, Taken For A Ride, which is just as alarming and well researched as Who Killed the Electric Car. But TFaR is not so well known as WKtEC. I just watched the movie and ohmygosh.

Unfortunately the documentary seems to not be available through any normal purchasing means like going to a DVD store and buying a DVD. You can buy it through the Taken for a Ride home page, and you can watch it online. I've embedded the video below.

Taken for a Ride is an amazing documentary by Jim Kleina and Martha Olson that documents the efforts to derail mass transit in America. Ever wonder why the U.S. has the worst mass transportation system in the industrialized world? Using historical footage and investigative research, this film tells how GM fought to push freeways into the inner cities of America, and push public transportation out. For more information about this film, check out http://www.newday.com. This video was funded by the Independent Television Service. Support the work of this film by (a) using public transportation, (b) telling your elected representatives to dedicate more funding towards public transportation, and (c) purchase this video for your own collection.

There is a study guide on the website that makes for a good synopsis of the contents: http://www.newday.com/guides/takenforarideSG.html

The basic story is before WWII the U.S. and most other industrialized nations had excellent mass transit systems using electrically powered intra-city rail systems. Street Cars were the name then, today the phrase is "light rail". The street cars ran frequently and were very convenient. For example people glowingly talk about the LA Street Car systems (the Red Cars) and for example the sub-plot of Who Killed Roger Rabbit was the death of that very street car system to be replaced by highways.

The movie goes pretty deep into the history of General Motors and how they were behind the destruction of electric rail systems all across the U.S. Another resource for that same story is the book: Internal Combustion: How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternatives. GM didn't kill the electric street car directly they worked through front companies that bought up the electric street car systems, and destroyed them.

A part of the story is the different choices made in the U.S. and other countries after WWII. In the U.S. the choice was made to destroy the street car system, and that led to huge costs all over the country in building the interstate highway system, in building intra-city highway systems, in destroying existing neighborhoods or farmland replacing it all with eyesore highways. One focus is the former Mayor Alioto of San Francisco who apparently fought against a demand from then-Gov. Reagan to build a freeway through the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Different stages of that fight are shown including some interestingly powerful testimony by him before Congress. To this day that freeway section was not done and anybody driving through San Francisco has to go onto city streets. It's inconvenient if you are trying to go elsewhere but hey he made a good point that San Francisco is a great city to stop in and enjoy. The same could be said for cities all across the country, but in the name of progress you've got city bypass highways that let people drive past city after city and in most cases city cores are dead because nobody goes there. Another attribute of San Francisco is they still have electric streetcars but most of them are in the shape of a city bus with rubber tires and power lines overhead which run with the rest of the traffic, rather than a street car with steel wheels on steel tracks in its own lane of traffic.

In Europe and Japan a different decision was made, to rebuild the street car systems and ensure their cities had multimodal traffic systems that preserved peoples ability to walk around. I've only seen a bit of this on trips to Brussels and in Prague but in both of those cities I was happily able to jump onto the street car systems (and subways) and zip around town with little trouble and able to get anywhere I wanted to go. Try that in most U.S. cities and you run into huge problems.

There are two books about the car industry which both use the phrase "Taken for a Ride" in the title but they don't seem to be associated with the movie.

Taken for a Ride (home page)

Taken for a Ride (home page)

Taken for a Ride (home page)

Taken for a Ride (home page)

Taken for a Ride (home page)

Taken for a Ride (home page)

Taken for a Ride (home page)

mattlepperd
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

GM has built many electric vehicles over the years. in 1961 they had a full on Hybrid built out of an Opel. The results? people thought it was neat but when asked if they would ever buy one?

"Ummm,NO."

Gm would build pink Unicorns if there was a market for it. The fact is that Americans are just not willing to spend twice as much money for a car that will save the enviornment. Now is even a harder sell. People are not buying anything new and would drive coal fired cars if coal was cheap enough.

wolf3510
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

well when gm had the ev1 and then got rid of it it was a shame, they would have been 10 years up on tech over everyone else...but instead opt to scrub it instead, now look where they are and where the japenese car companies are...well gm serves you right...you opted for the hummer and look what happened you sold the hummer division, now gm if you want to make a come back heres an idea go in with vectrix and move forward and you'll have a winning idea...before one of the japense companies buy it..

Judland
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

What timing... recently I read a news article about how the Canadian government rejected a proposal for stimulus budget money to modernize the street car system in Toronto, Ontario. The reasoning (as I understand it): the plan, although will create over a thousand jobs across three provinces, does not necessarily create enough local (Toronto) jobs and not all within the next year.

It's all a shell game, if you ask me.

I'll have to watch this documentary. Maybe this evening.

jdh2550_1
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

GM has built many electric vehicles over the years. in 1961 they had a full on Hybrid built out of an Opel. The results? people thought it was neat but when asked if they would ever buy one?

"Ummm,NO."

Gm would build pink Unicorns if there was a market for it. The fact is that Americans are just not willing to spend twice as much money for a car that will save the enviornment. Now is even a harder sell. People are not buying anything new and would drive coal fired cars if coal was cheap enough.

Matt - GM wouldn't sell pink unicorns if it would take away money from other parts of their business. Nor is there any valid reason why an electric car should cost twice as much as an internal combustion engined version. It's not a conspiracy - it's just that the car companies make more money from ICE than they would from EVs and, as businesses, their job is to maximize profit.

Ever hear the phrase "if you don't want to do a job again then do it badly the first time"? That seems to be the car companies response. That and the line that they need a breakthrough in technology before they can make it work.

Yeah, right.

Wanna buy a pink unicorn?

John H. Founder of Current Motor Company - opinions on this site belong to me; not to my employer
Remember: " 'lectric for local. diesel for distance" - JTH, Amp Bros || "No Gas.

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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

I think you are a little hard on GM. Yeah, I know that some of the decisions over the years have been morally bankrupt, stupid, or at least very disturbing! However, consider the proposition from an unbiased point of view. Their is much truth in the pink unicorn comment! GM was not alone in rejecting the idea of EV's until very recently. No other major auto manufacturer was willing to risk it either, why?? 'Ah ha, cries your conspiracy theorist, see It like I've always said, it's all a world -wide plot" (insane cackling, sanctimonious head nodding)". [How they do it without home made pharmaceuticals, is beyond me!]

But, seriously consider the real logistics's of modern auto production. Production of a new model, especially a radical model, is a huge risk. To persuade the different faction and interests that make up the board of any major corporation,is a very difficult proposition. It's not just the board but all sort of other stakeholders who must be considered. This is a complicated and exhausting task requiring very skillful skills from a very large number of people. Ah, what happened to the old e old heroic days of auto manufacture, where an inspired tycoon passionately created legendary works of automotive art, destined to become great classic's ?

Well they all went broke!

Why, because society got far more complex, that's why, consumer laws, tax laws, safety laws, finance competition, global trading, a better educated, more sophisticated public, vastly expanded capital risk, wage costs, insurance,environmental laws etc, etc.. The list goes on and on. So it becomes very difficult to make brave radical decisions. There is great truth in the fct that the vast majority of consumers will not purchase 'worthy' products (as Ford found with its 50's safety model)

Who killed the Electric Car? the consumers did? not enough wanted one to make it profitable!! Look at Vectrix, as Mik points out, just Australia alone has nearly a million citizens with a motorcycle licence. So why has Vectrix sold under 3000 bikes World-wide????? !!!

This means it cost more than $100,000 to make each Vectrix. Who killed the the electric bike? THE CONSUMER ! (with a lot of help from CEO Boyle!)

Hmmmmm.. Pink Unicorns eh... well maybe just a trial in the test market of San Fransisco,..yeah, just maybe you got something...

marcopolo

garygid
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

My wife said "No" to an Aptera for her ... until I showed her a (tinted) picture of a "pink" one.

But, she wanted the "range-security" of the 2h, even though the 2e would be perfect for her usage.

I was going to ease her gently into the 2e, similar to her eventual "bonding" with our GPS (as it brought her home gently and safely late one very dark night).

Maybe not unicorns, but close?
I hope Aptera can pull it off, and show that it CAN be done.

However, the waiting is ... growing old. I have more than one Reservation.

I do not think it was the consumer's fault. They were refused any chance to buy "their" EV1s. It is said that one famous "consumer" offered $1,000,000 for one, but they turned J.L. down ... and the EV1s were destroyed.
No, not the consumer that destroyed the Stanley Steamer, Tucker's car, or the public transportation system in LA (and other cities).
Not the consumer that refused to sell perfectly good batteries to (almost) any automotive application.

No, it is not the consumer that would kill a "forever" tire or bearing, or a 100 mpg engine.

The friend of a friend (so the story goes) designed a great automatic transmission for Dodge-type vehicles. The bean-counters said it cost $5 (or some such small amount) too much to make, and they had to reduce quality ... and then they had a LOT of warranty work on it.

No, I think the consumer is rarely given the chance to choose anything significantly different.

I hope to "vote" for different with the Aptera.

Cheers, Gary
XM-5000Li, wired for cell voltage measuring and logging.

marcopolo
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

Congratulations!! you have evidently married a truly wonderful woman!

An Aptera eh? great! Except even if you could buy one, where the hell can you drive it? I'm not sure about every US state butrbut I can imagine the nightmare of trying to road register such a ridiculous vehicle in most countries.

BVut hey, maybe you could persuade good ole boy Preston Tucker to be the sales manager, along with the friend of a friend (Elvis) who can make your car do 1000 mpg with just this magic pill, which should get you down the yellow brick road to guy who just invented the Tyre that defies the rules of physics, that was the real reason they killed Lee Harvey Oswald, and now the bastards refuse to let me out to feed my Unicorns !!!

Never mind at least they haven't found my perpetual motion machine hidden just behind my stash of .....shhhh, they're coooooming....

marcopolo

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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

I think you are a little hard on GM.

No way! ;-)

However, consider the proposition from an unbiased point of view. Their is much truth in the pink unicorn comment! GM was not alone in rejecting the idea of EV's until very recently. No other major auto manufacturer was willing to risk it either, why?? 'Ah ha, cries your conspiracy theorist, see It like I've always said, it's all a world -wide plot" (insane cackling, sanctimonious head nodding)". [How they do it without home made pharmaceuticals, is beyond me!]

Nope, it's not a conspiracy theory. It's a "we just don't want to do it" theory. Why they don't want to do it is indeed based on risk management, short term profits and believing their own marketing and PR spin. As you say, any new model is a risk, yet they regularly pour billions into new models all the time - and some of those tank (a recent one would be the Pontiac Aztek). They also set themselves up for failure by setting to solve the wrong problems - how to make a "no compromise" vehicle (a la Tesla) or how to make a "severely compromised" vehicle (a la any NEV). Instead of the 100/80/20 car. They either do this unwittingly or purposefully hey, there's a whiff of conspiracy for you! - although I actually think it's unwittingly.

But, seriously consider the real logistics's of modern auto production. Production of a new model, especially a radical model, is a huge risk.

So, the first thing you do is mitigate those risks. A simple way of taking a massive step towards that is by using a proven model as the basis - hardly any of the manufacturers have done that. Arguably the most successful EV out there was the RAV4-EV - by Toyota and based on a pre-existing model. Hmmm, wonder why that one "failed"? Toyota says both "we couldn't build enough of them" and "no one wanted them". Toyota and Panasonic also happened to be sued to the tune of $30M by Cobasys (I recently learned the origin of the name Cobasys is Chevron Ovonics Battery Systems). Surely having your battery technology yanked away from you by the courts would be a death knell for the product? I believe the "no one wanted them line" started appearing after they lost the lawsuit. Coincidence, perhaps?

Yup, Chevron bought the battery tech from GM when GM ditched the EV-1 (a high risk totally new vehicle - which they improved from 70 mile range to 120 mile range in it's short life). Chevron owning a battery company? That battery company refusing to license high Amp Hour cells for all-electric vehicles? A conspiracy? Nope - conspiracies happen behind closed doors. Cobasys tight-fisted control of the patents and refusing to license those rights is right out there in the open - just another "we just don't want to do it". However, I often wonder if there's an anti-trust aspect to this. Alas, I'm not a lawyer - but marcopolo is! Go Marco!

Who killed the Electric Car? the consumers did?

Nope, I really think Cobasys did (because they're owned by Chevron). I think if Toyota continued to build the RAV4-EV it would have been a totally different landscape today. We'd be 10 years further on. Think about that.

Look at Vectrix, as Mik points out, just Australia alone has nearly a million citizens with a motorcycle licence. So why has Vectrix sold under 3000 bikes World-wide????? !!!

Vectrix failed because of:
- bad management
- bad technology choice and implementation
- bad marketing and product positioning
- a price that was two to three times too high
- a high risk "swing for the fences" strategy
- probably other stuff too ;-)

They didn't fail because no one wants an EV motorcycle.

Well, I certainly hope not.

Any one wanna buy a pink unicorn?

John H. Founder of Current Motor Company - opinions on this site belong to me; not to my employer
Remember: " 'lectric for local. diesel for distance" - JTH, Amp Bros || "No Gas.

reikiman
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

An Aptera eh? great! Except even if you could buy one, where the hell can you drive it? I'm not sure about every US state butrbut I can imagine the nightmare of trying to road register such a ridiculous vehicle in most countries.

It's a three wheel motorcycle at least that's how it'll register in most states. As a three wheel motorcycle it bypasses the safety testing required for four wheel cars. There are several three wheel enclosed EV's either on the market already or getting ready to go on the market (NmG, Xebra, Triac, Arcimoto, Tritrack and a few more I'm forgetting). The laws in the U.S. do vary and judging from traffic on the Xebra mailing list it's difficult to register in some states, and easy as can be in others.

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Piers
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

Just to summarise:

GM did not mass produce their electric car because they don't break down, they don't need spares, and they don't need replacing. A personal contact of mine who worked for GM stated that they only developed the EV to slap a load of patents on it to stop anyone else making one.

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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

Just to summarise:

GM did not mass produce their electric car because they don't break down, they don't need spares, and they don't need replacing. A personal contact of mine who worked for GM stated that they only developed the EV to slap a load of patents on it to stop anyone else making one.

Well, they also had California requirements.. But a point I've heard in the news several times recently is that GM invented planned obsolescence. A takeaway from the current situation is perhaps GM's would-be customers got pissed off at their vehicles falling apart quickly and went to other vendors, making GM's planned obsolescence also apply to the company.

Actually I'd be surprised if GM was the sole inventor of planned obsolescence. In http://www.storyofstuff.com/ (The Story of Stuff) they claim that came about in the 40's / 50's because the military industrial complex which won WWII had to come up with a way to ensure full employment in the industrial industry they created to win WWII. The way to attain this was to make sure the products we get are crap that breaks quickly and needs to be replaced. I'm paraphrasing a bit.

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marcopolo
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

Well now, I seem to have stirred up a hornets nest of theories and endorsements for various Failed projects!

My original contention was that, essentially not enough people are willing to put up with the drawbacks and inconveniences of any EV mass produced produced to date by it simply can't compare with the standards of the ICE equivalent. This simple fact means that any serious manufacturer willing to invest the vast capital required to develop and MARKET and EV must be confident of a commensurate economic return.

Now, I would have thought that that is pretty obvious! But evidently not with those who simply wish the mountain to go away or not really exist.

Everybody quotes GM as the bad boy who "killed the electric car". This is plain silly, why can't people simply accept the fact that the EV GM produced had very limited appeal( even in California)and was always a public relations, experimental product that was fraught with problems. The claim that it didn't need spare parts,would never breakdown and was just plain perfect, is just absurd.

Believe me, GM is not the only Auto manufacturer! Trying to form a secret cartel of those guy's would be like herding cats! If GM had really discovered a viable new market, everyone would be crowding in! But in reality the EV 1 was a crappy, impractical little car, that like Vectrix, is very praiseworthy to marvel at, but very few would actually want to own one, or more importantly BUY one.

Yes, Chevron purchased the battery technology and sat on it, hoping quite openly that any aspiring EV maker would find it economic to licence the Tech from a Chevron division. Hardly a new commercial concept and not very sinister! This is not anti-trust, but risky as the USA has a law allowing unused or undeveloped patents to expire early if deemed in the public interest. I am reliably informed that Chevron patents were sold to various parties but the technology is largely obsolescent. His is often the problem with patents either other inventors quickly find away around the patent,or find a better technology or like the Chinese just ignore US patent law in favour of your own, and argue away until the patent is obsolete then liquidate the patent breaking entity, paying no damages and move on. Court Injunctions don't really work against China etc..

Yes, Toyota manufactured the heavily subsidised RAV4 plug-in but decided, for COMMERCIAL REASONS,that without massive government assistance the product was uneconomic, and the investment better utilised for Hybrids.

As for the other failures, well it's true Vectrix, suffered bad management, but the high price of the vehicle reflect the quality required to capture a mass market. it is difficult to see how it could be built much cheaper, better yes, but not much cheaper! This is the consensus of opinion from three major motor cycle manufacturers.

As for NmG, Xebra, Triac, Arcimoto, Tritrack,Reva,Blade etc.. at the best experimental at the worst, just plain dangerous in modern traffic. Not one would ever find a PROFITABLE mass market in the real world.

It remains to be seen if the major manufacturers latest EV offering will capture the market share required to make EV personal transport viable.

As I have said before, it is my belief that the aspiring EV maker should be aiming at the Light to medium commercial market, small agricultural, and special use vehicles. In these markets, may of the drawbacks of speed, range and cost, are not important in comparison to running cost economic or fulfilling special needs. In this market can be found successfully, long established vehicles. and makers who are beginning to expand into the mainstream market.

Less exciting than the GM conspiracy theory, but real and practical.

To see mass Electric Transport in action, Mik is fortunate to live in a country in which one city (Melbourne)did not abandon it's tram (light rail) system and actually expanded it to one of the largest and most complex of the world, curiously enough Melbourne City is also the principle home of Australian auto manufacture.

Sadly, the short sighted city fathers in Auckland NZ abandoned as late as the 1970's, the world largest Trolley Bus system. in favour of freeways, the logic of this decision, in a nation that has cheap hydro electricity, expensive imported oil, wide streets, and no auto production! What they were thinking beggars belief!

marcopolo

reikiman
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

I do agree that overly fixating on GM as the provider and then killer of the electric car is somewhat wrong because something WKtEC doesn't really lay out is that there were other EV's on the market. So someone fixating on WKtEC would miss this clue.

the drawbacks and inconveniences of any EV mass produced produced to date

Um, there haven't been any "mass produced" EV's at all. The EV1, the RAV4-EV, etc, were all hand built individually by the engineering teams involved. There has never been a proper basis for fair comparison between a mass produced gas car and a mass produced EV. Depends on what you mean by "mass produced" I suppose, but among the modern EV's there hasn't been one produced at the same quantity as comparable gas vehicles. I just recalled that if you go back 100+ years there are likely plenty of examples where equivalent gas and electric cars were in similar levels of production, and by all accounts 100+ years ago the EV was pretty popular. That is, until the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers did a number on the American auto industry.

the EV GM produced had very limited appeal( even in California)and was always a public relations, experimental product that was fraught with problems.

Um, lessee as I recall they leased 500 or so of them. Not a big number sure. Story is they had a long waiting list even though it was hard to get onto the list. Fact is that GM's advertising and marketing of the EV1 was screwball beyond belief. It was as if they didn't want to sell the thing, but had to put up a credible front of marketing effort to satisfy CARB's regulations.

And it wasn't just GM, the others were also doing screwball marketing. e.g. I recall a Honda ad showing their EV+, it was a little car and the ad had it with a cord dangling out one end with a caption reading "A car with a cord, sounds like a Honda". Cute but did it get across what it was they were offering?

It was also unattractive from a price standpoint. I looked real hard at the EV1, it would have cost $15000 in lease payments over a three year period and at the end I'd own nothing. From a money standpoint that makes no sense but then for the same reason car leases just don't make sense to me anyway. The RAV4-EV was IIRC about $40,000 and with incentives closer to $30,000 and I considered that one real hard but at that time I had a debt problem.

the aspiring EV maker should be aiming at the Light to medium commercial market, small agricultural, and special use vehicles. In these markets, may of the drawbacks of speed, range and cost, are not important in comparison to running cost economic or fulfilling special needs. In this market can be found successfully, long established vehicles. and makers who are beginning to expand into the mainstream market.

Yeah, completely agree. Why go head to head with the 800 lb gorilla when you can sneak around and steal enough banana's to live on until you become strong enough to survive.

I've seen that Smith Electric Vehicles is setting up shop in the U.S. selling medium duty electric trucks.. and that they have a long history in Britain (since the 1930's?) in making electric trucks. I believe they're a/the supplier of milk floats. As an American I barely know what a milk float is other than having seen them a couple times in Doctor Who episodes.

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Mik
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

Three points:

1) I have no idea of how many people in Australia have a motorbike license and don't think I commented on it.

I do however believe that we make a difference, and that too many people just look for excuses and waffle on about conspiracy theories while we obviously destroy the basis for our survival on this planet.
Owning a Vectrix and riding it most days is just one way of showing that there is always a way! One less excuse for the others!

2) The mantra which is endlessly repeated on EV sites around the globe seems to be this: "EV's are very reliable, cheap, need no servicing, don't break down, last years and years etc. etc."

The other 90% of the content of the same sites are always concerned with the extremely common and severe problems that these same EV's have! And I very rarely read anything like: "Oh gee, you are unlucky, man, the rest of us have no problems with that EV..."
EV's are currently expensive, unreliable and full of bugs! The majority of the home made ones also seem to be severely lacking in basic precautions against electrocution after accidents.

3) If 2) is incorrect, meaning I have just been blind to all those reports of reliable, mass produced EV's which are somehow capable of flowing with the traffic, then I would think it is important to start a new conspiracy theory:

Maybe the atrocious marketing by Vectrix Corp. was deliberate!

"Cool people ride electric"

I really do not know what else they could have tried to stop me from buying one! Pure, evil genius, I say!

Maybe that CEO is a hired gun?

This information may be used entirely at your own risk.

There is always a way if there is no other way!

marcopolo
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

Um.. yes, you are correct, I really meant any EV built instead of mass-produced. I agree with you that those major corporations who have built EV cars, have not really had their heart in the project. It would really be difficult until recently, to justify all the expense of developing and marketing such a low appeal vehicle. Auto makers need to sell car models over several years, in the hundreds of thousands if not millions to recover costs, and hopeful extract a return on invested capital. Models that don't fit the matrix are always the end of a hopeful auto executives career.

Interestingly, the parent company of Smith-Newton share-price has been steadily increasing. This is because of it's careful, conservative management mix of excellent, if conservative engineers, tight fiscal management, responsible reputation conscious marketing, and an alliance with Ford Europe. (the Ford family have been long term investors.

Yep the little milk float, well UK is probably the last Bastion of the Milkmen! Smith also make small excellent tow tractors and other commercial electric vehicles. But so does Jacobsen in the US, and Taylor-Dunn. What about the US makers of electric fork lifts. These are real, live, functioning EV's! I have always been amazed and the demise of the GE electric ride-on mower. I own 3 of these small beasts, and let me tell you, there are really great! terric performers, even though they are over thirty years old!

Mik, I am sure we all agree with the accuracy of your comments.

Oh, um..ANORAK FACT. Australia has approximately 560,000 registered motor cycles, and about 1,200,000 with motor cycle licences. It is interesting to note that almost as may people in the tiny ACT own bikes, as in the vastness of South Australia, why I have no Idea. But a curious fact.

marcopolo

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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

well when gm had the ev1 and then got rid of it it was a shame, they would have been 10 years up on tech over everyone else...but instead opt to scrub it instead, now look where they are and where the japenese car companies are...well gm serves you right...

I don't blame you for your perception that GM did the wrong thing by scrapping the EV1. It's a common perception, but I worked on that project, and I can tell you, the vehicle was ahead of it's time.... TOO FAR ahead of it's time. It seemed to be great for the people who qualified to lease them, but nobody knew the pains GM went through to keep those early adapted vehicles running. Here are several areas that nobody took into consideration.

1. The Lithium battery was in it's infancy back then, and remained unusable and dangerous until late 2004
2. Lead Acid Batteries provide less than half as much storage capacity and effieiency at sub-freezing temperatures, and more than half the country is subject to that climate most of the year.
3. The EV1 was a 2 passenger vehicle, with a battery pack that occupied almost all the non-passenger space.
4. Maintenance of the vehicle was nearly twice that of a gas vehicle. (the people who leased them didn't absorb that expense, GM did)
5. The technology of that time made it possible to attain the equivalent of 90MPG, if the cost of electricity was 8 cents/KWH, and gasoline was $2.00/gallon, but The better fuel economy came with a $40,000 vehicle, at a time when one could purchase a Honda Civic or Chevrolet Cavalier for <$10,000. You can calculate for yourself if you want, but the interest alone on the difference would pay for all your gasoline, the cost comparison is pretty compelling.

Finally, The only people who ever said they would want to have an EV1 were the 400 or so who were allowed to lease them, but not absorb the maintenance costs.

I certainly do agree that GM dropped the ball by not pursuing electricity as an alternative fuel, but the EV1 was certainly not a viable alternative transportation solution. It was too expensive, had too little range, wouldn't work in cold climate, and cost too much to maintain. It may have been a different story if Lithium Battery technology had been more advanced at the time. But even now, for an electric vehicle to be a profitable project, the general public has to be convinced that they can get by on a 40 mile range. I believe I could live with that for my normal commute and shopping, and use my second car only when I take long trips, but I don't think most US or Canadian Citizens are willing to pay $40,000 (1998 dollars) for their ride-to-work-in vehicle.

Dickey_b
Waste Not, Want Not

reikiman
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

Richard, I got to test drive the EV-1 twice and think it was a beautiful vehicle. It's an utter shame that GM is trying to bury memory of that car e.g. by gutting the carcasses of the remaining ones, and making the institutions who have the remaining ones sign agreements to not resurrect them etc.

1. The Lithium battery was in it's infancy back then, and remained unusable and dangerous until late 2004

Have you read the ravings of Doug Korthoff? He's a former EV-1 leesee who owns a RAV4-EV and was a minor character in that movie you've probably seen ... anyway he's claiming that lithium still isn't ready today, and that only the NiMH of the style used in the EV-1 and the RAV4-EV is capable of powering an EV properly. Such as having a pack life that lasts a significant chunk of the life of the vehicle. The RAV4-EV's have had several go past 100,000 miles.

In any case, yeah, those of us using LiFePO4 are proving that lithium packs are now usable. It's possible that they still aren't suitable in a large vehicle size for the number of charge cycles that makes them viable in a regular sized vehicle. But e.g. there are at least three companies in the U.S. building medium duty trucks using LiFePO4 packs which seems testament to that chemistry being usable in large vehicles.

3. The EV1 was a 2 passenger vehicle, with a battery pack that occupied almost all the non-passenger space.

Yeah, so it's not a family car. It woulda made sense for people who aren't family minded. One of the flaws I saw in it was while the trunk was fairly sizable, due to the shape the opening to the trunk was narrow. For example I have a massage table I carry around occasionally and the massage table would not fit through the opening, and the opportunity charger also got in the way.

4. Maintenance of the vehicle was nearly twice that of a gas vehicle. (the people who leased them didn't absorb that expense, GM did)

In the movie you've no doubt seen there's a scene where they go over the comparative maintenance requirements of an EV-1 and a gas car. Did they lie or what?

I'm curious what maintenance you mean? Clearly there's no oil or spark plugs to change and just as clearly there's some kind of maintenance to perform.

5. The technology of that time made it possible to attain the equivalent of 90MPG, if the cost of electricity was 8 cents/KWH, and gasoline was $2.00/gallon

Using cost as a way to equate electricity use to miles/gallon isn't the accepted means of comparison. I went over this in a blog entry: Miles per gallon ratings with plug-in hybrid vehicles .. basically the accepted method is to convert each fuel to BTU's and compare on a BTU for BTU basis. For example the Tesla Motors people use that basis to say their Roadster gets 170 miles/gallon efficiency. And in that blog entry I show that my electric bicycle gets over 1120 MPGe.

Okay.. it's a rather practical comparison to equate $n spent on gasoline to $n on electricity and see how far each takes you. In the end I think most consumers would do the dollar-dollar comparison rather than energy-energy.

Finally, The only people who ever said they would want to have an EV1 were the 400 or so who were allowed to lease them, but not absorb the maintenance costs.

What do you say about the infamous waiting list? Or the onerous process people were put through to qualify?

I myself never got past the "hmm... great car" phase of evaluating especially as the monetary side of the deal didn't make sense for me. At the time I looked the SLA version leased for $15,000 over three years and of course that included a buncha stuff like maintenance and insurance. But spending that many $$'s and not owning a dime at the end just doesn't make sense to me. But I don't grok car leases in the first place.

- David Herron, The Long Tail Pipe, davidherron.com, 7gen.com, What is Reiki
- Electrified Electra To

richardb
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

Matt - GM wouldn't sell pink unicorns if it would take away money from other parts of their business. Nor is there any valid reason why an electric car should cost twice as much as an internal combustion engined version. It's not a conspiracy - it's just that the car companies make more money from ICE than they would from EVs and, as businesses, their job is to maximize profit.

To all,
Actually, it is the job of the CEO to maximize profit for the corporation, regardless of what anyone tells you.
During the reign of Roger B. Smith, the policy was even worse than that.... It was Roger's goal to maximize immediate profit. During the 80s, he went so far as to make it the policy of each division to offer cars at 0% financing. Well guess what, while Chevrolet was writing those 0% loans, GMAC was buying up that paper, and charging the divisions 6.5% or more. So the automotive sector was losing money, while GMs financial arm was rolling in cash. How's that for putting the screws to the auto industry.... by their own CEO.

From my point of view, Roger B. Smith was the demise of GM. During his dictatorship, there was not a single piece of engineering innovation. Engineering staff was cut in half, management rolled over to every demand of the union in an effort to make it hard for the other domestic automakers to survive. (because the settlement with the first company sets the stage for the rest.) Add that to the fact that money was drained from the divisions and put into the coffers of the financial division, and you have the the makings of bankruptcy.

Dickey_b
Waste Not, Want Not

richardb
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

David,
I'm glad you replied, to my post, and I want to say that for the most part, I agree that the EV1 was a beautiful vehicle, and I too would love to have owned one. In the two years before the vehicle was released in California, I drove many of them home from work, and for me, I felt it was the perfect solution for eventual energy independence.
Once those vehicles were out there in public hands, though, (remember, I said they were ahead of their time) problems cropped up that would probably be easier to handle these days. Example: A single Blown FET in the controller, and the repair cost was near $1000, plus the cost of flying the tech out to repair the problem. (FETS have improved tremendously since 1998). Example: Battery pack failures due to over-discharging. Yes, there were shutoff circuits to keep this from happening, but even with the warnings given to the lessees, they would still drive the vehicle at low power to keep from being towed on the California freeways. Also, GM spent thousands on each car retrofitting from the original Lead-Acid Cells to the NiMH cells, which contrary to the claims of the movie, only increased the range from 30 miles to about 55 miles. Example: This extremely heavy vehicle was supposed to use regenerative braking, and only use the friction brakes in dire emergencies, yet due to traffic conditions during rush hour, GM had to replace brake pads on some of the vehicles as many as 9 times in 3 years. They weren't just regular old disk brakes. They were electrically operated brake pads which completely disengaged from the rotor to avoid the rolling resistance inherent to typical automotive disk calipers.

None of the above examples would be a deal breaker if GM thought they could sell half a million of these vehicles. but to deploy the technical expertise to handle just these minor problems would have been an enormous drain on company assets at a time when the almighty SUV was what every soccer mom wanted in their 4 car garage.

Now, I do agree with you that using cost/KWH/mile versus cost/gallon/mile is not a very good way of comparing efficiency, I was just trying to do what a consumer would do... see how much money he would save over what period of time. My calculation does nothing to account for the huge amount of difference in pollution, even when you factor in the emissions from the electric power plant. Electric is far better for the environment. and far better for our trade balance too.

The waiting list wasn't big enough to warrant going into production, given the difference predicted MSRP, compared to an ICE equivalent.

Dickey_b
Waste Not, Want Not

rollinshultz
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

I must interject here. I have heard many arguments by people who favor bigger ICE cars saying the people won't buy small electrics but indeed the people are fickle and will buy whatever they perceive as making them look cool. Furthermore manipulating their minds about what is cool and creating a market where there was none before is as simple as making commercials and movies.
Case 1: Most Americans showed no interest in the Mini Cooper until "The Bourne Identity" after which began the "Mini Cooper" craze.
Case 2: Who even heard of the Smart car until "The Davinci code" but now you have to get on a waiting list to get one.
So when I hear lame excuses like people won't buy them I just don't buy it. The government and industry already uses phsycology and manipulative marketing and lobbying to steer things their way so we can get people to buy what's right easily enough if we can just counter the effects of the lobbies and corrupt government officials. We the consumer can be in control by simply taking an interest in being informed and not trusting any single media source but consult a diverse assortment of foreign and domestic sources to find opposing viewpoints and then using logic to make our decisions.

Rollin shultz
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Idealist who would love to go back to simpler times
Imagine a rural life like the horse and buggy days
but with broadband internet and solar electric cars

rollinshultz
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

Reikiman you said "In any case, yeah, those of us using LiFePO4 are proving that lithium packs are now usable." but in fact if the idea of EVs is to help us achieve energy independence lithium batteries are the worst idea i have heard. Lithium is even rarer and more foreign controlled than oil because all of it comes from overseas (Bolivia and Chile) and it will command a huge premium as demand increases and supply decreases. These batteries will be so expensive they will cost more than the rest of the caar altogether. Can anyone say "Don't put all of your EV eggs in one basket"? So as you see governmet and big industry jumping on board this Lithium bandwagon stop and question who will be the main recipients of the gains.

Rollin shultz
Mechanical Designer
Programmer
Change Analyst
Idealist who would love to go back to simpler times
Imagine a rural life like the horse and buggy days
but with broadband internet and solar electric cars

Dauntless
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Re: G.M. killed the electric car before, looking at the ...

Another old thread. Did you know there's much, MUCH lithium in Afghanistan? So now the antioil crowd has their own war to mindlessly support.

EV's break down. The EV1 REALLY broke down. If they could have just gotten them past warranty, GM would have made a killing on the parts and service. If noone was killed getting the cars to that point. But why do people cling to the death to these silly urban legends?

I was at an electric carshow in the People's Republic of Santa Monica, and I mentioned to some of the rabies sufferers about I think it was something like one in 2,700 Pontiac Fieros catching fire, and they were considered horribly at risk. You were far more likely to have a fire with an EV1, and THAT was safe and reliable? The reaction was 'Them's fightin' words.'

The true story of that $1 million dollars was that they expected not 1 but in fact 70 of the EV1's. 70. With these people prepared to use force to get them. And the cars had to be pristine and ready to last forever. You know the howling which would have ensued the moment one of their 'Perfect' $14,286/each cars broke down, with no parts available, and no service tech available to fix it.

Even more insane was the idea that someone in the 'Military Industrial Complex. . . .' oh, I get so sick of that nonsense getting spouted. Anytime the government did anything after the war to find a business to occupy spaces such as the one where the B29 engine was built they'd wind up dealing with a clown like Preston Tucker, who tinkered with the design with each car he built, making each of the 46 cars he built over the years (After spending more than $40 million?) in the worlds largest manufacturing plant different from the others. (His cars are often all referred to as "Prototypes." Oh wait, am I shedding light on the fact that yet another sacred cow was in fact a rat? Then there's the fact the government leased the Willow Run, Michigan plant where the B24 was built to Kaiser Frazer then abruptedly sold it out from under them. Take away the occasional Tootsie Roll setting up shop in Tucker's plant and you have quite a list of FAILURES by the War Assets Administration.

Oh well, I guess I've put up enough true informaton that people won't want to believe and will argue with. And that's what's really important, you know. Keeping the arguing going while nothing gets done.

WHo dares, WINS!!!!

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