Really Creepy Ads Killed The Electric Car

I watched the Who Killed The Electric Car documentary last night and was thunderstruck by the “ad” that GM made when California made them make electric cars against their will. If you want to sell a car, you put a hot person in it and shoot them skidding at high speeds across desert plains. This was like trailer for a sequel to The Ring.

Elongated shadows of a family spill across across pavement at a canted angle while a spectral chorus moans in the background. “How does it go without sparks or explosions?” asks the voice over. Right when it says “explosions,” the camera moves in on the baby carriage shadow. Then it fades to black, and when it fades back in, near where the baby carriage was there’s an explosiony-looking pock-mark on the ground.

You don’t have to have a PhD psychology to figure out that they were trying to scare consumers away from buying electric cars.

GM EV1 TV Commercial 1 [YouTube]
Who Killed the Electric Car? [Netflix]

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  1. Yoko Broke Up The Beatles says:

    A great documentary that, shockingly, doesn’t lay ALL the blame on the big auto makers. Yes, some of it falls our our shoulders, the consumers, too.

    I mostly still blame the auto makers, though…

    • dragonprism says:

      @Yoko Broke Up The Beatles: Why? If there isn’t a demand for that car, why should the companies be FORCED to produce it? Granted, this advertisement was a rather underhanded way to enhance the lack of demand, but there just wasn’t that much demand for the car to begin with.

      • BfloAnonChick says:

        @dragonprism: Except that when you watch this movie, it becomes very clear that GM was doing everything it could to reduce demand (scary commercials, limited geographic availability, limited production, etc.). Even so, customers wanted it. There was a crazy long waiting list for the EV1. You couldn’t buy one, only lease it, and when the leases expired, GM took them all back, despite the best efforts of the owners to keep them. Some owners were offering crazy-high ridiculous sums of money to be allowed to keep them, and GM repo’d anyway, while crying about “lack of demand”.

        I do love GM, they’ve made every car I’ve ever owned, but this movie definitely made me love them less.

        • nighttrain2007 says:

          @BfloAnonChick: I don’t think GM would have to do anything to reduce demand. No one wants them. They’re piddling little cars with very little power. They may be popular with the ‘green’ crowd but no sane person would actively look for one.

          I’ve ridden in a Prius before and I haven’t been that uncomfortable in a car since a buddy bought a Ford Festiva back in college years ago. Both of them may be good for a go-cart but not something I would take on the road

          • Jim Topoleski says:

            @nighttrain2007: No one wants them because the automakers have the US population convinced bigger is better because its cheaper for them to produce trucks that dont fall under emissions and milage mandates.

            And if your uncomfortable in a PRIUS, you have some issues. That isnt even a small car. Its actually kinda big compared to what people drive in Europe and Japan.

          • shepd says:

            @nighttrain2007:

            Actually, the EV1 produced as much torque, if not more, than the average gas powered car of similar size.

            “The EV1 could accelerate from 0-60 mph (0-100 km/h) in the eight-second range and from 0-50 mph (0-80 km/h) in 6.3 seconds.”

            [en.wikipedia.org]

            Having been in a Prius myself, it is a much nicer car in every way than the Corolla I drive to work every day. It drove extremely well and there was no reason I’d be worried. I wouldn’t buy one, myself, since the Corolla has similar gas mileage and is cheaper due to the fact the Prius is a hybrid, so you’re carrying two cars in one. But that’s just economics. If you had money to spare, it’s a lovely car.

            Back to the EV1, it also had some other features which would make it popular. For example, aluminum frame means no rust (who cares in Cali, but up north the salt on the roads eats cars alive), ABS (at the time this was not standard), self-sealing tires, and was extremely quiet due to being properly aerodynamically designed.

            The 160 mile range and standard 120 volt outlet charger meant the car could handle commutes as long as 1.5 hours. With Li-Ion technology, I bet the car would have a 400 – 500 mile range, no sweat. With that range, you could even use it for a cross country trip, assuming you actually stop at a motel to sleep at and remember to plug the car in overnight.

            I’m not an environmentalist by any means, but the EV1 was an incredible vehicle and if not offering it (or an alternative to it) is what causes GM to go bust, then THANK GOD, the invisible hand is actually working.

            • David Brodbeck says:

              @shepd: Some quibbles:

              Aluminum actually will corrode pretty readily when exposed to salt. This is why they don’t use salt on airport runways. When I lived in Michigan the aluminum rear bumper on my Volvo 240 crystallized at the mounting points, fractured, and fell off.

              From what I hear the 160 mile range of the EV1 was rather exaggerated — it assumed absolutely ideal conditions. Also, I don’t know what hotels you stay at, but I’ve never been to one that had outlets in the parking lot…

              • shepd says:

                @David Brodbeck:

                Guess it’s a Canadian (ghetto motel?) thing. A lot of motels here have an outlet for your block heater on each unit. Not many people use the block heater (unless you go WAY North) but most motels have them, perhaps because they’re older.

                Obviously, hotels generally don’t have them. But, a lot of hotels have underground parking, so with a nice little chat with the manager, you might be able to score a spot near a utility plug anyways. Especially since a lot of underground parking is paid parking.

                Maybe the 160 miles is exaggerated, but I’m certain its more than possible now, with the right batteries and the same sort of engineering put into the EV1.

                Salt eats through aluminum? :( Oh well. It absolutely kills cars here. My 7 year old (steel) car has rust holes you could fit a penny through already. If I ever win the lottery, I’d buy a Delorean, just so my car doesn’t melt away. Unless it wrecks up stainless steel too…

              • ackquarius says:

                @David Brodbeck: plus there weren’t as many charging stations.

          • Apeweek says:

            @nighttrain2007:

            Everybody claiming there was no demand for this car should address the evidence, and tell us why 5,000 people on a waiting list doesn’t matter. Demand is about more than just what you want. I would never get on a motorcycle, for instance, but that has nothing to do with the demand for them.

            And tell us what “very little power” means. The EV1 could accelerate and cruise just like any other car on the freeway.

            • ackquarius says:

              @Apeweek: the waiting list was for people who could afford the ev1. Now there are rich people waiting in line to lease a hydrogen car (powered by water).

          • shadowkahn says:

            @nighttrain2007:

            Piddling little cars with enough power to out-accelerate a Viper. . Or did you mean that the Viper is underpowered at 500hp/500lb-ft?

        • David Brodbeck says:

          @BfloAnonChick: The EV1 was popular as a green toy for celebrities and other people who wanted to project a green image, but it wasn’t really a practical vehicle for most people. Electric cars just don’t have the range to be useful to most people, especially if they don’t live in sunny California where temperatures are mild.

          I remember, when the EV1 was around, a reporter asked one of GM’s engineers what the range would be like on a winter day in Michigan, with the heater running. He shrugged and said, “Maybe 15 miles.”

          Let’s also not forget that at least a third of Americans don’t own their own homes, and so lack a garage to charge the thing in at night.

          • Apeweek says:

            @David Brodbeck:

            Range is a relative thing. Most people, on average, drive under 30 miles per day. Be careful when speaking for “most people.”

            The “15 miles” comment is baloney. The EV1 had a 1.5 KW watt heating system. Full blast, that’s going to use just a few percent of a 30KWH battery pack.

            Incidentally, I drive an electric car in Michigan, a very cold state.

            • David Brodbeck says:

              @Apeweek: Yes, but the heating system is only part of the problem. The other part is that batteries have dramatically less capacity in the cold. When you get in a car that’s been in -10 F air all night the battery capacity is only two thirds what it would be at 70 F.

              • Apeweek says:

                @David Brodbeck:

                You didn’t pay attention to the part where I said “I drive an electric car in Michigan, a very cold state.”

                Here’s why cold doesn’t matter, no matter the battery technology:

                Overnight is when I charge the car. So in the morning, the batteries are toasty warm.

                The large battery pack is also a large thermal mass, meaning it changes temperature slowly. This is why coming home from work is not typically a big problem, either.

                Now, let’s say the batteries do get cold, and the car is sluggish. Driving pulls thousands of watts from the batteries. Drive a little while, and they warm up. Problem solved!

            • David Brodbeck says:

              @Apeweek: Oops, read the graph wrong. The capacity at -10 F is *half* what it would be at 70 F, not two thirds.

              So, let’s figure it out. 30 kWh battery pack, divided by 150 miles range, means they’re figuring 200 watt-hours per mile. At 60 mph a 1.5 kW heater uses 25 watt-hours per mile. And our 30 kWh pack is only good for 15 kWh in these temperatures. So the new range is 66 miles. That’s assuming a brand new battery pack, no snow to add drag, ideal traffic conditions, etc. Better than 15 miles, but still pretty short compared to the claimed 150 miles. I’d be in trouble if I tried it on my 70 mile commute. And I’d probably freeze my ass off since the EV-1′s heater wasn’t designed for temperatures below freezing.

              • Apeweek says:

                @David Brodbeck:

                Your math depends on the assumption that the batteries start cold and stay cold.

                BZZZZT!

                • HeyYouGuyss says:

                  @Apeweek: (and @ all):

                  I think we’re missing the point by comparing a car from many years ago to the most current technology. GM (or whoever killed the car) didn’t rob us of the end-all-be-all of electric car technology, they robbed us of innovation. By taking such an amazing idea off the road, I’m sure they set us back by decades. Do you honestly believe that such problems as battery life (currently addressed in the self-recharging hybrid cars) and charge distance/strength wouldn’t have been addressed and solved by now?

                  Can you imagine what we COULD be driving if we’d had a working electric car as a stepping-stone?

                  • David Brodbeck says:

                    @HeyYouGuyss: You say that as if crushing the EV-1 also crushed all the knowledge that went into building it.

                    We have hybrids now. We have pure electric cars now. Ending the EV-1 program didn’t stop those things from appearing on the market.

              • shadowkahn says:

                @David Brodbeck:

                You plug the car in at night, right? Stick a battery heater that’s powered by the AC connection on there, and your battery will be nice and toasty in the morning. Problem solved.

        • ackquarius says:

          @BfloAnonChick: they could have kept the technology and created a prototype just in case so when the prius came out, they would be able to compete.

      • Apeweek says:

        @dragonprism:

        I’m not for forcing anyone to do anything, but the evidence is that there WAS demand for the car. GM had a waiting list with at least 5000 people on it waiting for a car to lease. That’s more cars than many conventional models sell in California.

        This number would have been higher if GM seriously tried to market the car! It also would have been higher if the car was actually for sale (it was lease-only.)

        • David Brodbeck says:

          @Apeweek: 5,000 cars isn’t a lot. That’s a niche number, and it’s really hard to make mass production costs pay off with such a small number of sales. For comparison, Ferrari made over 7,000 Testarossas and it’s still considered a fairly exclusive car.

          • Apeweek says:

            @David Brodbeck:

            That’s not a nationwide number. The EV1 was only available in a very limited area. 5000 is more than the number of Corvettes sold in the same cities the EV1 was available in.

            Try again.

            • David Brodbeck says:

              @Apeweek: The Corvette is still a niche car. It also costs $50,000, which is probably a fair approximation of what it takes to make a profit at those kinds of small production numbers. I’d guess the market for a $50,000 subcompact is probably not extensive. Tesla only expects to sell 1,500 electric cars this year.

              • Apeweek says:

                @David Brodbeck: @David Brodbeck:

                Okay, the Corvette is a niche car. Doubtless the first few widely marketed EVs will be niche cars as well, and priced a bit on the high side. Sure. How is this not a reason to sell the EV1?

                Are you telling me there’s no market or profit margin on Corvettes?

                • David Brodbeck says:

                  @Apeweek: Sure there’s a profit margin on Vettes. There’s one on the Tesla, too. But they’re toys for rich people. Not many people buy one to commute to work in, because it doesn’t make financial sense.

                  Given the choice between a $14,000 gasoline car that can be used for commuting *and* long trips, and a $50,000 electric car that can only be used for short commutes, the electric is going to be a hard sell except with people who want to show off their green status.

                  • Apeweek says:

                    @David Brodbeck:
                    @HeyYouGuyss:

                    Good points. $50,000 EVs are just a stepping stone. Nobody is pretending these will be mass-market cars, but they are an essential brick in the road to cheap EVs.

                    The electric car I drive, here: [evalbum.com]

                    was a “Jet Electra Van”, made from 1977 to 1981. For its era, it was a very impressive car – it does freeway speeds, accelerates like a normal car, it got a 100-mile range on the test track (practical range is 50 miles), and it has plenty of useful cargo space. It was one of the very few factory-produced EVs. Brand new, in 1981, it sold for just $7995. That’s what mass production can do. If it was possible in 1981, it can be done again.

                    If fact, some small entrepreneurs are already doing it again. EVs for $10,000:

                    [www.alanizcorporation.com]

                    • David Brodbeck says:

                      @Apeweek: I looked at one of these at the Detroit Auto Show a few years ago:
                      [www.zapworld.com]

                      Looked it over, sat in it. Thought it was pretty cool, although the interior fit-and-finish was pretty crude, like someone slapped it together in their garage. It was only rated to go 40 mph for 25 miles, but I thought hey, it would still be good to drive to/from the park-and-ride. Then I found out it cost $12,000, and I just couldn’t see spending that on something so limited and so sloppily assembled. I could drive one of my $2000 beaters quite a while before I burned $10,000 worth of gas.

                    • Apeweek says:

                      @David Brodbeck:

                      I am not a Zap fan. These cars do not represent the entire EV industry.

                      As for how much you would save on gas, well, I wish I was making this argument while gas was still over $4/gallon.

                      Think about this: one of the best arguments for encouraging EVs in the general marketplace is the effect it will have on gasoline prices. Petroleum companies will have to cut into their record profits to give us gasoline prices competitive with electricity for EVs. If they don’t, they will slowly lose market share to electric vehicles.

                      This is the reason big oil will do whatever they have to, and spread whatever disinformation they have to, in order to keep these vehicles away from consumers.

                    • David Brodbeck says:

                      @Apeweek: Keep in mind, I’m not anti-EV. I just don’t see them as practical right now. They need an order-of-magnitude improvement in battery capacity to become useful. Fortunately plug-in hybrids offer a practical stepping stone between our current cars and pure EVs.

                      The main reason I’m arguing this point is because I see a lot of conspiracy theories surrounding the EV-1. I really don’t think GM killed it as part of some oil company conspiracy. I think there were plenty of economic reasons for them to pull the plug, as it were. It was far ahead of other EVs at the time, but looked at objectively it really wasn’t that good a car. Until EVs can be sold as cars, without any asterisks and disclaimers, they’re not going to be mass-market.

                    • Apeweek says:

                      @David Brodbeck:

                      “…looked at objectively it really wasn’t that good a car”

                      And of course, you are nothing but objective :-)

                      How about motorcycles? I see plenty of asterisks and disclaimers there. Why are they for sale? They are certainly inferior to cars.

                      The answer of course, is that they are not directly comparable to common cars – they have their own unique advantages to those who love them.

                      This is why EVs should be widely sold.

                      Gas cars have disclaimers and asterisks, too – you have just become used to the drawbacks. If you had grown up with EVs instead of ICEs, gasoline vehicles would be derided as polluting, noisy, and complicated. And what’s this about not being able to fuel at home? I have to drive to a service station??

                      Wherever I drive my own EV, I am surrounded by people who ask me about it, and are amazed at the vehicle. I see demand for cars like mine every day.

                      If GM had found the guts to really sell their car, and real EV research had continued, we’d be in a different world today.

                    • Zapfino_the_Magnificent says:

                      @Apeweek:
                      The other reason they wouldn’t sell the car, which is one people don’t go into, is that it would then certainly fall into their competitor’s hands, where it would be reverse-engineered. By selling the car (which cost them about $80,000 each to make, it should be noted) they would essentially have handed billions of dollars of R&D to every other carmaker on the planet. If the EV could have made the General money, they would have sold them anyway – it would take years for a Toyota rip-off to appear. But realistically, even greenies would balk at a $90,000 car with the interior and performance of a $9,000 car.

                      And Tesla Motors is not making money or cars at the moment, despite their optimistic press releases. The company is losing money so fast, and the cars are developing such significant technical problems, that they are not currently eligible for a government assistance grant – the government wants them to declare bankruptcy instead. The reason every major manufacturer (this is outside of the states, as well) avoided full-electric motoring is that they knew the costs involved, and knew that it wasn’t worth it. Elon Musk has become a poor man learning that for himself.

                      The real future of green motoring is with hydrogen cars. Whether fuel-cell or hydrogen combustion, they combine the best parts of gasoline motoring with the most significant advantages of electric cars. They are also cheaper to develop, and involve more realistic infrastructure and lifestyle changes.

                    • Apeweek says:

                      @Zapfino_the_Magnificent:

                      Re: competitor’s hands… the drivetrain was actually engineered by acpropulsion.com, who sells the technology to anyone who wants it. Other parts of the car would be covered by patents.

                      Re: costing $80,000 per vehicle – I’ve heard this before, but this number is pulled from thin air, and includes development costs. Every new car has development costs (which are normally recouped over decades), but you don’t see Ford, for example, adding the $6 billion development costs of the Mondeo to every car.

                      Re: “…If the EV could have made the General money, they would have sold them anyway.” The issue is not really whether it would make money – it’s that a popular EV would steal sales from more profitable cars. EVs last longer and need fewer parts – which is great for us, but not for the carmakers.

                      Re: “…And Tesla Motors is not making money or cars at the moment.” Tesla has indeed been delivering cars. And EVERY automaker is losing money at the moment. If Tesla can survive this economy, they will be miraculous indeed.

                      Re: Hydrogen cars. This is so misguided, it’s beyond wrong. A fuel cell car *IS* an electric car. It even has batteries, because the FC can’t make enough current to accelerate by itself. So take an EV, then add a big heavy fuel cell and H2 tank on top. How could this possibly be “cheaper to develop”? In fact, these cars are both heavier and more expensive than a comparable EV. (Example: the GM Sequel FCV weighs twice as much as the Tesla, despite comparable driving ranges.)

                      Next, since there is no source of free hydrogen on earth, energy must be expended to get hydrogen. It in fact takes twice the electricity to move an H2 car the same distance as the same electricity in a battery!

                      The only possible advantage of H2, fast fueling, is negated by both the near-impossibility of transporting hydrogen, and the existence of new fast-charge batteries like lithium titanate. These batteries, which can charge in 10 minutes, are already being used in EV racing.

                      Re: infrastructure. The infrastructure for EVs already exists. It’s called “electric outlets.” Where’s my hydrogen filling station?

                    • e.varden says:

                      @Apeweek:

                      Lest we forget: It was GM that sabotaged the Los Angeles Public Transit Plan many decades ago.

                      “What’s good for General Motors is Good for the Nation.” – unquote.

                      Karma is a bitch, innit?

          • shadowkahn says:

            @David Brodbeck:

            Not if you consider that it was lease-only (and leasing a car is oftentimes financially insane) (especially in this case where you had to sign a no-buy agreement that did not let you buy the car at the end of the lease, meaning you were guaranteed to be tossing money away to get nothing at the end, and was only available in California or Arizona.

            That they got 5,000 people still interested in such a loser deal points to the interest the public had in driving these vehicles.

        • David Brodbeck says:

          @Apeweek: Also, since GM was losing money on every EV1 they made, there wasn’t much of an incentive for them to market it. They’re not in business to be a charity.

          • Apeweek says:

            @David Brodbeck:

            No they were not losing money on every car. The car WAS NOT EVEN FOR SALE.

            I find it hard to believe they couldn’t have sold every EV1 made at premium prices. The few Toyota RAV 4 EVs from the same period that did wind up on the market now sell for several times their original purchase price when they show up on eBay.

            And every overpriced Tesla Roadster made has been snapped up.

            It’s pretty hard to make an assertion about losing money on every sale, when you’re not even trying to sell cars.

      • David in Brasil says:

        @dragonprism: I’ll tell you why they should be FORCED (emphasis yours) to produce electric cars. For the same reason that the Brasilian government induced carmakers and gasoline stations to offer ethanol in the 1990s. Now, Brazil is totally self-sufficient with respect to oil imports. Most cars offer flex-fuel engines. Ethanol is available at every gasoline station you see. Yes, Brasil has petroleum reserves, but the use of ethanol has greatly decreased the country’s dependence on petroleum and petroleum-producing states who are not our friends. Brazil’s president Lula isn’t FORCED to hold hands with the Saudi king every time they meet as Bush was. Sometimes a country’s greater good is achieved only by long-term planning and government intervention, as the free market, acting in its own short term self-interest, will not take us to where we need to be.

        No, I am not a socialist. I just look around me and see how well this has worked. If the US would adopt similar planning, it would be in a much better position in 15 years. As it stands, I doubt that 2024 will look much different than 1994.

      • ackquarius says:

        @dragonprism: like the prius, there wasn’t a demand in the first place, but after the first year, there was a line. same thing with windows xp. people hated it at first, but loved it more until now.

  2. dancing_bear says:

    The shadows remind me of the “nuclear shadows” left on buildings in Hiroshima.

    • Phydeaux says:

      @dancing_bear: I got the same goosebumps feeling from this commercial as I did from whenever I had to change plans in Denver’s International Airport.

      Gross, GM.

    • dakotad555 says:

      @dancing_bear: That is exactly what I was thinking! Talk about a non-starter of a commercial: reminiscent of nuclear holocaust with only a short glimpse of the actual car at the very end. Seriously messed up.

  3. JayDeEm says:

    The voice in the commercial sounds a bit too much like Zelda Rubinstein from the Poltergeist movies.

    “This car is clean.”

    Of course the last line of the commercial is “It’s here…”

    hmmm…

  4. cpt.snerd says:

    The creepy voice and music already turned me off…
    I understand that ad styles may have changed since 1996, but who cares so much about the “how does this work” rather than the “how can it help me/save me money”?

    • madanthony says:

      @cpt.snerd:

      Who cares more about how does it work than how can it help me/save me money? Umm, the kind of people who would lease the first electric car?

      The EV1 was only available by lease, was super-expensive, and had something like a 50 mile range. The only people who would be interested and could afford it are are early adopters and very serious environmentalists. It wouldn’t save them money or make their lives easier, so it had to appeal on technology and novelty.

      • Shadowman615 says:

        @madanthony: If you’re accurate that’s actually a longer range than the Volt, believe it or not. They finally came out with a more affordable electric car, and it’s basically complete nonsense.

        • David Brodbeck says:

          @Shadowman615: The difference is the Volt has an engine, so when you exceed the battery range you can keep going. With the EV1 you’d have to have it towed home.

      • Landru says:

        @madanthony: And people who drove them loved them. GM killed them to prolong the internal combustion engine.

  5. carefreeamit says:

    I really wonder how after such a huge spike in gas prices, none of the states have come up with a similar requirement. I had read some folks converted their cars to electric ones and I though more people will follow it and somehow auto companies will be forced to make electric cars. Now that gas prices are low nobody is talking about gas prices. Are we really this short sighted?

    • NotATool says:

      @carefreeamit: Yes, we really are that short-sighted. Several months ago when gas was $4/gallon and the sky was falling, green was all the rage. Now that gas is half that, people are content to go back to their old habits. Sad but true.

    • Doooom says:

      @carefreeamit: I manage a convenience store, and let me answer: yes, yes we are that shortsighted. When the gas shortage hit and our prices neared $4/gal, half of the people were screaming that the car manufacturers needed to make more hybrids and alternative fuel cars while the other half told us the government was going to shut us down for price gouging, and that they heard about it on the radio (nevermind that we were losing money on every gallon of gas we sold).

      The minute prices dropped again they hopped back into their F-150s and started saying “Man, I hope those prices don’t go back up again.”

      Actual quote, when gas prices topped $1.50 again: “This is ridiculous. The government’s gonna have to do something about this.”

  6. shepd says:

    I kind of liked it.

    Then again, I also enjoyed Koyaanisqatsi. YMM(will?)V.

  7. HFC says:

    Carol Channing did sound a little creepy in that commercial.

  8. econobiker says:

    I am guessing they meant “sparks and explosions” in the descriptive way of a 4 cycle engine versus dangerous sparking and exploding but based on the above descriptons they slanted it to the danger idea.

    Of course auto advertisers never have been entirely able or clued in. I remember the aborted (and less than 2000 sold nation-wide) Lincoln Blackwood -a rich, old-foagie, horsey-set, golf playing man’s truck if there ever was one- being advertised in a commercial with a night club dj spinning records on its tailgate outside of a hiphop alternative night club. Epic fail = <2000 sold and cancelation of the model.

    • Doooom says:

      @econobiker: One of my friends’ parents bought one of those. We took it for a hell-raising trip through some forest-service roads and across a couple of creeks. Scared the hell out of my friend once he realized how much damage he could end up doing to it.

  9. Borax-Johnson says:

    It made me either want to buy one right away or drink a whole bottle of drain cleaner. I can’t decide which to do first.

  10. theblackdog says:

    I looked at the other three commercials as well, the second and third one looked like fun. However, the fourth commercial was almost as creepy as the first one since they used the whole possessed appliances angle.

  11. Chris Walters says:

    @undefined: That is the most intentionally self-destructive commercial I’ve ever seen. Actually, I guess it’s the *only* self-destructive commercial I’ve seen. Amazing.

  12. madfrog says:

    Did you notice that the Shadow that it by itself, away from the family, looks like the Devil? Kinda creepy if you ask me.

  13. HappyCthulhu says:

    Nothing like having shadows of incinerated people from a nuclear explosion to say buy this car.

  14. t0ph says:

    Did anyone kind of feel like that commercial could have easily been a commercial for sort of cancerous ‘silent killer’ or not wearing seatbelts or such? Just lay down a different voiceover a voila’.

  15. Eryn DeLille Cobb says:

    LOL I think I need to take a bath now; that commercial contaminated my soul.

  16. Closed captioning provided by Homerjay says:

    Is that Tangina???

  17. Anonymous says:

    I assume this is addressed in the movie, but why would the automakers want to kill the car? If they were the ones producing it, wouldn’t they only stand to gain from its increased popularity? Why shoot themselves in the foot even if it was only a niche market?

    • Apeweek says:

      @NeroliNemo:

      This is an often asked question, and I think there are a couple of reasons. First, EVs represent a large shift in the car landscape, which could potentially reorder the industry. If you’re already an industry leader, there’s no reason or desire to make that leap. Especially when the change would require large, expensive changes in your factories, service centers, parts business, and dealerships.

      Secondly, EVs have the potential to be much longer lived, with a far reduced need for replacement parts (aside from batteries, but that one is being solved, too.) Electric motors have just one moving part – they never need tuneups, oil changes, filters, coolant, or in fact any regular maintenance at all. I personally drive a 28-year-old electric car that still has all its original drivetrain parts, none of which have ever needed service or replacement.

      That’s a lot of service-related business, and planned obsolescence business out the window. An successful EV would replace sales of more profitable cars.

    • jimconsumer says:

      @NeroliNemo: Perhaps the fact that GM was losing tens of thousands of dollars on every vehicle? The EV1 cost far more to produce than anyone would have paid.

      • Apeweek says:

        @jimconsumer:

        Every new vehicle loses money. Every new vehicle costs hundreds of millions or billions to develop. These costs are designed to be recouped over decades.

        The Ford Mondeo cost about 6 billion to develop. Yet nobody pretends this causes the car to “lose tens of thousands on every vehicle.”

        Of course, the accounting can be spun this way, to make the car look like a money loser. It really comes down to the commitment the car maker wishes to make to the car.

        • David Brodbeck says:

          @Apeweek: Well, sure, but the EV-1 was never going to sell in the same kind of numbers the Mondeo does. It was the equivalent of a car with a 5 gallon gas tank that took eight hours to fill.

          • Apeweek says:

            @David Brodbeck:

            As I said, the way development costs are treated relates precisely to the commitment that automaker makes.

            I believe the demonstrated demand, in spite of the effort to NOT sell cars that GM displayed, means the market for this car would have surpassed expectations.

            Remember, GM owned the patents for NIMH batteries at this point, and could have made them cheaply – the inventor of NIMH, Stanley Ovshinsky, was quoted at the time as saying the battery technology could be manufactured cheaply.

            Besides, development costs are water under the bridge. They don’t keep going up when you sell more cars.

            The only way to *never* make that money back, in fact, is to CRUSH ALL YOUR CARS.

            • David Brodbeck says:

              @Apeweek: My guess is GM looked at the limited sales potential of the EV-1, and decided that it would cost more to provide service and support than they would recoup by selling the cars. Remember, when a company sells a car, they’re committing to stock spares for it for 15 years, perform recalls on any safety issues, etc.

              • Apeweek says:

                @David Brodbeck:

                Except that EVs require far less service and support than typical cars.

                Unlike GM, Ford and Toyota DID sell a number of their EVs at the close of California’s program, and there is no evidence of a service catastrophe that I can see. Worst case, you DON’T CRUSH a few of your cars so you have some spare parts to scavenge.

                In fact Ford charges a premium rate for service to the owners of these vehicles. Why you think this would be a money loser is puzzling.

                • David Brodbeck says:

                  @Apeweek: GM had already had problems with them catching fire. It’s possible they were afraid future use would uncover other design flaws that they would be forced to fix under recall.

                  Also, unlike Toyota’s offering, which was based on an existing car, the EV-1 was a clean-sheet design that shared almost nothing with other GM cars. That meant it had a lot of parts unique to it. Toyota probably was mostly stocking parts that were used in gasoline RAV4s as well.

                  • Apeweek says:

                    @David Brodbeck:

                    There was no “fire problem” with the EV1. No EV1s burned. What is your source for this info? You may be confusing it with the Chrysler GEM, which had some battery charger issues.

                    If GM decided to crush every car that might be recalled, there’s a pretty large list before we even get to the EV1.

                    Clean sheet or no, maybe NOT CRUSHING a few cars might preserve a few parts for repairs. Just sayin’.

                  • Apeweek says:

                    @David Brodbeck:

                    OK, I looked this up, one first generation EV1 did have a charger-related fire. GM fixed the charger port to prevent it happening again. Sorry, I hadn’t read about this when I answered you.

                    In my defense, that was not a problem with the car, it was a charger problem. And it only happened once.

  18. jmndos says:

    I dont have sound at work so I wasn’t actually sure what the hell they were selling.

    You should be able to tell from a good commercial, with no sound, what is being sold….

  19. FuryOfFirestorm says:

    I thought the Stonecutters killed the electric car! (and made Steve Guttenberg a star!)

  20. FuryOfFirestorm says:

    I blame ‘video’…killing the ‘radio star’ didn’t satisfy his taste for murder, and I fear Teri Garr may be next!

  21. FuryOfFirestorm says:

    Anyone who’s played the God of War video games will recognize the voice as Linda Hunt, who won an Oscar in the mid 80′s for playing a man (and not in a “Boys Don’t Cry” way).

  22. valarmorghulis says:

    He is a man of honor. He is a man of action. He is a man of duty…
    Here comes, Dr. Tran

  23. rixatrix says:

    This is the cheapest commercial ever made. Seriously, I bet they just sent out a couple of interns and got the receptionist to do the voice work over the stock photos and mini-model of the car. I doubt they even tried to make this commercial scary – because I doubt they even tried at all. Lame.

  24. Coopon says:

    And they didn’t sell oodles of electric cars from that ad? Shocking. People should have wanted to buy them just to see what they looked like, since they only showed a tiny bit of the car. It would be like a mystery present….you wouldn’t know exactly what you were going to get until you went to buy one.

    Was that Linda Hunt?

  25. ThaneQue says:

    Batteries, batteries, batteries. The original all electric cars had batteries that ran down the center of the vehicle (for weight distribution). Given a daily commute that would cycle these batteries, they were estimated to have a life of at most 3 years. In the mean time they would have same problem as modern batteries have. Today you might get 150 miles, but in 6 months you get 120, and then in 1 year you’re only getting 80.

    How much does it cost to replace the bank of batteries? I recall an estimate of 3000.

    Hybrids are a better choice today. When the battery technology catches up, THEN electric cars may work for the masses. Ultra-capacitors look pretty promising.

    • RStui says:

      @ThaneQue: If you’d watched the documentary, you would note that batteries were one of the things they investigated.

      And a new type of battery, which could run for much longer and was much lighter, albeit a little more expensive, was developed…and bought up. Never to be heard from again.

      I’m not into conspiracies, but there was a lot more going on than “lack of demand.”

      • David Brodbeck says:

        @RStui: I’m sure expense had something to do with it. High-capacity batteries are expensive; that’s why the Tesla costs over $100,000. If GM put out a small electric car that cost that much everyone would laugh at them.

    • Apeweek says:

      @ThaneQue:

      You’re speaking about lead-acid batteries – which is 100-year-old technology. Much better batteries existed even in the EV-1s time, and they certainly do exist today.

      Lithium Titanate batteries, for example – which are already being used in EV racing, are capable of lasting hundreds of thousands of miles in an EV – the life of the car, in other words – and they can charge in as little as 10 minutes. This technology is ready for EVs right now.

      • David Brodbeck says:

        @Apeweek: The problem is it’s hideously expensive. The lithium battery for my laptop costs $130. Scale that up and it’s easy to see why a Tesla Roadster costs $100,000. Unless the price comes way, way down, electric cars aren’t going to come close to delivering the same value for money as gasoline-powered cars.

        • Apeweek says:

          @David Brodbeck:

          Cost is a much more flexible thing than you may realize. Consider a fully mature battery technology, lead-acid. My own electric car, which is quite old, uses a pack of 16 large batteries which cost me about $800 to replace every 20,000 miles. That’s just 4 cents per mile (the electricity is just 2 cents per mile.) Those two costs added together are much cheaper than gasoline, even cheap gasoline.

          The more advanced battery technologies are expensive, but there’s every reason to believe costs will get down to the lead-acid level with time and increased demand.

          Remember, you wouldn’t be typing on your sub-$1000 PC if nobody had bought the $10000 PCs of the 1980s.

          The point is, this process has to start. We need EVs for sale in the general marketplace before prices will even begin to come down.

          • David Brodbeck says:

            @Apeweek: Sure, but you have to figure in the initial purchase cost, too, which is significant.

          • Justifan says:

            @Apeweek:

            actually there is no such reason. i remember seeing a comparitive progress graph once, battery advancement is nothing on the order of computing power. there is no moores law of batteries, its advancement in fact is rather slow.

            ev’s already exist in ways, there are golf carts, and hybrids, if those dono’t drive battery technology nothing will. but the real driver is the electronics industry. a laptop that can run many more hours is whats everyones after. and electronics firms have no stake in either oil or cars. so the fact that they haven’t developed a magical solution says that the film was mostly bullsh*t

            • RvLeshrac says:

              @Justifan:

              Why drive laptop battery prices down when you can charge $130 for a new battery and have people pay it? Keep in mind that you can buy a Toshiba/Sony/HP-branded battery for $130-$200, or you can buy a Generic Manufacturer battery for half that. In addition, EVERY OTHER laptop has a COMPLETELY different battery design – the manufacturing costs don’t drop if you have to produce a new battery every two months.

              Golf Cart batteries are already inexpensive, as are standard car batteries. Keep in mind that your standard car battery lasts *substantially* longer than any other consumer-level battery.

              Battery advancement isn’t the key here – the key is *battery design stagnation*. The reason car batteries are relatively cheap is because you use the *same* battery in *every* car, and can manufacture millions of them at one time, when the components are cheap.

              If car manufacturers produce ten vehicle models, and each one uses a custom battery design, that’s where you have a problem. Any gas-powered vehicle which requires a different shape or size battery suffes from the same problem – the battery is markedly more expensive to replace.

            • Apeweek says:

              @Justifan:

              What are you telling me? You’re not making sense.

              You’re trying to tell me batteries will not get better and more affordable, but in fact they clearly have. My very first laptop computer had a very expensive NiCd battery, that didn’t last very long. My present computer has a Li-Ion battery, for the same or less money as that first NiCd battery I used, but it lasts a lot longer.

              I didn’t claim that battery research progresses at the rate computing power does. I doubt *anything* else does.

              Nevertheless, all technology, including battery technology, improves with time. And a lot of new battery technology is out there that just got off the ground a few years ago. It is an exciting time for batteries. Google “Altairnano”, “FireFly Batteries”, “EESTOR”, just to name a few.

              My own (very old) electric car uses lead-acid batteries, and even these have gotten cheaper. I can now buy my 16 deep-discharge batteries from Sam’s Club for under $50 each – that’s my whole battery pack for under $800, which lasts me 20,000 miles (4 cents per mile.)

              Re: “…bullsh*t “

              If you want accuse somebody, or some documentary of “bullsh*t”, stop spewing it yourself. Otherwise, nobody will take you seriously.

              • David Brodbeck says:

                @Apeweek: You’re trying to tell me batteries will not get better and more affordable, but in fact they clearly have.

                They do, but very slowly. I ran across quite an impressive example of that by accident, today.

                This electric car, from 1908, had a 100 mile range:
                [content.lib.washington.edu]

                The EV-1′s range was 150 miles. So in 89 years, the range of electric cars increased by 50 miles.

                • Apeweek says:

                  @David Brodbeck:

                  Again, we are in an era of great advancements in battery technology.

                  Range is not the metric to use. I can, after all, build an EV with a 1000-mile range by filling a truck with batteries, no matter the battery technology. Rather, 100 miles makes a good minimum practical range, so it’s always been a target for EVs in every era.

                  Rather, it’s about energy density, and relative cost per mile. Sadly, it’s the Chinese that are winning this race. EV hobbyists lately have been using this Chinese battery, which costs about a tenth of other Li-Ion batteries:

                  [everspring.net]

                  This is the same battery technology used in the soon-arriving $20000 BYD electric car that Warren Buffett is bringing over from China:

                  [www.autobloggreen.com]

                  Another exciting battery technology is the FireFly battery – a redesign of the old lead-acid battery, for a quantum leap in energy density and battery life. This is an exciting technology because these batteries can be made very cheaply, in the same factories that make lead-acid batteries today:

                  [www.autobloggreen.com]

                  And another exciting battery is the Altairnano. These batteries can charge in just 10 minutes, and last for hundreds of thousands of miles. They are used in this car:

                  [phoenixmotorcars.com]

                  None of the above battery technologies are vaporware – they are all beginning to appear on the market today, right now. So tell me again how battery technology doesn’t advance.

                  • David Brodbeck says:

                    @Apeweek: I hope you’re right. We’ll see what happens. There have been a lot of people in the past who have claimed to have a new miracle battery, but they’ve often turned out to be impractical — either due to expense, limited recharge cycles, or safety. (It can be hard to keep exotic battery types from catching fire even in low-current applications like laptops.)

                    • Apeweek says:

                      @David Brodbeck:

                      Re: “…There have been a lot of people in the past who have claimed to have a new miracle battery…”

                      Again, all of my examples above are SHIPPING batteries, not just claims. (There’s even more exciting battery tech out there if you want to talk about non-shipping products.)

                      Altairnanos were recently used to set an EV racing speed record. The 10-minute recharge time is especially useful for racing. Several EVs in development are using these batteries.

                      The first FireFly batteries hit the market late last year, the “Oasis”… a product designed for truckers who need to run accessories from batteries while their trucks are off for long periods of time.

                      The ThunderSky Chinese lithiums are in use in a number of hobbyist EVs right now], and are also in a number of Asian EVs in development.

                      It’s too late to pretend these batteries don’t, or can’t exist.

                      These are the products that will drive the next generation of EVs. Stay tuned. It will get very interesting in the next few years.

                  • David Brodbeck says:

                    @Apeweek: Also, I really think they need to aim higher than a 100 mile range. While most people’s commutes fit into a 100 mile round trip, that’s not all people use cars for. People are going to want a substantial safety cushion, since range tends to decline with age and running out means hiring a tow truck. It’s not like a gasoline car where you can just top off at the nearest station.

                    Tesla’s on the right track with their 220 mile range, assuming that claim is borne out by real-world driving. When electric cars start to approach the range a gasoline car can get on a single tank then people will be able to use them like normal cars.

  26. sebadoh128 says:

    Looks like the agency that did the second Mr. Plow commercial did this one as well.

    I was waiting for the:

    “Obsession, by Calvin Klein”.

  27. squidbrain says:

    Whoever killed the electric car is only guilty of a mercy killing.

    • RStui says:

      @squidbrain: These cars could have started the process of weening Americans off their gas/oil addiction. With it’s death was the death of decades of progress in alternate fuel research and development.

      So maybe the car was small and ugly, slow and expensive, but think where we COULD HAVE BEEN when you fill up your car and gas has risen to $3, $4 and $5/gal.

      This Lack of Foresight is what is stunting our growth as a nation.

      • David Brodbeck says:

        @RStui: I kind of look at it a different way. Think of the EV1 as a technology demonstrator. GM learned what they could from it, but it wasn’t itself a viable car. It was impractical, expensive, and unsafe, and they lost money on every one they leased out. But now they’re applying that knowledge to the Volt, which IS intended to be a practical car you can actually buy.

        This is pretty much exactly what Honda is doing with the FC Clarity fuel cell car. They have no intention of selling the Clarity to a mass market; they’re only leasing them out to celebrities for testing purposes and PR. They may eventually sell a fuel cell car but it won’t be the Clarity.

        • Apeweek says:

          @David Brodbeck:

          Your general point is OK, but lay off the misonformation:

          -”…it wasn’t itself a viable car”.
          Yet the people who drove it loved it. There was a list of 5000+ people who wanted one and couldn’t get it.

          -”…It was impractical”. The 150 mile range would meet the needs of 90+ percent of the US population.

          -”…expensive”
          Nobody can make this judgment if GM wasn’t willing to sell a single car.

          -”…unsafe”
          Ridiculous. The EV1 passed the same highway safety and crash tests that any other car on the road has. Nobody has ever died in an electric car. I’m not saying it will never happen, but there is nothing intrinsically less safe about an EV versus a gas-fueled car.

          -”…They may eventually sell a fuel cell car”
          If I were a betting man, I would bet that there will NEVER be a mass-market hydrogen fuel cell car. Not now, not in 20 years, not in 100 years. The FCV is a distraction, nothing more.

      • Justifan says:

        @RStui:

        it wouldn’t have started anything. if people didn’t want to buy geo metros in the 90s, nothing would have gotten them into very expensive electric cars.

        “Yet the people who drove it loved it. There was a list of 5000+ people who wanted one and couldn’t get it.”

        wrong, there are people who signed petitions. if they had pledged full price money on the table the numbers would be far lower. its easy to pay for something thats heavily subsidized, it means nothing.

        “The 150 mile range would meet the needs of 90+ percent of the US population.”

        people don’t buy cars that only do 90% of what they want, let alone one that is that expensive and really needs a second car for the weekends to boot.

        “Nobody can make this judgment if GM wasn’t willing to sell a single car.”

        you can easily make this judgment based on the cost of electric cars others have slapped together and simply by looking at the cost of the batteries and their replacement cycle alone. no one else even intellectual property cowboy country china has gotten a viable design out for a reasonable price. all the ev’s that actually make it to market show how hard it is. they are little more than over priced golf carts because that is the actual state of the technology.

        • Apeweek says:

          @Justifan:

          re: “…if they had pledged full price money on the table the numbers would be far lower. its easy to pay for something thats heavily subsidized, it means nothing.”

          Gm made it very difficult to even get on this waiting list. The car wasn’t exactly promoted, you know. People who were on it knew exactly what they were signing up for.

          This was not a cheap lease. The price was fair, and commensurate with the probable value of the car (based on the prices of other EVs that were allowed to be sold, from this time period.)

          Re: “…people don’t buy cars that only do 90% of what they want”

          Clever, but you can’t change the meaning of what I wrote. It’s not about cars that “do 90% of what you need”, it’s about cars that do 100% of what 90% of people need.

          Again, you do not speak for “all people.” I would never get on a motorcycle, personally, but that doesn’t mean there’s no market for them!

          Re: “…you can easily make this judgment based on the cost of electric cars others have slapped together and simply by looking at the cost of the batteries and their replacement cycle alone.”

          Now you’re speaking about something you are apparently clueless about. Here are electric cars for $10,000 and up:

          [www.alanizcorporation.com]

          I personally drive an EV built for just $8000. My battery replacement cost figures out to just 4 cents per mile. Come back when you know what you’re talking about. EVs do not have to be expensive.

          Re: “…no one else even intellectual property cowboy country china has gotten a viable design out for a reasonable price.”

          Wow, is this ever wrong. A few examples:

          [online.wsj.com]

          [web.archive.org]

          Re: “…little more than over priced golf carts because that is the actual state of the technology. “

          Oversized golf carts like the Tesla?

          [teslamotors.com]

  28. econobiker says:

    And there was a guy who was trying to sell an EV owners manual on ebay for like $80,000 or something.

  29. edebaby says:

    “it isn’t coming, it’s here” (but not for long, folks)

  30. MooseOfReason says:

    I saw that movie a while ago. Rented it from Blockbuster.

    They really didn’t want to sell those cars.

    I mean, I would have voted against the electric car mandate in California, because the government shouldn’t meddle in the marketplace, but GM still seemed rather dishonest about the project.

  31. weakdome says:

    Camera pans out, you see the car and shilouettes on the sidewalk. My first thought: chalk outlines. WTF?

  32. TrueBlue63 says:

    I blame congress, if we didn’t subsidize the whole automobile axis (cars, fuel, road construction), and people had to bear the full cost of their decisions, we would have electric cars, the roads we need, etc

  33. Pro8678 says:

    Demand changes. It’s the car companies for not seeing that sooner. Hey, if the money keeps piling up and coming in, why bother changing?

  34. SacraBos says:

    So, exactly where are we supposed to plug in these cars to recharge them during the summer? You know, between those rolling blackouts from the A/C load + millions of cars?

    • David Brodbeck says:

      @SacraBos: I actually think that’s kind of a non-issue, at least until electric cars become really widespread. Most people will be charging their cars at night, and peak A/C loads are during the day.

      It may pose more of a problem during the winter in places that use electric heat heavily, since peak heating loads will coincide with when most people are charging their cars.

  35. mmcnary says:

    That was indeed Linda Hunt. She’s a wonderful character actor, but her voice sounds a little creepy, especially in this commercial.

  36. David Brodbeck says:

    Electric cars are one of those concepts I want to like more than I do. They seem appealing until I start running numbers. If you have a commute short enough to fit into an electric car’s range, by definition you’re not burning much gas to begin with, so the payoff time compared to buying a less expensive gasoline-powered car ends up being very, very long, probably longer than the life of the vehicle. And you still end up having to keep a second car around for longer trips, which doubles your insurance and license costs.

    • SacraBos says:

      @David Brodbeck: Exactly, available does not mean effective.

      Of course, people complaining the car companies are failing for not making enough hybrid/electric cards must be on drugs. The car companies are failing because the economy caused people to stop making the 2nd largest purchase most people make.

    • god_forbids says:

      @David Brodbeck: +100. Your stamina on this thread has been amazing, ya know. I would have given up trying to convince the conspiracy theorists with mere logic long ago. Care to discuss the melting point of steel and certain twin towers in Manhattan sometime? The ability of people to shape real events to their personal ideology will not fail to make it a frustrating experience.

      • Apeweek says:

        @giggitygoo:
        @god_forbids:

        Since I have been the principal EV advocate on this thread, you may, or may not be referring to me.

        But I didn’t see anyone else here really espouse a conspiracy theory.

        There was no conspiracy. Conspiracies by definition require multiple parties. GM did not conspire against itself. What GM did was make a business decision. Here’s where I have a problem. GM was not honest about why they made that business decision. It was not for the reasons they claimed.

        My only role here is to correct the misinformation that has surrounded the demise of the EV1, and other electric vehicles. I am an EV driver, and I understand electric cars very well. If you were in my position, and saw untruths being promulgated by many here, you would doubtless feel the same way I do.

        GM did not kill the EV1 to annoy tree-huggers. Evidence also shows that they did not kill it because of low demand. They killed it, most probably, because it posed a potential threat, or at least a big unknown, to their business model.

        Be careful using the word “propaganda.” The oil industry is well-established in that game, too.

    • giggitygoo says:

      @David Brodbeck:

      Thank you for injecting some sort of logic in this thread. I didn’t realize how many conspiracy nuts posted here. You can accuse GM of many things, but a massive conspiracy to stop selling a car with supposedly high demand just to annoy the tree huggers is just dumb. How many people form opinions about a particular topic by watching one propaganda movie and religiously believing in everything it says? Wait, maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that.

    • Apeweek says:

      @David Brodbeck:

      Okay, you want numbers, I’ll give you real numbers. My own, personal numbers. I drive an electric car.

      I bought mine used from eBay, a “1981 Electra Van” for just $2000. But even brand new, this particular car cost just $7995. Yes, EVs can be made inexpensively. See this link:

      [www.alanizcorporation.com]

      The battery pack in my car costs me $800 to replace, and lasts 20,000 miles. That’s 4 cents per mile.

      Electicity costs me just 3 cents per KWH. I get this special off-peak rate from my utility by agreeing to charge overnight. Since my car gets about 4 to 5 miles per KWH, electricity costs me under 1 cent per mile.

      So my battery + electricity costs total just 5 cents per mile. Aside from occasional brake and suspension work, there are NO maintenance costs whatsoever on my car. No oil changes, filter changes, fluids, tune ups, none of that.

      This 28-year-old EV still has all the original motor and electronic controller parts. Electric motors have just one moving part – there’s nothing really to break.

      The best part – I’m self employed, and this is my business vehicle. I get to take the IRS deduction of 50 cents per mile on my business miles – which only cost me 5 cents! So the government PAYS ME to drive this car.

      Now, who out there drives for less than me? I will document any numbers from my story above anyone wishes me to.

      • David Brodbeck says:

        @Apeweek: I bought mine used from eBay, a “1981 Electra Van” for just $2000. But even brand new, this particular car cost just $7995.

        That’s impressive until you take inflation into account. $7995 in 1981 is the equivalent of $18,000 today, according to this inflation calculator:
        [www.westegg.com]

        • Apeweek says:

          @David Brodbeck:

          Re: “…$7995 in 1981 is the equivalent of $18,000 today”

          Yes, that is exactly my point. This freeway-capable EV sold for the price of a normal car in 1981.

          And I’ll tell you something else. This is a good car. It’s 28 years old, with all the original motor and controller parts. Nothing in the drivetrain of this car has ever needed service. It still drives great.

          If mass-production made this possible back then – with cutting edge technology for 1981 – it can still be done today.

          • David Brodbeck says:

            @Apeweek: Yes, but the problem is trying to sell someone a $18,000 car that does substantially less than a gasoline car they can buy for $12,000. It’s a tough sell unless they’re already an electric car enthusiast.

            • Apeweek says:

              @David Brodbeck:

              Hey, I know it doesn’t appeal to you. That’s OK. To me, your gas car “does substantially less” than my EV.

              Your gas car can’t fuel at home. Your gas costs a lot more than my electricity. your car is noisy, smelly, your engine has hundreds of moving parts to break. your gas car needs oil changes, filters, fluids, tune-ups. Your fuel feeds geopolitical unrest.

              That’s a tough sell unless you’re already a gasoline enthusiast.

              Get it? You don’t speak or think for all people. Buy the car you want. I just want my car to be available too. I think you’ll be awestruck at how well it sells.

              • David Brodbeck says:

                @Apeweek: I understand the point you’re making. But what I’m saying is, most people don’t always stay within 50 miles of home. That means if they buy an electric car, it will be as a second car strictly for short trips. That means it has to have a lower price to reflect its lower capabilities. Most people aren’t going to see the savings in maintenance costs because they’ll have to maintain a gasoline car for all the stuff the electric car can’t do.

                • Apeweek says:

                  @David Brodbeck:

                  There you go, speaking for “most people” again.

                  Sure, until fast charge becomes commonplace, EVs will serve best in a multi-car household. But so what? There are many, many such households.

                  Telling me the fuel cost advantage or maintenance cost advantage of EVs doesn’t matter because of this, is just silly.

                  In our house, the EV does all the commuting, and most of the shopping and other miscellaneous driving. The higher costs of our gas vehicle are minimized because we *hardly use it*.

                  Some EV owners rent a car when they need to take a long trip. Many rental outfits will even drop a car off at your house. Depending on your needs, this can be cheaper than maintaining a second car.

                  Why should I drive the gas car when my EV miles are under a nickel?

              • David Brodbeck says:

                @Apeweek: And BTW, it’s not that it doesn’t appeal to me. As a geek, I’d love to have an electric car; I think it’d be a really fun toy. But I really can’t financially justify it. Maybe when I have more money I’ll get one to play with.

  37. adriadne says:

    I work in the auto industry. We want to sell cars. If people will buy it, we’re happy to make it and sell it. We really don’t care if it’s big or small or runs on gasoline, electric, or sunshine and lollipops. For the most part, we live in Michigan. We have obviously have no pride. Nor do we have a deep-seated desire to ruin the planet. Hey, we live here too.

    However, back to the selling cars thing. For years, consumers were buying SUVs, trucks, gas-guzzlers. Small cars, ehh not so much. So, like most companies in most industries we catered to our customer — and our customer liked a vehicle with a little oomf.

    And being engineers, we realized that the technology (especially when it comes to batteries) wasn’t really there to make the so-called green vehicles all that practical or really ultimately all that green when you figured manufacturing and disposal into it all.

    But then there is CAFE…and so, not having the boatloads of money that the German manufaturers have to pay $200+ million in fines for poor fuel economy, we built some electric vehicles that few people really wanted (although many paid lip service to wanting, much like many people will lie about flossing every day and not watching a lot of TV and staying away from sugar and white bread).

    So, mostly we sold our gas guzzlers (that consumers wanted) because hey we needed to make a living, and we live in Michigan and there really isn’t a whole heck of lot else in the way of options. So, we sold our SUVs, and fed, clothed, and housed our worthless families (when compared to those of the Iraqis, the Afghanistanis, the Elbownians, and the oh so deserving bankers).

  38. jwissick says:

    Oh come on. these cars are a pipe dream right now. Limited range. Long recharge times.

    Till I can take one of these thing from San Jose to Los Angeles in 7 hours I am not interested. Electric cars have A LOT of growing up to do.

    As to who killed the electric car? It was suicide.

  39. Meathamper says:

    Not just that, also because that the EV1 only has enough battery power to drive to the closest traffic light from the dealer and back.

  40. Daniel Kubik says:

    Using Linda Hunt for the voiceover is a nice touch.

  41. Jonathan Bishop says:

    This reminds me of an Enron commercial.

  42. SableHemlock says:

    This was an awesome documentary that I saw with some of my friends when it came to the campus indie theater. It was really informative and made all of us hate the oil industry (among others), which is one of the major employers for all of us chemical engineering students.

    • Justifan says:

      @SableHemlock:

      well there you go, it makes people who are ignorant hate.

      frankly you should be ashamed you are so easily led. a documentary with selective facts and manipulative music is something you should double check everything about or take it with a massive grain of salt.

      and thats whats disgusting about such dishonest documentaries, they are little more than propaganda.

      • Apeweek says:

        @Justifan:

        Don’t pay attention to the pretty movie screen. Listen to the oil companies. The oil companies are your friends.

        Let us drill in your national parks. We promise your gasoline will get cheaper someday.

  43. Anonymous says:

    I actually drove an EV-1. I honestly believe GM tried hard to build an electric car people would like to buy.

    But thanks mostly to the battery, it was a 4,000-pound Miata, without the good looks, speed, handling, or range.

    The battery tech wasn’t there in the 90s. It’s getting closer now, thanks to all the laptop battery research we’ve done in the last decade. Give it time, and lay off GM–the EV1 was a well-meaning failure.

  44. Trickery says:

    Years behind, Ben.

  45. Justifan says:

    oh please, don’t bring up this lame documentary anymore. it does a disservice to those who work hard at trying to solve the very real problems involved in making electric vehicles viable when bs documentaries put out the impression that the technology was simply suppressed. sometimes omission and selective use of facts is as bad as lying.

    when gas was 1.40 a gallon what did you expect them to do? they did something different with the advertising and failed. saving gas was not going to convince anyone at the time.

    “Remember, GM owned the patents for NIMH batteries at this point, and could have made them cheaply – the inventor of NIMH, Stanley Ovshinsky, was quoted at the time as saying the battery technology could be manufactured cheaply.”

    nonsense, things like that are easy to say. if it were so simple some other country would have done it, places like china simply ignore intellectual property rights. the reality was that the ev1′s battery pack was enormous and heavy and expensive. it was a 2 seater because the battery was taking up all the space in the freakin car.

    as for profitability, just more nonsense. no car maker even in liberal europe has bothered. the numbers dont add up. even the prius isn’t a money maker, its still a money loser, it is a halo vehicle that gives toyota a nice shine so it can sell landcruisers and still have people feel good about them.

    • Apeweek says:

      @Justifan:

      Well, since you’ve quoted one of my posts, I have to reply.

      re: “…if it were so simple some other country would have done it”

      China did indeed do it. Inexpensive EVs are available there. Here’s some that start at just $6500:

      [web.archive.org]

      Don’t point out the probable poor quality. I’m showing this to make the point that EVs are made and sold for the same amounts of money as gas vehicles in China. EVs do not have to be expensive.

      Re: “…places like china simply ignore intellectual property rights.”

      They won’t do this with NIMH batteries, patents are owned by oil companies that they do big business with. Besides, the Chinese have lots of patents already locked up on superior Li-Ion battery technology.

      Re: “…it was a 2 seater because the battery was taking up all the space in the freakin car.”

      Irrelevant. Many other cars are two-seaters. This is a design decision, it has nothing to do with being an EV. Drivers at the time could have opted for a Toyota RAV4 EV or a Ford Electric Ranger if they wanted an EV with seating and cargo space.

      re: “…as for profitability, just more nonsense. no car maker even in liberal europe has bothered. the numbers dont add up.”

      Appropriate EV NIMH batteres have not been available there, either. However, now that alternate battery technology is maturing, many EV projects are indeed in the works in Europe and Asia.

      I will be the first to admit that EVs will be less profitable for carmakers, since these vehicles will be longer lived and require fewer replacement parts. However they will confer advantages to us. This is why we must speak up loudly if we want them. Carmakers, whether in Europe, Asia, or North America won’t bother otherwise.

  46. ScottCh says:

    People who haven’t actually seen this documentary are quick to write it off, like Justifan above. However, the documentary doesn’t weave conspiracies. The cars were ripped from their happy owners hands, hauled away and crushed. It really happened. The movie just looks at why. It lists a series of possible reasons, and analyzes each one.

    Few of the respondents online here are focusing on the money. It is ALWAYS the money! In this situation, as with any other situation in which powerful and wealthy industries are at risk of a shakeup, look at who stands to lose the most.

    The Oil Companies in the US are not shy in any way about protecting their profit margins. They have lobbied hugely against any threat. They’ve been flexing their national clout almost unhindered for the last eight years. Their power is massive. If you look over the press releases by the Union of Concerned Scientists, exposeexxon.org, and various other sites you can see that they have a long history of investing heavily in overt and covert approaches to undermine any potential threat.

    Call it a conspiracy theory if you want, but it’s the way business happens. Any widespread adoption of vehicles not powered by gasoline would create an enormous shift in how the USA spends its energy dollars. It seems fatuous to expect that global corporations with as much power as the oil companies would sit idly by and wait for it to happen.

    • Justifan says:

      @ScottCh:

      oh please, i saw it when it came out. the documentary implies a lot through its omission of information. experimental fleets are crushed for liability reasons. american car companies crushed their jet powered cars in the 60s as well.

      only a fool wouldn’t see the manipulative techniques used in that film to create conspiracy..and fame and money for the filmmaker.

      the cars were a forced and unviable experiments that were forced into existence. the drivers of those cars never had to pay the real cost of ownership and so there is nothing useful to take from their experience. if you spend enough you can build a tesla after all.

      It isn’t always the money. you realize this conspiracy revolves around the idea that 90s flailing gm was somehow a scientific powerhouse that created some batteries that no other country or car company could manage. give me a break. gm was known for not being even able to get dash board plastic right even then. let alone battery chemistry.

      and there you go, oil companies pop up, and you are back to conspiracies.

      the reality is if gm had stumbled upon the magic battery formula they’d be rich beyond imagination from that alone. what new in this world doesn’t depend on batteries? they’d take a slice off every laptop/pda/cellphone made, never mind cars. so don’t even go down that road of conspiracy nonsense.

      never mind that us oil companies have zero clout in china, korea, or europe where they have excellent r&d, and yet are unable to produce even what these EV1 nuts claim was possible back in the 90s? thats the kind of mismatch with reality that happens only when you are putting out false information on what is and was possible.

      • Apeweek says:

        @Justifan:

        Re: “…experimental fleets are crushed for liability reasons”

        I have never heard of an experimental “fleet”.

        If this is so important, why didn’t Ford and Toyota crush all their EVs from this same period?

        And what “liability”? There is nothing dangerous about any of these cars. Ford and Toyota aren’t reeling from lawsuits.

        Re: “…the drivers of those cars never had to pay the real cost of ownership”

        Yet the owners of Toyota RAV 4 EVs, Ford Ranger EVs, and thousands of other EV owners are “paying the cost of ownership.” Here’s a site showing thousands of EV owners and their cars: [evalbum.com]

        And there’s me. I own an EV conversion (a car converted to electric.) The cost of my car plus conversion was just a few thousand dollars. My cost per mile, including battery replacement cost and electricity, is just 5 cents per mile. That’s it! (I will document and prove this cost for you, if you like.)

        Re: “…gm was known for not being even able to get dash board plastic right even then. let alone battery chemistry.”

        Luckily, this suppressed battery story is easy to prove.

        GM did not invent the NIMH battery. They bought it from Ovonics, a little Michigan research company. Then Toyota and Panasonic improved the battery.

        When GM sold the patents to Chevron/Texaco, Toyota was sued, and the improved EV NIMH was taken off the market, never to be seen again.

        How good was this battery? The only Toyota/Panasonic EV-95 NIMHS still in existence are in the few RAV4 EVs that were sold to drivers before the battery was killed. Some of those drivers now have well over 100,000 miles on those original battery packs. How much longer will they last? Don’t take my word for it, here they are:

        [www.pluginamerica.org]

  47. macrumpton says:

    Be afraid, be very afraid, its here.

  48. fever says:

    @undefined: @Coopon: Actually, they didn’t sell any. They only ever leased the EV1.