‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’
By Isaiah Mouw and Ben Bronsink
Parking in Pop Culture is a series of articles dedicated to significant parking references found in pop culture. Editor
Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson and Martin Sheen are all in a movie together. And what a movie! It’s epic in scope, full of subterfuge and deceit, capturing the heart of man’s thirst for greed and his quest for power. It’s a tragedy full of conspiracies, with one of the most heartbreaking endings you can imagine.
Of course, stakes this high can only mean that this film is a documentary.
If two leading men like Tom Hanks and Mel Gibson were in a
real movie together, the polar icecaps would instantly melt. Or more likely collide.
But in “Who Killed the Electric Car?” (2006), they and many more of Hollywood’s A-list stars describe the rise and fall of the EV1, an electric vehicle produced and leased by General Motors from 1996 to 1999. The rise was small, but the fall was great for this fully-electric automobile.
The story begins when California became the first state to offer incentives for buying electric vehicles through its 1990 Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) program. Since the state had as much pollution as it did people, the ZEV program became its attempt at getting rid of all the unwanted smog.
The film documentary interviews many of the Hollywood stars who bought, promoted and evangelized the advantages of cars like the EV1, as well as demonized the Big Oil companies.
As the story progresses, Director Chris Paine follows the journey of GM’s EV1 as it battled oil companies, battery issues, car companies, consumers and even the U.S. government.
Eventually, GM recalled the EV1 – every last one of them.
Since they were leased, every last one was taken back by GM. A few were given to museums and universities, but the rest were eventually smushed by car crushers.
Who killed the electric car? According to the documentary, we are responsible, by not buying them.
In the parking world, there seems to be a debate about EVs and EV-charging stations. For instance, if you are a parking operator, should you install the stations and thus add to the growing EV infrastructure?
A National Academies report projects up to 40 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) on the road in the U.S. alone by 2030. One problem with this forecast is that the price of the EVs currently makes it impossible for the buyer to recoup his fuel-savings cost. Also, there is a limited number of EV-charging stations, with only an estimated 10,000 available in the U.S. today.
So for these projected 40 million PHEVs to be on the road by 2030, the price of EVs will need to drop significantly, and more charging stations will need to be installed nationwide for users to overcome “range anxiety” caused by the limited availability of such stations.
One of the most over-quoted (and misquoted) pop culture references comes from the “Field of Dreams” (1989) – “If you build it, he will come.”
This quote does not always apply to EV-charging stations. Simply because you build them in your parking facilities does not mean EVs will come – as many parking operators can tell you from experience.
EV-charging stations probably won’t be a wise investment in small-town Mayberry U.S.A. However, in the right market, where electric vehicles thrive, you would be impractical not to consider installing charging stations.
In densely packed urban areas, where gas prices are generally higher and the limited-range vehicles make sense, installing EV-charging stations should at least be an important topic of conversation among municipal parking professionals.
The key is demand. Don’t just install the stations to pat yourself on the back as a sustainable parking operator, unless you as the owner have the money to do so. However, if the demand is there, by all means, install EV-charging stations and help reduce our nation’s dependency on oil by adding to the growing EV infrastructure.
Isaiah Mouw, CAPP, a General Manager for Republic Parking System, who also writes for the IPI’s Parking Matters: The Blog, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Ben Bronsink, Co-Founder of snobbyreviews.com, at email@example.com.
Article Abstract from October, 2012