GM and the Electric Car: Impressions from NAIAS


I've been lucky at this year's North American International Auto Show to have access to some very interesting folks in the automobile industry. I've been able to use that access to get a good feel for the auto industry's perceptions of electric cars.

First, General Motors executives honestly believe that the EV1 was a failed concept, and would never have become a widely used car. They site America's lack of interest in two-seat cars and the EV1's limited range.

For whatever reason, GM saw this failure as a good reason to abandon the idea of electric cars completely in favor of fuel cells. Bob Lutz, GM’s VP, told me that battery technology was abandoned because they could never store enough energy per pound to push the cars around for very long. However, he says that the advancements just in the last two years have made electric cars significantly more feasible.

It's these advances in inexpensive, non-toxic, and more power-dense lithium ion batteries that seem to have honestly changed GM's ideas about electric cars.

Every GM employee I talked to still touted the hydrogen fuel cell as the ultimate future of cars. I asked the lead engineer on the Volt Electric Car project, Nick Zielinski, about the wisdom of focusing on fuel cells. While he was very proud of the work GM has done with fuel cells, I think a lot of people at GM are regretting not going after battery technology more aggressively.

In the end, I believe that a giant corporation made a bad decision. I think they've realized it, and now that battery technology has advanced, they're moving forward with startling speed. Even Chris Paine, the director of Who Killed the Electric Car, was here to witness the unveiling of the Volt and admits that the car is an impressive achievement.

But the true test of whether General Motors is committed to the idea of the E-Flex system and the Volt is whether we'll be able to buy one in the next 5 or 10 years. Unfortunately, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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This week, Hank Green is reporting for Plenty from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. His trip was underwritten by the General Motors Company, but he is under no obligation to write about GM or any of their products or portray them in any particular light.

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Comments

The EV1 was the biggest mistake GM ever made. That lemon should never have been brought to market - it met the driving needs of practically no one, cost a fortune to build and another fortune ($20,000+) every five years to replace the NiMH batteries, making it the most expensive vehicle this side of an M1 Abrams tank. Its driving range steadily decreased over the five year battery lifespan, leaving drivers in the lurch
and unable to manage trips whose destinations barely exceeded 35 miles.
Chris Paine's movie is a sequece of lies that strangely never mentions the fac that both Toyota and Honda built and then cncelled electric car programs. It has come to light that Paine extorted promises from Toyota
by agreeing not to mention
Toyota's Rav 4 electric, which
were produced in more or less the same numbers as the EV1, but was a more popular and vastly superior vehicle.
Paine's ill-informed audiences are lead to believe that GM
alone controlled the development and distribution of electric cars. In Paine's fantasy history Honda is also never mentioned. Paine's film is the world's first totally fictious documentary.

Dude, you're wrong.
He indeed beat up both Toyota and Honda as being part of the conspiracy to cruch every electric car in California. Don't you remember the eRav4 car-carrier truck evading the cameras, hiding in the dock area? The pix of electric Hondas being crushed? I suggest you rent the film and see it again.

And as far as the EVI being "the biggest mistake GM ever made", well, you must have a short memory. Remember the Corvair? The Chevette? The VEGA!! For different reasons, these cars enabled the Japanese to get a huge foothold on the American car market- now THOSE were big mistakes.

And beyond that- Many of the people who leased the EV1s wanted desparately to buy them. They knew about battery life, etc. and wanted them anyway. GM turned down millions of dollars' worth of business, while spending $ to crush the cars. Were they afraid of people saying the cars had expensive batteries and limited range? Would they rather have documentaries made about their dumb business decision to crush cars rather than sell them? Which way do they get the most grief??

No, my friend- CRUSHING the EVI was the biggest mistake GM ever made.
Let's hope that the VOLT, while certainly not ideal as an electric vehicle, will at least see the light of day.

Kent Beuchert is a fake working for the oil / gas lobby and has posted on hundreds of websites through dummy email accounts. He has been posting for six years on this topic - ridiculously if you think about it. He has made up locations in McLean, VA and Tampa, FL and goes under the guise of a computer analyst. Please forward any information you may have on him as I am writing a story. Regards - David Lassiter

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