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GM defends its position on who killed the electric car

Monday, November 20, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: electric cars, general motors, clean energy

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(NewsTarget) "Who Killed the Electric Car?" an eponymous movie asks, and General Motors Communications' Dave Barthmuss says in a www.gm.com article that it wasn't GM, despite the company's abandonment of the EV1 electric vehicle.

The EV1 did not gain a large following from auto buyers, and was subsequently scrapped as an unviable commercial investment. Barthmuss mentions the fact that the EV1 was only available by lease and a little more than 800 drivers participated, and he also mentions that the cars were taken back, and all but a handful were destroyed at the program's termination, despite a large number of leasers asking to purchase or keep the vehicles. A wake was even held for the vehicle in the summer of 2003.

The feedback for the car that holds the land speed record for electric vehicles -- at 186 mph -- was greatly positive, and supporters of the car have expressed anger that GM pulled the plug on the program. Company economists maintained that it was not financially sound to mass-produce the EV1, and Barthmuss said that since GM spent more than $1 billion developing and marketing the EV1, 800 leasers was not a significant response, nor was the fact that only 50 of the 5,000-consumer waiting list were willing to commit to a lease. The leasers who did want to keep their vehicles were out of luck because the low demand resulted in parts manufacturers discontinuing replacement parts, meaning GM could not ensure the long-term maintenance and safety of the vehicle.

Barthmuss notes that, even though he hasn't seen the movie, it could be withholding some information from its viewers, such as the fact that GM and the EV1 scientists continued to develop electric vehicle technology after the program shut down. The remaining EV1s have been donated to museums or used for cold-weather testing of technology now used in hybrids and fuel cells. That resulting tech now powers low-emission and zero-emission in development, hitting the road, or on the road already, Barthmuss said.

The models he cites include a two-mode hybrid system and regenerative braking system in use by diesel transit busses in the United States and Canada; the 32 mpg SUV the Saturn Vue Green Line, scheduled to be available next summer; and the HydroGen3 hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that GM is demonstrating in fleets worldwide. Barthmuss said that the "Who Killed the Electric Car?" filmmakers dismissed hydrogen fuel cell technology as "pie in the sky," but GM expects to produce an affordable, realistic fuel cell propulsion system by 2010.

Barthmuss concludes that GM's intentions were right and good, and the company accepts the criticism of those who feel it made poor decisions, but he feels that electric vehicle supporters should work with GM and credit them with taking the first step toward the "technologies that hold

"That's what GM engineers are doing everyday," he said.

"Whether you agree with GM's motivations or not, everyone should see 'Who Killed the Electric Car,'" says Mike Adams, an advocate of clean technologies and renewable energy. "The movie is enjoying a lot of popularity right now because it is interesting and well made."


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