The 1996 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? explores the factors behind the demise of General Motors’ EV1, the popular and elusive electric car of the early 1990’s. The EVI was popular with the public, and it was clean, fast and efficient. This video sets out to solve what is effectively a murder mystery – the plug was pulled on the EV1 in 2002 after only 1,000 of these cars had been produced by GM, most of which were subsequently destroyed by the company in a secret location in the Arizona desert.
It is evident that the electric car faced significant opposition in California during its short life. In terms of political forces, the EV1 was opposed in principle by the United States federal government, who actually joined automakers
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However, most of the consumers interviewed either wanted an EV1 and were not given the opportunity to lease one by GM, or were completely unaware of its existence. Advertisements by GM for the car were said to cost millions and were famously unsuccessful, but the ads themselves did more to portray the car as ominous and foreboding than as a symbol of a cleaner future. It is obvious from the film that GM’s advertising campaign was a thinly veiled attempt to turn consumers off the EV1. GM made it difficult for celebrities such as Mel Gibson, who were interested in the electric car, to acquire one, thus limiting the influence of celebrities on the public’s perception of the vehicles.
The technological factors against the EV1 stem from the challenge of developing sufficient battery technology. A company in the US led by industry veteran Stan Ovshinsky was selected to supply the batteries for the EV1, but Ovshinsky was forced into silence by GM regarding improvements to his technology which could have doubled the charge capacity of the car. It appears that GM didn’t want to improve their product for fear the company would no longer be able to suppress its popularity. Eventually GM sold its majority stake in Ovshinsky’s company to Texaco, a leading US oil company, who effectively crushed it.
Environmental factors working against the electric car are harder to assess. The