Dead or Alive?

Is the electric car really dead? Chris Paine’s new movie “Who Killed the Electric Car?” makes the case that the electric car was born in the early 1990s and died nearly a decade later. But is that really the whole story of the electric car? Is there no hope for the future electric vehicles? I think not…

Electric cars have been around as long as the internal combustion engine. In the early days of the automobile, gasoline powered cars proved more convenient and more reliable than their electric counterparts. The electric cars worked some of the time, but most of the time they didn’t. Consumers had a practical reason to drive gasoline powered cars.

Fast forward to 1990. The California Air Resources Board passed legislation requiring that 2% of all new cars sold in California by 1998 had to be zero emission vehicles. General Motors led the way by introducing the EV1 in 1996. A very select group of consumers were leased the EV1, and for the most part, they loved them. The EV1 was powerful, fast, fun to drive, and required no gasoline. Most importantly, since the EV1 didn’t have an internal combustion engine, it required virtually no costly servicing. While great for the EV1 drivers, GM saw a potential for disaster with the new genre of automobile.

Eventually Detroit sued the California Air Resources Board and won. By 2001, nearly all GM EV1s and other electric vehicles had been removed from the road – most have since been destroyed. At the time, consumers saw little benefit to driving an electric vehicle. Gasoline was still hovering around one dollar a gallon, and global warming was still a highly disputed theory. There was really no economic reason or ethical reason for consumers to drive an electric vehicle.

Times have changed since the late nineties. With gasoline hovering around three dollars per gallon and the indication that prices will only continue to increase; and with overwhelming evidence that human produced CO2 is warming the earth and causing environmental disasters in the status quo, there is more incentive than ever for consumers to drive electric vehicles. The question, however, is who is going to produce these cars? Obviously Detroit does not want the eclectic car to threaten its fleet of modern gas-guzzlers.

So I bring you the Tesla Roadster. Born in Northern California’s Silicon Valley, the Tesla Roadster takes the electric car to a new level. The sporty little car has an engine more powerful than most high-end sports cars. In fact, the Roadster can go from zero to 60 mph in 4 seconds, without even having to shift out of first gear. Putting the car into second gear can bring the car quickly up to a top speed of 130 mph. But the most impressive part about the Roadster is that it requires absolutely no gasoline… It runs exclusively on batteries that can be charged anywhere. In fact, the Roadster can go up to 250 miles on a single charge. And since the Roadster doesn’t have an internal combustion engine, predictions are that the car will rarely have to undergo costly sports car servicing.

Electric vehicle technology exists. Consumers finally have an incentive to drive electric. If companies like Tesla Motors succeed, Northern California could become home to a new high tech auto industry. The electric car is alive. The technology exists. Consumers need to demand cars that run on electricity – which is the only way such vehicles will ultimately thrive.