Like a Phoenix

An Idea Whose Time Has Come.

I’ve never liked that expression. It’s a bit clumsy. It’s also a bit ‘I told you so’ in tone. But we use it because it says what we want to get across. It seems that the EV is an idea whose time has come. It seems inexorable that EV sales will increase and along with government policy consign internal combustion engines to a footnote of history.

In a previous blog I wrote about the parity EVs enjoyed 100 years ago, but how poor battery capability and cheap petroleum allowed internal combustion engines to dominate transportation. An idea whose time had come and gone.

Then in 1987, this idea’s time had come again. General Motors launched their GM EV-1. You couldn’t buy it, but you could get it through a leasing scheme. It was zippy, it was cute, and it was quiet. Better still, it was in demand.

By 1997 GM had not only discontinued it – they had recalled every single one. People who had loved them and leased them were not allowed to buy them from GM. So what did GM do with them? The answer is in the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? And the answer will astound you.

I don’t go for conspiracy theories. I do believe though, that vested interests will play hardball to protect those interests. In this documentary – narrated by Martin Sheen – a strong case is made that petroleum companies, motor manufacturers, and government all put pressure on GM to abandon their development of EVs.

Documentary makers too have interests and agendas, so there may very well be facts and motives that were underplayed.

One thing remains pertinent for me though after watching the documentary for the second time (I watched it when it came out originally in 2006) when someone disrupts the status quo – as EVs are doing – there will be pushback.

The EV might have risen like a Phoenix, but it doesn’t mean everyone is happy about its resurrection, or the proliferation of allied services. I predict some bumps in the road.

Tim is a greying redhead who thinks green. He is the author of books on welding, soccer and Herman Charles Bosman

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