“Who Killed the Electric Car?” – Not the Auto Industry


Jody Clarke, 202.331.2252


Washington, D.C., June 30, 2006—A new documentary blames General Motors and the auto industry for the demise of the electric car, but the Competitive Enterprise Institute believes that the historical evidence clearly shows that it was American consumers who ‘killed’ the technology.

“The California law requiring that automakers sell a certain percentage of zero emissions vehicles failed because consumers weren’t interested in them,” said Myron Ebell, director of energy policy at CEI. “General Motors made a good faith effort to comply with the California law. They invested and lost over a billion dollars in developing their state-of-the-art EV1 electric vehicle.”

The documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, is centered around the EV1, which was introduced by GM in California in 1996. A few years later, after a lackluster response from consumers, the auto company decided to reclaim the leased vehicles.

“The move by GM to buy back the EV1 is a sign that the company hopes to use the technology in the future and wants to guard it, not that the auto industry just wanted to get rid of the vehicle for nefarious reasons,” said Iain Murray, senior fellow at CEI. “The plain truth is that the EV1 was ahead of its time.”

Murray and Ebell pointed to Ford’s announcement this week that it will not be able to sell 250,000 gas-electric hybrid cars annually by 2010 as another example of the difficult decisions a company has to make in order to compete in the marketplace. While the Toyota Prius is selling well, most hybrid models are not.

“When you consider all the marketing and incentives that are being offered to potential buyers of hybrid vehicles and that they’re still selling poorly, it’s easier to understand ho