Monday, August 15, 2005

Electric car drivers still on the grid

Despite efforts by automakers to recall the electric vehicles famously launched in the 1990s and take them off the roads, some folks still want to drive them:

After General Motors began crushing its revolutionary EV1 a couple of years ago, leaseholders held a mock funeral at a Los Angeles cemetery complete with a rabbi, an electric car shrouded in black crepe and emotional farewells. "She died before her time," intoned one mourner.

Devotees go undercover to track down death row EVs. They chase freight trucks loaded with cars headed to the scrap heap. One flew an airplane over a desert wrecking yard, snapping photos of flattened steel corpses in hopes of shaming automakers into offering reprieves for others.

"We want to keep the last remaining cars on the road," Raboy said. "We want to show people there was once a choice — and there could be again."

All-electric cars got a boost in 1990 with the state's quest for zero-emission vehicles. But production never took off, and the auto industry blamed real-world liabilities, such as 100-mile range limits and the need to plug in for hours at a time.

"We simply could not afford to lose any more money on a product that appealed to such a small number of people," said Dave Barthmuss, a GM spokesman. GM reported losing $1 billion on EVs before the company, like every other big automaker, halted production.

The first EV drivers — "early adopters," the industry calls them — considered their electric cars "almost members of their family," Barthmuss said. But there was a downside to that embrace, he added. "Like any member of the family, they managed to ignore the faults."

One potential fault is that the *still* need electricity--and in California, electrons are in as high a demand as gasoline...which may stunt the promise of the 250 MPG Hybrid, as well!