Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Is That Fact or Fiction? Art o... | More Macaroni, Please »

Monday, July 28, 2008

Who Will Kill This Electric Car?

posted by on July 28 at 12:57 PM


Andrew Farah, who worked on the GM EV1 electric car—which GM mysteriously smashed to smithereens, inspiring this conspiracy-theorizing documentary—is now chief engineer for the Chevrolet Volt.

There’s a good, long article about him and the project over on the Atlantic Monthly:

Farah had been fiercely committed to the EV1, and he was not about to relive the disappointment.

“Hell, no,” he said. “I’ve been on programs like this before. They’re not real.”

“No,” came the reply. “This one is real.” Farah asked to talk to other senior executives, and they concurred. So, in the spring of last year, he took one of the hardest jobs at GM, and became the Volt’s chief engineer.

And how, I ask over coffee early one February morning in Detroit, is it going? It is 6 a.m., and Farah, who is 47 and has angular features and prominent black glasses, is rushing to make a 7 a.m. meeting. The car, he says, is 10 weeks behind the original schedule. Any more slippage, and the 2010 deadline will be history. Even if no more time is lost, he will have only eight weeks to test the underbody, the car’s structural base.

Is that enough time? He answers indirectly. In some cars, he says, testing the underbody can take a year.

GM, he tells me, is taking an industrial organization designed to grind out incremental improvements and repurposing it for a technological leap. “I spend 20 percent of my time being a psychologist and counselor,” he says. “I tell people, ‘Yes, there’s a lot of risk. And, yes, that’s OK.’

“It’s not a program for the faint of heart.”

RSS icon Comments


Aaagh - attack of the hipster black-rimmed glasses! It's a hipster conspiracy to kill the things ... wait, that makes no sense ... ahem. Carry on.

Posted by SeattleExile | July 28, 2008 1:15 PM

How many years have they been promising that "the electric car is just a few years away! Just you wait! But until then we have a nice Hummer for you to enjoy."

Posted by Andrew | July 28, 2008 1:18 PM

Uh, how hard can it be to make an electric car? GM already did it more than 10 years ago.

Posted by Greg | July 28, 2008 1:45 PM

The time GM or any American auto maker mass produces an electric vehicle for sell (the EV1 was ONLY on lease) to the general public is the time monkies fly out of my ass.

Posted by Just Me | July 28, 2008 1:50 PM

Instead of worrying about conspiracies, how about figuring out how to make a battery that can last more than a few hours, that doesn't weight half a ton and which doesn't have to be replaced every 100K for $4000.

Posted by John Bailo | July 28, 2008 1:53 PM

How about... compressed air?

Posted by Greg | July 28, 2008 1:59 PM

I supose the younger generation is always rather brainless, but the idea that GM killed the electric car, when both Toyota and Honda produced an EV at the same time and killed their programs as well boggles the mind. Can people really be this gullible and naiive? Don't they realize just how crappy the EV-1 really was? That car was useless and exorbitantly expensive. The movie claims the car was "cheap tp operate>" Let's look at reality, not the transparent lies of Chris Paine : the EV-1 battery pack cost over $25,000 and lasted about 5 years, making the per mile costs of the Ev-1 greater than any vehicle on the planet and about 5 times greater than an equivalent gas powered car. The EV-1 was totally incapable of providing transportation : it had a driving radius (with new batteries ) of less than 40 miles. It required 8 hours to recharge and weighed a whopping 3600 pounds, 1200 pounds alone being the batteries. It was basically powered by coal burning powerplant electricity, hardly making it a "zero emissions" vehicle. Even today, the idea of a zero emission vehicle is total fantasy.
The gas powered Honda Insight, which cost 4 times less than the EV-1 and could take its owners anywhere they wanted to go anytime they wanted to go there, was judged to produce less overall lifetime emissions than the EV-1. So why on Earth would any fool want to drive an inconvenient, useless EV-1? All you folks will have a firsthand opportunity next year to but another battery-only EV from Mitsubishi which is far superior to the EV-1 in every conceivable way - cheaper ($40,000), longer driving range (100 miles), cheaper battery pack ($20,000 - lasts 5 years), carries three times as many passengers, and luggage as well, and recharges in 6 hors , much faster than the EV-1. Now I want to see just how many of you folks are willing to put your money where you mouth is and go buy one. This will be the ultimate justice for you who are conning the public into believing these vehicles are anything other than oxymorons, incapable of meeting ANYONE'S transportation needs. I don't think you folks will be as dumb as you have been while urging others to buy this crap when your money is on the line.

Posted by kerry bradshaw | July 28, 2008 2:37 PM

Did anybody else think that the final scene in Who Killed the Electric Car was fucking ridiculous? People forming human barriers to keep the cars they leased for a while from being dismantled? Give me a fucking break!

Why does GM have to make an electric car for it to be legitimate? There are companies out there making electric cars for purchase this very minute. Granted, they're mostly glorified golf carts, but still...

Ultimately, GM killed the electric car because they didn't think it would be profitable. Why is that a fucking conspiracy? Obviously things changed and they're playing catch-up.

Posted by gillsans | July 28, 2008 2:40 PM

GM has to make an electric car to rescue their image. Because they sat on their ass while Honda & Toyota took the lead ten years ago on hybrids.

40 miles/day is enough for many drivers, most days. But not if it's your only car. But there are a lot of "third car" households out there with money. Many folks let fear, rather than actual knowledge of their own habits, scare them away from such things. Also, Americans have been phobic of plug-in cars, to the tune of American Priuses not getting the plug that rest-of-world cars can use to top off the batteries via wire.

Things that might kill this electric car? Reality. Economics. Cost. And...

Read between the lines:

GM is rushing through this project. GM.


If they eff this up, they'll just drive yet another batch of customers/guinea pigs/suckers towards... oh, Honda and Toyota. And then Rush Limbaugh callers will blame the UAW.

Posted by CP | July 29, 2008 5:44 PM

Comments Closed

Comments are closed on this post.