>If you were talking about a “car” 3 years ago, you might have had referred to the resurgence of the muscle car, with larger, more powerful engines with hardly a mention of fuel economy. After the fuel crisis of the past summer though, everyone was looking at cars in a whole new light. They wanted fuel economy, and hybrid technology in their cars.

I believe we would have gone much further and faster too, if it weren’t for the economic slowdown that inevitably followed. No one wanted to buy cars, even the specialty hybrids. Before the downturn the demand for hybrids was so high that Toyota had slated a plant in the US designed especially for their Prius line alone but by December of 2008 – they had halted construction (1).

The idea of a hybrid car is certainly not new, and neither is an entirely electric car. In the early 1900s electric and petroleum based cars were large rivals, but after some major technological breakthroughs – petroleum based vehicles became a more economically sound option. Where petroleum cars were roughly $650, electric cars sold for about $1750 (2).

In 1990 California passed a revolutionary new law, the zero-emission mandate which would require 10 percent of new vehicles sales in the state to be all electric by 2003. It based this on a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80% of the 1990 level by 2050, so in order to reach this goal they would need to have at least 400,000 zero emission vehicles on the road by 2020 (3).

This early push “sparked” a major electric offering by all the major car companies, and especially by GM with the EV1. An all electric vehicle – it required a charging station placed in the home or garage. In addition, there were several public charge locations set up with taxpayer dollars throughout the state. The goal was to start creating the infrastructure to support this new automotive model. It would have succeeded, if not for a push by the car companies to declare the law unconstitutional. They said they could not do it and remain profitable in the state, proposing a lack of vehicles being available and with that, a lack of new car sales, and new car sales taxes.

The push worked, CA caved on their requirements and all the companies began taking back their vehicles from consumers. Offered only on limited 3 year leases, and not for purchase, there was not one person who owned their EV1 – they were all repossessed, in some cases by force. The EV1s (along with the other company models) were carted off to large lots behind the company headquarters, or hidden in fenced in areas. There they sat for years, with vigilant watch by many electric car proponents. When the cars were finally moved to their final resting place and crushed, police were called to escort the car carriers full of revolutionary cars to protect the trucks from the activists, many who protested by laying down in front of or blocking the trucks. (4)

We could have gotten to this place much faster, but the environment was never as much on the table as our hard earned cash.

1.) http://www.environmentalleader.com/2008/12/17/toyota-halts-construction-on-us-prius-plant/
2.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_car
3.) http://www.hybridcars.com/news/california-air-cuts-electric-car-goal-again.html
4.) Who Killed the Electric Car?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA2u_KbCs6A
Netflix: http://www.netflix.com/Movie/Who_Killed_the_Electric_Car/70052424

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