run up to 300 miles at 70mph on a single charge - enough to get from 
London to Scotland, and make the car extremely popular.  The oil 
companies bought the technology. It has not been seen since.

Why?  Why would a string of corporations turn down cash and scrap a 
potentially extremely profitable techology?  Isn't that contrary to 
everything we are taught about how market economies work?

The oil companies had an obvious interest in stopping an alternative 
to fossil fuels.  There is $100 trillion of oil left in the earth, 
and they plan to mine it - even if doing so will make the planet 
uninhabitable. Anything that could divert that cash away from them is 
a threat to be crushed.

But why did the car companies collaborate?  Electric cars have no 
combustion engine - and it is in maintaining and replacing those 
engines that makes up a hefty chunk of Detroit's profits.  A 
transition to batteries, which require little maintenance, would be a 
disaster for their balance sheets.

Besides, marketing clean electric cars would mean admitting that 
their core product is dirty.  Tom Everhart served on the board of GM 
for more than a decade, and he explains how the conversatiosn about 
the electric car went there: "We said that [using the electric car] 
we can meet the zero emissions requirements.  Then we said, 'Do we 
want to show we can meet them?  That means all our other cars...'"

Thatcho-Reaganites are always lecturing about how unregulated markets 
are the best way to stimulate innovation.  The story of the electric 
car is a parable about how, to the contrary, unregulated markets 
often quickly descend into a corporate oligopoly that smothers new 
technologies in their cot. Only tough, democratic regulations - which 
they mock as 'red tape' - keeps markets from devouring themselves. 
The California government's regulations spurred innovation, until 
they were scrapped.

Out here in the smog, we have never needed the electric car more.