the missing section
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
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
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.