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.