"History is a wonderful thing, if only it was true"

Friday, January 05, 2007


Following is copyrighted material, but will disappear eventually and I think it's an important point of view.

GM gets targeted as "bad guy" while Japanese Mfg's get a free pass.

Kevin A. Wilson
Getting Zapped


AutoWeek | Published 01/04/07, 2:32 pm et
"General Motors got a raw deal from the makers of the film Who Killed The Electric Car? That’s not just my assertion; it’s that of Toyota Motor Sales exec Ernest Bastien, vice president for vehicle operations, as reported by Mark Phelan in The Detroit Free Press recently. The Dec. 20 story even quotes the film’s director, Chris Paine, saying that, “We let Toyota off the hook for how they subverted the program” in the documentary, released on DVD Nov. 14.

GM’s EV1, said Paine, was the “iconic” electric car while Toyota’s RAV4-EV was basically a conversion on a standard vehicle. Paine owns a RAV4-EV, which highlights another aspect that skews perspective on the issue: GM took the leased vehicles back and consigned them to the scrap bin while Toyota left some of its electrics in the hands of consumers. But Paine claims neither vehicle was “properly marketed,” which apparently means automakers were supposed to convince people that they wanted what they didn’t want.

“Customers are not willing to compromise on things they need,” Bastien told Phelan. “They need cruising range… and they don’t want to wait five hours to recharge. The movie didn’t give any consideration to that fact.”

Neither GM nor Toyota admits to “subverting the program,” but the point is that GM pretty much gets painted as the perpetrator of some great evil for first attempting to meet California’s abortive electric-car mandate—indeed, for striving aggressively to take the lead in the field—and then canceling the program when there was insufficient interest. Other electric-car producers—not only Toyota but also Honda—get a free pass for behaving in essentially the same manner.

In another recent development on this front, the U.S. EPA finally signed on with California’s earlier regulatory rules that allow fuel cells in place of batteries to qualify as “zero emissions” vehicles. GM is now striving to become a leader in fuel cell vehicles, employing a lot of what it learned by pushing the limits of electric propulsion technology with EV1. The film suggests fuel cells are a red herring used to kill off battery electrics.

It would have been interesting to hear the opinions of Dave Hermance, the champion of hybrid programs as Toyota’s executive engineer for advanced technology vehicles, on this revival of the electric-car debate. Unfortunately, we lost him Nov. 25 when he crashed his private plane while practicing aerobatics over the Pacific near San Pedro, California. Hermance had worked for GM for 26 years, much of it in the Vehicle Emissions Laboratory, before joining Toyota in 1991. He was passionate about this stuff, articulate, and most importantly in this context, fair and accurate with his facts."

No comments: