Driving Towards a Greener Option

Every year when April comes around we tend to think about the future. School is finishing, for the last time in my case. As summer approaches, planning needs to be done. Schedules and lists for the future made and other things considered. April is also earth month and consequently the future of the planet and our place in it is on my mind. I break out my bicycle more often than not, in an attempt to try to save our atmosphere from the detrimental effects of the internal combustion engine. But is that really the only solution?

The concept of the electric car has been brought to my attention recently as I watched the documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car. The film explores the rise in popularity of an electric vehicle called the EV1, which was manufactured by the General Motors Company and first leased in Southern California. Californian legislature had released a mandate for car companies to sell at least one zero-emissions vehicle. GM took the lead and soon other car companies began to comply.

The EV1 was unique. Released on lease only agreements, it was quiet and fast, and cost approximately the same as a petroleum run car to both lease and maintain. Each night the battery would be charged and each charge would last about 110 to 120 kilometers. That may not seem like enough but the technology for longer lasting batteries was already being manufactured. It seemed quite progressive, to those that supported the Zero-emissions vehicle mandate, that between 1996 and 2000, 800 EV1s were produced.

Why did GM close the production of such an environmentally and economically positive vehicle? Well, as the Bush government came to power in 2001, car companies began to make federal allies. The Bush government supported oil companies and there was a recent discovery of oil in Alaska. The US federal government must have been reluctant to support something that could get in the way of their northern discovery. They stood by as car companies took a stand against the Zero-emissions mandate, eventually sued for it to be dropped, and won. GM began a recall for EV1s and by 2006 not one was left on the road. The majority were disassembled and sold as parts. Soon after all this GM made a commitment to the production of the Hummer. That is what I call going, “backwards into the future.”

The reason for the discontinuation of the EV1 and other electric cars is controversial. Most likely it was a mixture of influences. My opinion is that the car companies, the government and consumers were all resistant to change. The new concept of a greener transportation option posed threats to the oil industry. Also, though many people believe that oil companies feared the idea of the electric car the most, car dealerships make a large portion of their profits off of the maintenance of the internal combustion engine. You can see that there is not just one single opposition to Zero-emission vehicles, which may be the reason that the idea crashed so hard.

Change is not avoidable forever. We can’t simply shut down far-fetched ideas because they may be our only option some day. Being young myself, I often wonder what the world will be like when I am older. Will my children need to put on a little SPF 5000 before going out to play? I believe that change is progressive and I hope that when I am an adult I will have the opportunity to contribute to positive change, not just observe it.