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Old April 9th, 2003, 08:25   #1
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Default GM pulling the plug on electric vehicles


SACRAMENTO, California (AP) -- The celebrated ride of the car that spawned the nation's toughest emissions regulation ends at a parking lot in Southern California, where a growing fleet of General Motors electric cars awaits an uncertain fate.

Dozens of the green, metallic blue and bright red futuristic autos are lined up behind a chain-link fence at the edge of a freight rail line in Van Nuys, a sure sign the world's largest automaker has pulled the plug on a vehicle it heralded as recently as two years ago as "the car of the future."

As California retreats from its strict pollution regulation, GM is taking the cars off the road when leases expire because it can no longer supply parts to repair them, said GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss.

The automaker is shipping the cars to museums and universities for preservation, sending them to a research lab in New York, "cannibalizing" them for parts for the few still on the road, or scrapping them.

It's a long way from a program once touted as the company's clean air centerpiece, and it comes as fans in California fight to keep some electric cars on the road as the state rewrites its so-called zero emissions vehicle rule.

To the scores of drivers who embraced the technology, GM's effort to get the cars off the road is a heartbreaking prelude to the imminent death of the battery-powered vehicle as state air regulators continue to weaken rules that would have required 10 percent of cars for sale this year be nonpolluting.

"They've gone from being regulators to just asking politely, 'Gee, industry, would you do this?'" said Greg Hanssen, of the Production Electric Vehicle Drivers Coalition, which has lobbied for more battery-powered cars. "To us driving battery electric vehicles, we're saying, 'Hey, you've left us hanging out to dry.'"

New plans
It was only after seeing the promise of the first GM electric car in the late 1980s that California launched its ambitious zero emission vehicle program in 1990 to help clean up America's smoggiest skies. New York and Massachusetts followed suit and other states are mulling similar regulations and watching to see how California's rule-making plays out.

Over the past decade, state regulators have caved to pressure as car makers vigorously fought at hearings and in court to halt the regulation. Major automakers have stopped production because the vehicles were limited to a range of about 100 miles, required lengthy recharges and their high cost made them unappealing to a wide group of drivers.

The California Air Resources Board is poised to make changes that reflect that the cars are a commercial failure and to promote more promising technologies that have emerged. The board's staff has suggested a new plan letting auto companies reach the 10 percent quota with a combination of low-polluting gas-powered vehicles, gas-electric hybrids and a couple hundred fuel cell cars down the road.

Automakers would also be able to apply credits for electric cars it once put on the road and electric golf-cart style vehicles that zip through neighborhoods, office parks and campuses.

Honda concluded that the limited popularity of the electric car wouldn't effectively contribute to cleaner air, said vice president Ben Knight.

"I think it is a small group that is very interested in that particular technology," Knight said. "Some of our customers would tell us that they did, it took a while, but they did understand why their friends and neighbors weren't leaning toward leasing a battery electric vehicle."

Honda is now focused on its hybrid models, natural gas-powered vehicles and fuel cell program. It plans to have five fuel cell models, which run on the electricity from a chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen, in the Los Angeles city fleet by June. The fuel cell cars have already doubled the range of electric cars.

Supporters of battery-powered vehicles say the auto companies never seriously gave the cars a chance and didn't do enough to improve the technology or promote the cars to the public -- claims automakers dispute.

Staying on the road?
S. David Freeman, chairman of the California Consumer Power and Financing Authority, said there were long waiting lists of people who wanted the cars when he ran the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Freeman has followed the technology since he was head of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the late 1970s and said automakers predicted the demise of the vehicle before it ever hit the road.

"They've been singing that tune while they built the dang things," Freeman said. "Back in 1990 when the Air Resources Board laid down the zero emission rule there were no electric cars, it was a dream. Now that the dream is a reality, they're prepared to abandon it."

Unlike GM, Honda extended leases for some drivers, and about 100 of its original 300 or more EV Plus cars are still on the road.

Of the more than 1,000 two-seater sporty EV1 cars built by GM, only about 375 are on the road. The plan is to have them off the road by the end of next year.

Hanssen's lease expired last month and he surrendered his EV1 to GM as the Air Resources Board was set to vote on restructured regulations that promote the development of the hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle.

There's a chance when the board meets later this month that the regulations will be rewritten to encourage electric vehicle production, and EV1 drivers are hoping GM -- which spent over $1 billion on its electric car program -- will be persuaded to extend leases or lease cars that were previously returned.

But drivers who embraced the technology are not counting on a new lease on the life of their aging electric car.

Hanssen refinanced his house and, like other drivers about to lose their EV1, bought an electric Toyota RAV4, which was sold instead of leased.

"There's a chance (the board) will come out with some juicy incentive to keep these cars on the road," Hanssen said. "It wouldn't be all too surprising if they just scrapped the vehicles."

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Old May 7th, 2003, 08:35   #2
Join Date: Feb 2001
Default GM pulling the plug on electric vehicles

Of course it failed. The best EVs only travel 150 miles. That wouldn't work for me or most Americans. And the pricetag is ridiculous: $40,000 for a Toyota Rav4 EV. Why would normal people spend more to get less performance?
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Old May 7th, 2003, 09:28   #3
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Default GM pulling the plug on electric vehicles

Saw a neat electric vehicle concept the other day. Basically all the components (batteries, motors, electronics) are in the chassis which looks something like a skateboard. The body is bolted on top. With no engine in the front or fuel tank in the rear, interior room is huge. Drive/steer/brake by wire. Seats 5 adults.
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Old May 7th, 2003, 09:41   #4
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Default GM pulling the plug on electric vehicles

Sounds like GM's hydrogen concept car. Neat idea, but we will see how practical it is eventually.

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Old May 7th, 2003, 11:20   #5
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Default GM pulling the plug on electric vehicles

Saw a neat electric vehicle concept the other day. Basically all the components (batteries, motors, electronics) are in the chassis which looks something like a skateboard. The body is bolted on top. With no engine in the front or fuel tank in the rear, interior room is huge. Drive/steer/brake by wire. Seats 5 adults.
I saw that on tv too. If the GM concept becomes a reality they'll be saving money in the long run since the flat chassis-engine can be reused on many different body styles. They won't have to redesign the engine to fit certain body styles.
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