Who killed the Electric car is a documentary (http://vimeo.com/19863733) about the failure of an electric vehicle movement in the late 1990’s and early 200’s on America’s west coast.
First off, it was surprising to see and hear about some cars I had never heard or seen before, not so much the RAV4’s conversions or Ford’s EV but more so GM’s EV1-1. To be completely honest it’s a pretty radical car in my books; From its slick Jetson’s styling to its fighter jet like cockpit it was definitely a cool looking car for its time and even now.
Why is it, important for Industrial Designer’s to see this video? Well I don’t actually think it is THAT important. Why? Because this is a video about businesses making decisions that don’t suit people or businesses that make unethical decisions, corruption and power depending on your standpoint.
Studying the EV1, its features and its design within its market context, would however lead to some interesting findings, as it was a game changing car. The EV1’s following show’s a great example of how, Industrial Designers can create or change something for the better, so much so that, people can gain such an emotional attachment to a lifeless object.
Here are three take home messages:
- There is a need to create object with a real need (or a properly viable solution). The EV’s of the era didn’t quiet meet the real need of the consumer. The limited range is well, limiting. Given, the day to day use was all fine, the real limitation for the car was the unexpected trips that a person may encounter on a day to day basis (midday hospital emergency?) and the constricting notion of the limited range meant that road trips/weekend trips were simply not possible if this was the only car which you owned. This was obviously a major drawback (I’d assume) for a lot of people, another possible reason for the products failure (not really discussed in the film).
- Communication is key. GM’S poor communication seemed to create a lot of angst through the confusion it created for the EV supporters. Rather than laying out the reasons why they ‘got rid’ of the EV1’s, the ‘shady’ way they went about it, displayed a rather negative attitude towards their EV’s.
- Environmental impact goes deeper than face valve of just ‘electricity is cleaner the petrol’. While this made be too true, as the film so righteously points out – Environment impact of a product doesn’t just start and stop in the consumers hands. The production and end life of a product is also important. I’ve either missed this or the film’s left out the environmental impacts of lead-acid batteries in the gen 1 EV1’s and/or the NiMh (or was it NiCd?) batteries in the gen 2 EV1’s – None which is green in there construction or disposal.