Who (was) Killed (by) the Electric Car?

All we really need to know about this movie that’s just come out is the following: on September 13, 1899, a man named George Henry Bliss, who had just stepped out of the way to allow a woman passenger off a New York City streetcar, was struck from behind by a passing motorist. He was the first North American pedestrian to be killed by a car. That it was an electric car bears emphasizing, given the hype about this stupid movie.

Each year in the United States, approximately 6,000 pedestrians are killed by automobiles, and 110,000 are injured.

Pedestrians in the US are 1.6 times more likely to be killed by a car, than by a stranger with a gun.

Pedestrians represent 14% of traffic fatalities nationwide.

See, what this movie wants you to think is if only GM and big oil hadn’t “killed” their EV-1 prototype, the future would be all rosy.

It was among the fastest, most efficient production car ever built. It ran on electricity, produced no emissions and catapulted American technology to the forefront of the automotive industry.

Listen, all North America needs is some fast, silent (electric motors “hum;” if they roar you’ve got symptoms of a problem) car, being driven by some idiot who thinks she’s making an “environmentally friendly” choice, whizzing up behind you as you cross the street. Ask George Bliss about this one.

The lucky few who drove it never wanted to give it up. So why did General Motors crush its fleet of EV-1 electric vehicles in the Arizona desert?

Oh, by the way, we’re quoting from the official bumf. “Who Killed the Electric Car?” asks the movie. Then on the movie poster they tell you the answer. Isn’t that a “spoiler?” [We were rooting for Colonel Mustard –ed.]

No doubt it will come as a big surprise to our 17 known readers to hear the ALLDERBLOB will not be taking in this movie. Fact is, we’re not taken in by it.

Oh, we like documentaries all right. In fact, a touchstone for us (and, we suspect, the makers of this electric car hagiography (based on the resonance in the title)) is 1992’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” We love the latter movie for its child-friendly introduction to the Snell Report, and its classic depiction of the bullying ways of GM and big oil. We also happen to think quite highly of Jessica Rabbit. We really feel for her, and all the things she went through in the making of this documentary.

Jessica Rabbit, in a scene deleted from general release of \"Who Framed Roger Rabbit\"

In fact we like most documentaries. For example you could pick anything from the oeuvre of the great Japanese film-maker Myazaki. We especially like “My Neighbour Totoro.”

Tonari no Totoro

Huh? What’s that you say? “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” isn’t a documentary? “My Neighbour Totoro” isn’t a documentary? Get out!

Eh? They’re animated kid’s movies?

Come on. Next you’ll be telling us this summer’s Disney flop “Cars” was fictional too.

A lot you know about the documentary movement, my friend. In fact, facts being facts, it’s a known fact that there’s more truth in your so-called “animation” than in the dull fare you may know as the “documentary.”

Here’s how it works: the documentary filmmaker is approached by the ad agency only after thorough market research. They figure out product placement details and the target audience. They figure out who to get for the voiceovers, they write the documentary “script,” they hire the cartoonists, and bob’s your uncle. The documentary’s nearly finished.

Remember “Joe Camel?” The Disney corp sure remembers him. Fact is, Joe Camel was featured in a “documentary” ad campaign by JR Reynolds tobacco corp [you may know them as the makers of Kraft mayonaise –ed.]. From Wikipedia:

In 1991, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing that more children 5 and 6 years old could recognize Joe Camel than could recognize Mickey Mouse… and alleged that the “Joe Camel” campaign was supposedly targeting children—despite R.J. Reynold’s contention that the campaign had been researched only among adults and was directed only at the smokers of other brands.

What’s clear is Disney, working with the automobile corporations and ad agencies, took a page from the Joe Camel phenomenon.

They took a deadly addiction and tried to make it seem cute and harmless.

The movie flopped of course. See, cars are not cute. They aren’t harmless. The difference between cars and mice, or cars and camels, or cars and totoros or rabbits, for that matter, is clear. Cars are not fuzzy.

So with the latest attempt, too, we have guaranteed failure. Who Killed the Electric Car? Who cares.

Fuzzy, my friends. Remember that for your next documentary.

2 Responses to “Who (was) Killed (by) the Electric Car?”

  1. lockhughes says:

    Hi Allderblob

    I've been driving a human-electric hybrid two-wheeler around Toronto now for about 5yrs and over 10k so far, for commutes mostly.

    Yes, under electric power it is quiet, like the Victorian pedal bicycle.

    And of course it doesn't care where the electricity comes from. These days in Toronto it's a mix of nuke and nat gas as well as hydro, mostly. But every time Ontario puts up another windmill or taps more hydro, it gets a little cleaner.

    The electrics will run off of just about any sort of renewable energy really. About the only thing it doesn't run on is oil.

    Unfortunately using food energy these days involves burning quite a bit of oil, and leaves a trail of sewage that ends up in our drinking water, and packaging that ends up as landfill...

    I'm with you 100% I believe, looking fwd. to the death of the 20th century auto - gas *or* electric.

    I'm only asking that you not mix the electric tech with the 20th century auto!

    It's tough to fight the auto, but one way would be to offer alternatives that folks can "buy into"...

    It's certainly true that North Americans need more exercise.

    However pedaling the Victorian bicycle in 20th century traffic is perhaps the most dangerous form of exercise possible.

    Elevated respiration rates (as exertion on pedals) in smoggy urban canyons is not so healthy.

    Just about any other form of exercise is better, and safer.

    So how `bout designing little two-wheelers that are safer and more comfortable and more convenient than the pedal bicycle?

    In one informal survey, 100% of respondents so far have indicated they would rather be run into by me on my little motorized two wheeler, rather than me in a Toronto Parks minivan...

    Because my little vehicle is a hybrid, it can still be propelled by muscle for exercise (and warmth), but it also affords me the *option* of using some of the stored electrical energy onboard...

    In fact, with this option, longer distances become practical for commutes on two wheels...

    The electric motor on my vehicle is tiny - about the size of a can of soup. And because it runs over 90% energy efficient, it never gets hot (heat being waste energy.)

    The motor is rated at less than one horse power. Most Canadians don't know what one horse power looks like. In electric terms that's about 750 watts, so less powerful than most home coffee makers or hair dryers.

    This vehicle that I'm familiar with has a motor rated at more like 350 watts... equivalent to a few old-style light bulbs.

    With a top speed under electric power of about 20kph, it's not as fast as many on pedal bicycles, but riders on vehicles like mine suffer about half the accidents and injury vs the pedal bike.

    Not as fast as the pedal bicycle, but often faster than the TTC or private auto on congested urban streets.

    And it's more comfortable to ride than a pedal bike too.

    While it has about the same wheel base as a pedal bicycle, with smaller wheels it is about two feet shorter than most pedal bikes, and this makes it a lot more practical.

    For example, it parks in a closet.

    It doesn't have a seat to get wet in the rain, or stolen.

    This vehicle also gets *kicked* rather than pedalled. Meaning that it doesn't have gears and pedals and all that extra stuff, so it's simplier to maintain, and more reliable.

    The electric tech is not new - batteries and electric motors are Victorian tech too. My vehicle was made about ten years ago by an Australian company. I bought it second hand for $500Cdn, so it's not expensive either.

    Compared to a monthly Metropass, the thing paid for itself in less than a year.

    Even at twice todays fake hydro rates, energy costs under electric power work out to about a penny per km...

    Bike couriers in Toronto "earn" $15 every working day, as a tax credit for the food energy they consume in their business. If they pedal 100km in a working day, that's 15 cents a km.

    A full charge for the batteries works out to about 12 cents, so, yeah, my vehicle isn't going to motor all day on one charge, but as a human-electric hybrid, commutes of 10-20km are quite possible on one charge.

    Really what electric vehicles expend are *batteries* which eventually wear out, but at least the tech exists where the batteries *can* be recycled properly. At least, better than pumping sewage into the Lake or burying packaging in landfills...

    Recently, the Province of Ontario announced two pilot test projects. Power-assisted bicycles, and the "Segway" electric scooter. Adding power-assist to the Victorian pedal bicycle is a half-measure, and to folks that are familiar with power-assist, the Segway is a sad joke. An overpriced toy.

    Because my vehicle is kicked and not pedalled, it is still illegal in Canada...

    This gets back to the fact that is is not solely powered by human muscle, so falls under Federal laws as a "motorized vehicle", and under the purview of Transport Canada.

    TC even studied my vehicle recently, and ignored their own findings as well as others, to declare my vehicle "unsafe"...

    This for a vehicle that is now manufactured in the millions every year, and legal in other jurisdictions with populations that are larger than Canada.

    So yah, this is disruptive technology that the "car people" are afraid of. Buzz Hargrove was overheard to say that it is a threat to the automotive industry...

    So that can't be a bad thing eh?

    Anyway, if you are interested in "alternative" tech that most Canadians are unfamiliar with, I have links!

    Thanks for your good work w/Allderblob

    human-electric hybrid


    [...] we once posted a shot of “homer choking bart simpson,” and (on another occasion) “Jessica Rabbit,” and for some reason folks will want to clip those shots and use them to illustrate obscure [...]

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