Local Celebs Speak Out at Mock EV1 Funeral

Last week, people gathered at a cemetery in Hollywood to say goodbye to a friend who was taken before her time. The mourners turned out in numbers and read eulogies and recalled fond memories of a companion that they say was killed by the state of California. They honored the General Motors EV1, the first modern electric car, in the wake of California's decision to revise its Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate.

Published: 07-Aug-2003

GM introduced the EV1 in 1996 in California and Arizona, and produced 700 automobiles through 1999. Because the car was deemed experimental, the cars were not for sale. GM leased the vehicles for about $300 a month and the majority of those were leased to Southern California residents, including local celebrities, many of whom turned out for the "funeral."

Citing the California Air Resources Board's (CARB) decision to drop the ZEV Mandate and costly marketing failures, GM began recalling the vehicles last fall and is refusing to extend the leases.

On April 24, CARB dropped the directive that had been in effect since 1990. The mandate required a certain percentage of all cars offered for sale in the state to be powered by electricity or alternative fuels and to be rolled out in phases. By 2003 10 percent of vehicles offered were to fall into that category.

The new revision allows automakers to sell fuel cell vehicles and gasoline-electric hybrids, rather than battery-electric vehicles, to fulfill part of the requirements that were originally set forth in the ZEV Mandate.

The City of Malibu installed two charging stations on Civic Center Way in 2001 to accommodate electric vehicles, but usage was minimal, and now, perhaps, will be nonexistent. Charging stations cost approximately $11,000.

"Electricity could have had a very important niche in our energy mix as far as automobiles are concerned," Malibu resident and actor Dennis Weaver said. "If you're driving around the city it's a very good automobile, particularly if it runs on solar electricity."

Weaver has been campaigning for hydrogen to replace gasoline for 10 years, and is founder of the Institute of Ecolonomics that brings together various interests to promote the relationship between the environment and business.

"California is looked to as a leader and always has been very progressive in moving toward more beneficial programs and technologies," Weaver said. "I can imagine [the EV1 owners] were very disappointed."

Weaver currently drives a Toyota Prius, a gasoline-electric hybrid. In May he led "Drive to Survive 2003," a caravan of non-polluting and low-polluting automobiles from Santa Monica to Washington, D.C. where he met with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham.

"I'm from Missouri, and if you're from Missouri you've got to be shown," Weaver said, referring to President Bush's pledge of $1.2 billion to hydrogen fuel cell development. "We'll see where that money goes. Is it going to help create the infrastructure or are our tax dollars going to go to the major automobile makers to finance their research and development?"

In 2001, GM, Daimler-Chrysler and the Justice Department filed an injunction against CARB arguing the ZEV Mandate violated the federal government's right to control fuel economy. A district court in San Francisco agreed and GM cancelled the EV1 program.

To express their frustration and raise public awareness, EV1 owners organized the funeral at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on July 24. Twenty-four EV1s with funeral placards followed a hearse, a battery-powered Segway scooter and a bagpipe player through the gates of the cemetery where various speakers and guest celebrities addressed the crowd.

Participants included local resident Ed Begley Jr. ("Six Feet Under"), Peter Horton ("thirtysomething"), Hart Bochner ("Die Hard"), Alexandra Paul (Baywatch) and representatives from other organizations including the Earth Communications Office, Coalition for Clean Air, Sierra Club and some designers of the original EV1 car.

"California politicians and automakers get the credit for creating these magnificent cars," filmmaker Chris Paine said. "But they also get the blame for killing them when they are needed most."

Others in attendance were more positive in their speech to the mourners. "It's a time for rejoicing," inventor Paul MacCready said. "There will be more electric vehicles in the future, and it's all because of the EV1."

Views :2640



blog comments powered by Disqus