18. The Censored News About Electric Automobiles

by Project Censored

Source: Earth Island Journal 300 Broadway, Ste. 28, San Francisco, CA 94133-3312, Date: Fall 1992, Title: “The Suppression of Ideas By the Oil and Auto Industries,” Author: Ed Schilling, Title: “When America Made Electric Cars,” Author: Robert G. Beaumont

SSU Censored Researcher: Kenneth Lang

SYNOPSIS: The conventional wisdom on transportation of the future envisions a world without gas-guzzling and polluting cars … a world where electric cars are the norm. To the surprise of many, however, the potential for mass-produced electric cars is already here and has been present for some time.

Over the last 40 years, tens of thou­sands of electric vehicles have been built, sold and put on the road. They’ve been designed and manufactured by small, in­dependent companies, while Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers apparently never got beyond the tinkering stage. Instead, the auto industry has been more adept at sub­verting any threat to the money-making infernal combustion engine.

In the 1930s, General Motors con­spired with Standard Oil of California, Phillips Petroleum, Firestone Tire and Rubber and others to secretly dismantle the nation’s energy-efficient, electrified mass-rail system. They bought and then destroyed trolley lines in cities, including Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Portland, Tam­pa, Baltimore, El Paso and Long Beach. The companies were subsequently con­victed of violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and fined $5,000 each; their execu­tives were each ordered to pay a $1 fine.

Meanwhile, others continued to ex­plore the benefits of electric-powered trans­portation. In one 24-month period, from May 1974 through April 1976, Sebring­-Vanguard, Inc., produced over 2,250 small, electric-powered CitiCars and marketed them for more than $6 million. To date these vehicles have accumulated more than 20 million miles without a fatality or single injury. Unfortunately, though, Sebring-Vanguard lacked the capital to mass-produce and soon went out of busi­ness. Now, according to Sebring-Vanguard founder Robert G. Beaumont, a market­able, useful electric car could be produced and sold for under $8,000.

Early in 1990, prompted by strict new laws requiring “emission free” vehicles for the Los Angeles market by 1995, GM rushed to unveil its electric-powered Impact. Able to go 125 miles between two-hour charges, the 2,000 pound Impact claims a top speed of 110 miles per hour. So, here are a couple of questions for GM: What took you so long? And why aren’t these cars on the market by now?

In the U.S. today, where one out of five jobs depends on the auto industry, Detroit’s car makers continue to test, rather than mass-produce, new electric engines. Some experts predict that the nations that invent, produce and profit from the imminent boom market for electric autos and ad­vanced batteries will be Germany, Britain and Japan, which forged ahead in the 1980s while the Reagan administration was ripping the solar panels off the White House and slashing funds for conserva­tion and alternative energy programs. In Europe, electric rechargers already have been installed at some city parking meters.

One would think that the major media would recognize the importance of this issue to our economic and environmental survival, and give the electric car the cov­erage. But, hey, our economic and envi­ronmental survival doesn’t have an adver­tising budget.

COMMENTS: Investigative author Ed Schilling reports there has been little press coverage of this subject; and that coverage generally consists of prototype photos with short captions in the business section of newspapers. He adds, “No one has ex­plored the historical development of elec­tric cars, electric hybrids or Sterling en­gines in any real depth.”

“The mass media seldom, if ever, question the monopolistic practices of the `Big 3′ automakers, or their continuous shelving of viable prototypes, or their long history of creating an almost total reliance on the private car. The relationship be­tween these factors and America’s in­creased dependence on foreign oil con­tinues to be overlooked.

“The general public would benefit greatly as informed consumers. They would come to realize to what degree their choices have been limited by the suppres­sion of viable transportation alternatives. The average city commuter, stuck in traffic for hours a day and forced to inhale sickly levels of polluted air, may become an­gered to find out that viable automobile alternatives existed 25 years ago, but were never produced. If he knew more about the transportation conspiracy, he may become outraged enough to take action. The American people have a right to know, to affect change and to translate knowl­edge into power.”

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