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Saturday, April 05, 2008

A few fail the many

Watched the movie "Who killed the electric car?" recently. It was a documentary and the fact that it was put on top of the blockbuster online queue drew a lot of criticism from the wife and my queueing prvileges have been revoked for even putting this movie on the list!

Being the pro-green dude that I have become, it was an extremely difficult documentary to watch. Even more difficult that the Al Gore documentary. If Al Gore's "An inconvenient truth" showed us where the world is headed and beseeched us to find solutions, this movie was a reality check.

The solutions are already there. We just won't let them out! The best part of the film was I got to see the Ovshinsky's (Stan and Iris) who between them hold 200 patents, came up with so many things that cross my world today be it solar cells, Nickel metal hydride batteries, fuel cells, Chalcogenide based Phase Change Memories (PCM's) etc. etc. It was my dream to meet them in person some day! The couple had actually come up with a cheap long lasting battery technology, that made the electric car, cost competitive against gasoline based cars.

Apparently, Chevron bought a major stake in their company and shelved the technology because it threatens the existance of the gasoline based car as we know it!

Why would I buy a Prius if there was an EV1 option? I do not know!!

This post is not about the electric EV1 or Prius or environmentalism or technology.

It is about how a few people who decide the fate of many invariably make decisions which do not comprehend the responsibility of that decision making. It is almost a disease with politicians today, that when it comes to making right decisions, they invariably do what is right (economically for them, in their minds, at that time, or for their interests) as opposed to doing the morally right thing (which would be the greatest good for the greater many, right by the planet, looking forward to the future).

I would also be the worlds greatest bigot if I expected politicians and leaders to do that when an average citizen of the world cannot do the same thing, more particularly, if I cannot do that!

Given a choice between spending extra to solar power our home and continuing with the power grid, we chose the power grid. Given a choice to sell the old car and buy a Prius, we chose to keep the old car as long as it runs and save money. The same thing happened with a lawn in the backyard vs. synthetic turf! So many similar choices where we could have made a difference to the world or aorund us where the economics of the situation trumps the dogooder options.

In a world where it is each man for himself, where states protect their vested interests by erecting dams to control river water flows, where humans murder fellow humans by the hundreds of thousands every year in the name of religion, resources, security, and many other such things which really have no boundaries if you look deep enough, there is no hope for the many to expect the chosen few to do right by them. There is not even much hope for the many to expect the other people described by "the many" do the right thing!

Why have I suddenly become so self absorbed, self deprecating, guilty, etc. etc. Well in a way, my internal justification for doing a lot of things in this life was that technology would make this world a better place. After watching this movie, it has become apparent that the only technology that will make it into the world and its people are those that do not threaten today's rich in anyway.

Now that is a depressing thought, isn't it?

ps. This does not mean I will curl up into a ball and go sleep in the dark. Far from it. Life goes on. One can always hope that Ratan Tata will make a solar powered vehicle that gives the "Nano" a run for its money, or the Chinese will realize that they could get out of oil dependence and pollution by going to small Electric Vehicles. Yes! We can keep dreaming. It could happen....


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I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 1:56 AM, Blogger dipali wrote...

A truly humbling, thought provoking post, Sundar.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 4:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

How can you possibly be so gullible as to believe the lies in that film? Do you really and truly believe that any idiot would buy or lease a car like the EV-1? It was recently names one of the worst cars ever built. It cost 3 times more than a Honda Civic, couldn't reach any destinations (and return) more than 35 miles away, took 8 hours to recharge, and required a replacement for its $20,000 battery pack every 5 years. It held two people and no luggage and GM was never able to lease more than 800 of their 1100 car fleet.
Toyota and Honda both built (and canceled) their EVs as well, a point that the movie inexplicably
failed to mention (actually not so inexplicably, it turns out - Chris Paine made a backroom, hidden deal with Toyota and agreed not to make them a villain in his film,
making his movie laughably dishonest to all of us electric car historians) - only gullible souls believe the "infomercial" that lying Paine has filmed. His film requires an ignorant audience that knows and remembers nothing about those crappy electric vehicles that were all built during the 1990s and early years of this century. The only people I ever see who believe the film are those who knew nothing about electric cars or their history.
The whole problem were the batteries, the thing that killed the cars during the 'teens' and made sure they never came back. GM is currently building a practical electric vehicle and no one would ever build a car like the EV-1 ever again. Nobody killed that car because it was never alive - only in the fantasy of Paine's warped and dishonest mind. He is one gigantic crook who has deceived an entire geenration - the Dumb and Dumber generation who believe propaganda as completely as the Germans believed what the Nazis were spouting during the 1930's. Why in the world would anyone look to Hollywood to learn about history? They have never made an historically accurate film in 100 years.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 12:02 PM, Blogger Swetha wrote...

Change does not happen in a day. A baby step is needed for change to take place in a big way. And technology will eventually catch up. At least, we should do our bit towards making earth greener!!!

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 4:11 PM, Blogger Sundar Narayanan wrote...

dipali, thanks

anon, every post about the electric vehicle in blogdom seems to draw such anon commenters who come and flame the EV and the movie.. it is borderline funny. Why go anon?

I have seen EV's charging outside the local Fry's electronics. Granted having talked to some people, it was expensive at 500 bucks a month but when I used to pay 420 a month in those days (I was naive) for my maxima the extra 80 bucks for the EV was a big deal. But the EV was not publicised right.

Being a materials scientist, battery technology has come a long way..

somehow it looks like you have convinced yourself that it is okay to let go because Paine made a bad movie! Based on the words you use and the language, it almost appears that there are people hired full time to go refute this movie and the EV!!


Swetha, you are right.. Did read your earth initiative post. so far no posts from many on if it really succeeded even in a small way.. no ads on tv about this initiative, no chain emails (not that I am a fan of chain mails), no closure, no big press..even with google jumping in! find that odd..


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