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The Death of the Electric Car
Part 1
Part 2
EV1s lined up for funeral procession

It Made History, Then Became History
When Chris Paine heard that an electric car was being developed in the late '80s, he was thrilled. After waiting nearly a decade, he received his stylish teardrop-shaped car, which he dubbed "EV Rider." The cleanest consumer car ever produced, the EV1 had no tailpipe, spewing nothing but happy vibes into the California sunshine. Five years later, Chris was forced to say good-bye to his dream car after General Motors decided to recall the vehicle last year.

POV's Borders: How did you wind up with an EV1, especially since so few were made?
Chris Paine
Chris: I heard that General Motors was developing one in the late '80s called the Impact. I got the brochure and wrote GM to be a test driver. They never wrote back, but I watched for them at dealerships and sure enough they appeared at Saturn in California in '97. The leases started out really high at about $600 a month, but about six months later they dropped to $400. Suddenly I thought, 'Wow I can have an electric car.'

Was it that simple?
No. I had to go through an application process to see if I was the right person to have the car. Did I have a garage? Was my credit okay? I can't remember all the hoops but I had to get permission from my landlord to put a charger in, and so on. Then one day the EV specialist came along and delivered my new car. I don't even like cars and this was the first time I was ever excited about getting one.

What was it like to drive?
Fantastically fun. I'd zip around, plug it into the charger at night, which would take a couple of hours, and worked out to a couple of dollars for the charge. The car was super-efficient and had massive acceleration. It would take any car off the line. And when you step on the brakes the power went back into the car. You became very aware of energy usage when driving the car. You'd say, 'Okay, do I want to burn some energy now or take it easy? Do I want to go 100 miles on this charge or 40 miles on the charge?'

Play Video | Read More in Part Two Float to the top of the page on this cloud.

EV Rider
EV RIDR Chris Paine with EV RIDR license plate

Watch and Listen

Watch the video interview with Chris to find out how he and other drivers tried to save the EV1 — the car you'll probably never see on the road. (2:23 minutes)
In Part Two:
Watch the mock funeral for the EV1
Useful Links into EV's World
Who Killed the Electric Car?
Chris Paine's first feature-length documentary was released by Sony Pictures in June 2006. This comprehensive website includes more about electric cars, alternative fuels and a trailer for the film.
NOW: Chris Paine
Director Chris Paine talks about his upcoming documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" (June 9, 2006)
GM's Alternative Vehicles
GM's official one-stop site for alternative vehicles
California Air Resources Board (CARB)
Learn what the most stringent anti-pollution state is doing to clean up the air for car-loving Californians
Plug-in America
This group advocates the use of plug-in cars, trucks and SUVs to reduce our nation's dependence on petroleum and improve the global environment.
EV World
Online magazine devoted to electric vehicles.

Electric Vehicle Timeline
Electric cars are not new! Find out more...

Clean Air banner in EV1 back window

If General Motors had made the EV1 in greater numbers, would you have leased or bought one?