Down the memory hole

Just a decade ago, a fleet of sleek all-electric American cars were zooming around California. But the beloved EV1 was killed by a massive conspiracy that's still at work today trying to annihilate all memory of the gasoline-free vehicle.

The first batch of General Motors' EV1 battery-powered automobiles hit the streets in 1996, to meet new California requirements that emission-free cars make up 2% of new inventory by the mid-1990s. There were 5,000 people on the waiting list to lease one of the sleek EV1s, but California abruptly backtracked on the zero-emissions law and GM killed the whole program in 2003.

Heartbroken EV1 drivers were literally forced to return the lease-only vehicles -- and then General Motors smashed the futuristic cars to bits. One of the few surviving EV1s was at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, part of an exhibit of advances in automobile technology. Suddenly, it's gone.

A scathing new documentary about the EV1 premieres on June 30, so the Smithsonian got rid of the EV1 right before the car would be of national interest.

Why? Because General Motors is a major contributor to the corporate-funded institution.

"A $10 million gift in 2001 paid half the cost of the history museum's new transportation exhibition hall, which was renamed to honor the benefactor," the Washington Post reported Friday. "But museum and automaker say the EV1 was removed from view with no thoughts of public reaction to the movie or the display."

Corrupt as any politician, the Smithsonian got its orders from GM and immediately sent the rare vehicle to a secret warehouse in eastern Maryland.

Both the company and museum made the absurd claims that getting rid of the car just before the movie is released was just one of those crazy coincidences.

"There was no pressure from GM to remove the car from display," Smithsonian spokeswoman Michelle J. Werts told the Post. Werts instead made the outrageous claim that the museum suddenly needed the few feet of space occupied by the EV1 ... for a gas-guzzling SUV developed by DARPA, the Pentagon's lunatic-fringe doomsday unit.

The response from GM was even more transparent:

"It's not that I picked up the phone," GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss told the paper. "There is no conspiracy to do away with the EV1 at the Smithsonian. There is no Oliver Stone-esque conspiracy at GM to do away with the EV1."

Of course not. That's because GM did away with the EV1 three years ago, when it rounded up the amazing sedans and crushed them in the Arizona desert.

The Smithsonian's EV1 -- which was donated by GM to the Smithsonian -- was suddenly removed from the museum on Thursday. And it's never coming back, museum officials said.

"Who Killed the Electric Car?" is a mystery-documentary that got great reviews at the Sundance Film Festival. It shows how a brilliant team of GM engineers brought the car to life and delivered it to happy drivers in California -- and then factions within that same company colluded with oil companies and California politicians to destroy the EV1.

"The EV1 experience demonstrated to California regulators that battery technology was not going to advance further," Barthmuss lied. "It was only going to appeal to a small number of people."

In fact, the experience was seen as a stunning success and a thrilling glance at a future America that wouldn't need foreign oil. What the EV1 "demonstrated to California regulators" is that oil companies and their Detroit henchmen are far more powerful than people who want clean vehicles.

Southern California Edison, the utility company that provided charging stations for the EV1, describes the car as "a triumph of modern manufacturing -- hailed as one of the best small cars in GM's history, and touted as a transportation dream by enthusiastic drivers."

The vehicle a hit with California drivers and a rare recent example of excellence from an American auto manufacturer.

"As part of a memorandum of agreement with the state of California, all major automakers subsequently introduced EV models in limited numbers -- though mostly to fleet customers," according to Edison.

The electric vehicles included Chevy and Ford pickups, Chrysler and Nissan minivans, Toyota's RAV-4 SUV and a Honda sedan.

"In fact, some automakers fulfilled their individual MOA commitments ahead of schedule, and today there are waiting lists for some of these popular vehicles."

As for GM's absurd claims that "battery technology was not going to advance further," just three years after the automaker intentionally destroyed the EV1 there's a whole new wave of battery cars thrilling drivers around the world.

The Times of London reported Sunday, "Electric cars have never been cheaper. They are exempt from road tax and the £8 a day London congestion charge; they can park free in central London and other cities and the cost of recharging them is the equivalent of 600 miles to the gallon."

Better yet, according to the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper, the market is now dominated by specialty manufacturers rather than the big car companies that would rather make gasoline-run automobiles to keep the oil business happy.

For about $8,000, the G-Wiz is the new green hit in London. The ultra-clean little cars are built in India by a U.S. businessman and sold directly to drivers.

And in Japan, where hybrid and battery technology is ages beyond American industry's limp efforts, a fantastic new electric car was unveiled Monday -- a space-age road rocket that has a top speed of 250mph.

In Paris last weekend, a total of 149 new environmentally-friendly vehicles competed, including new variations of electric and hybrid motors.

The war between electric cars and gasoline-powered automobiles is more than a century old: The first electric cars were built in the 1840s, and by 1895 battery-fueled vehicles were common.

"In 1900, more electrics were sold in America than gas-powered cars," Michael Shnayerson wrote in AC Propulsion.

"Despite the vogue for the latter, electrics were widely assumed to be the car of the future--as soon as their range problems could be resolved. So confident was Thomas Edison of their potential superiority that at the peak of his success, in his early fifties, he devoted a decade of his life and most of his fortune to a search for more effective battery elements than lead and acid. The nickel and iron pairing he settled on failed in cars, but led to the nickel and cadmium batteries in universal use today in flashlights and a hundred other devices."

In fact, GM was still selling electric cars as late as 1916 -- that's the year General Motors ended production of its battery-powered pickup truck.

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