Who Killed the Electric Car?
Take – Home Midterm
A relevant social group is a group of people who share the same set of meanings, or feelings, attached to a specific artifact. In this case, it is all groups of people who feel the same way about the electric car. There are many relevant social groups involved with the electric car. They include General Motors, the consumers/drivers/fans of the EV1, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the federal government, Ovonics (battery company), and the oil companies. General motors is a relevant social group because they are the ones who manufactured and sold the EV1. They originally decided to abide by the state’s law about selling a certain percentage of electric vehicles, but soon after decided to face the consequences of not selling them. They installed poor quality batteries in order to deter consumers even more and argued that they could not make money off of the electric vehicle. GM did not properly, if at all, advertise for their electric vehicle, and when consumers came to them regarding the electric vehicle, the limitations of this vehicle were exaggerated in order to deter them from purchasing or leasing. General Motors took back all EV1s after their leases were up, not allowing the leasee to renew their lease, and crushed all of the remaining EV1s. The consumers, or fans of the EV1 are a very important relevant social group. This group drove the EV1 and did not want to see it go. They investigated where they were taken and tried to buy them back. They reached out to General Motors in the hopes of saving the EV1, however they were unsuccessful. The oil companies are another major relevant social group. They knew that they would lose a lot of money if people decided to switch over to the electric vehicle. This is why they decided to kill the electric car before it took off. The government, in partner with the oil companies, sued the state of California in order to overturn the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate. Also partnering with the oil companies, the government “put forward hydrogen fuel cells as a better alternative to gas and battery electric cars.”1 The California Air Resources Board (CARB) knew that by introducing the electric vehicle that they would be able to solve their air quality problem caused by vehicle emissions. Thus, they introduced the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate. Alan Lloyd, chairman of the CARB until 2004, played a major role in having the mandate less restrictive and gave in to unproven hydrogen fuel cell technology. This is what may have caused the death of the electric car. Ovonics created a battery that would allow the EV1 to go twice the distance that they were currently able to do. However, they were suppressed from announcing these better batteries by General Motors. They then sold the supplier’s majority share to another company. The group of people who introduced the hydrogen fuel cell and the idea of the fuel cell car are also a relevant social group. They introduced a new idea in order to take the attention away from the EV1. 2.
Interpretive flexibility is the fact that different social groups can influence the development of the technology by the meaning that it has to them personally. The car companies, General Motors in particular, interpreted the EV1 as a vehicle that was of no use to them because they could not make money off of it. By introducing the EV1 they would lose out on profits made on the regular vehicles because there would be no regular tune ups, oil changes, and less brake jobs. They did not want the EV1 to evolve and become the car that everyone drives. GM decided to only lease out these vehicles and sabotaged their own car selling program in order to get out of having to provide the electric vehicle option. This in turn could have been the cause, or one of the causes of the death of the electric car.
The consumer or...
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