Every political or social movement has its cross to bear. Every trend has a stereotype from which to break free.

So it seems time to ask, is the public image of electric cars and other plug-in vehicles being damaged by those who maintain that a huge and evil global conspiracy exists against the EV?

We’re happy to see more and more interest in electric cars among the general public. But we also hear certain groups of existing EV owners getting shriller.

They seem awfully keen to keep alive a healthy mistrust of any mainstream automaker developing an electric vehicle. 

A little history

In 2002, a core group of activists--aghast at the crushing of electric-car fleets of General Motors EV1s, Toyota RAV4 EVs, and Honda EV Pluses--came together to protest the willful destruction of working cars with zero emissions.

Founding members of Plug-In America embarked on a long crusade to persuade everyone from home converters to startups and major automakers to go electric again.

Others branched out into advocating home-brew projects, with conversion companies and grass-roots campaigns to bring EVs to everyone. Then came the the seminal docu-film by Chris Paine, Who Killed The Electric Car?

Saturn EV1

Saturn EV1

Without these trailblazers, people who sought to correct the wrong they’d witnessed, some argue the auto industry would not be revisiting electric vehicles at all. 

Is it still 2002?

But we regularly get comments on AllCarsElectric and GreenCarReports that show a small group of vocal activists is still treating the entire car industry as if it were 2002.

Today, things have changed a lot from the dark days. Within months, automakers will begin to sell cars like the 2011 Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Volt, and the 2011 Coda Sedan.

And Chris Paine’s latest film, Revenge of the Electric Car, is due to hit cinemas soon. In it, among other story lines, he focuses on General Motors and the team that developed its 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

But some activists are still convinced that everyone from the government to the automakers are out to kill the electric car. Do such views, and such advocates do more harm than good now?

Support, but verify

When the auto industry decided to re-examine electric vehicles, many activists took on roles of support within the industry. They offered assistance and consulting to companies wishing to avoid the mistakes of past generations. 

For activists turned consultants, including Who Killed The Electric Car? star Chelsea Sexton, the future of electric vehicles has remained rosy; they are helping to bring electric cars to consumers nationwide. 

While they may remain skeptical of automakers’ intentions, they still offer advice, help and support when possible. For them it is almost a case of keeping their friends close, but their (old) enemies closer.

But those who have remained suspicious of the corporate entities of mainstream automakers have become increasingly uncomfortable with companies like Toyota, Nissan and GM bringing electric models to the market. 

Crushed GM EV1s - Screenshot, Who Kill The Electric Car?

Crushed GM EV1s - Screenshot, Who Kill The Electric Car?

Oil industry goal: Kill every last EV?

Past experience has taught them that the giants of the auto industry cannot be trusted, that lies are being told, and that ultimately the oil industry will somehow manage to kill every last electric car. 

Through Internet forums and activity at local EV clubs, the conspiracy theories spread, convincing those who pay attention that no major automaker is serious about going electric.

A corollary: Over-priced electric cars or battery technology buy-outs are meant to prevent electric vehicles from being affordable for everyone. 

As we approach 2011, a stream of many new and exciting electric cars are poised to enter the market. As that happens, a small group of increasingly bitter individuals risk damaging the EV industry irreparably, by spreading mistrust and denial.

Can car companies change?

GM Volt edges closer with signing of battery deal

GM Volt edges closer with signing of battery deal

Masquerading as advocates and enthusiasts, these naysayers will do little to sway the purchase decisions of those eager to drive electric. But for more naive EV customers and parts of the mainstream media, the conspiricy theorists are dangerous

At this pivotal time in the history of the electric car, automakers need cooperation and support rather than suspicion and the constant probing of old wounds.

It is sad to see such twisted passions in well-meaning individuals whose actions may be hurting the thing they so desperately want. They seem so stuck in their bitterness over the past that they cannot see the future. 

After all, people change. And, so do automakers.