Computers on Wheels? In the early 2000s, a metaphor borrowed from consumer electronics helped electric vehicle enthusiasts, Silicon Valley engineers, and policymakers reinvent the automobile

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In the early 2000s, electric vehicles (EVs) fell victim to what some observers characterized as one of the most heinous and irresponsible acts of industrial vandalism in American history. After leasing several thousand EVs to customers, many of whom grew to love their cars, automakers recalled and destroyed or otherwise disposed of almost all of them. As documented by filmmaker Chris Paine in the 2006 film Who Killed the Electric Car?, General Motors’ brazen cancellation of its popular EV1, then the world’s most advanced automobile, became seared in the popular consciousness. Embittered by what they saw as a corporate conspiracy against common sense and environmental rectitude, EV proponents pushed back. Enthusiasts had long homebrewed their own EVs, and the death of the electric car sparked a fresh round of do-it-yourself activism.

This activism, informed in large part by the information technology (IT) revolution, played a major role in enabling the EV revival that began in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Guided by experience with materials, systems, and modes of organizing innovation from the world of IT, the movement spawned a powerful metaphor: the EV as a computer on wheels. This idea would cast the electric car in the glow of Silicon Valley’s unparalleled success, breathing new life into the EV project and sustaining it until public policy intervened to secure its future in the mid-2000s.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-73
Number of pages4
JournalIssues in Science and Technology
Volume39
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023

Keywords

  • electric vehicles
  • activism
  • product development

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Computers on Wheels? In the early 2000s, a metaphor borrowed from consumer electronics helped electric vehicle enthusiasts, Silicon Valley engineers, and policymakers reinvent the automobile'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this