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Smithsonian dumps electric car exhibit

The Smithsonian Institution has pulled a rare electric car from display at its Washington, D.C., museum, weeks before the release of a movie accusing General Motors of pulling the plug on the technology.
The all-electric EV1 is shown here in a General Motors photo handout from 1996. General Motors via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Smithsonian Institution has pulled a rare electric car from display, weeks before the release of a movie that was expected to boost interest in the vehicle.

In "Who Killed the Electric Car?," which premieres June 30, writer-director Chris Paine celebrates the creation of the EV1 by General Motors Corp., while also criticizing the automaker for halting production.

The nonpolluting, two-seaters enjoyed a brief ride in California and Arizona from 1996 until 2003, when they were taken off the market and destroyed.

GM says it halted production because there were only 800 paying customers. Activists, however, contend GM ignored a waiting list of 5,000 because the EV1 threatened to make the rest of GM's cars look bad.

GM, which donated the EV1, is one of the Smithsonian's biggest contributors. But museum and company officials insist the movie played no role in the decision to remove the car.

"There is no Oliver Stone-esque conspiracy at GM to do away with the EV1," GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss told The Washington Post.

The National Museum of American History, which closes for renovation in September, simply needed the space for another vehicle, spokeswoman Michelle J. Werts said.

Paine said he was disappointed the EV1 was in the museum at all.

"It's an example of what the 21st century can be in this country, if we had the willpower to do it," he said. "The Smithsonian should take the car out of the museum and put it back on the road."