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In 1996, electric cars began to appear on roads all over California. They were quiet and fast, produced no exhaust and ran without gasoline. Ten years later, these futuristic cars were almost entirely gone. What happened? Why should we be haunted by the ghost of the electric car?
It begins with a solemn funeral for a car. By the end of Chris Paine's lively and informative documentary, the idea doesn't seem quite so strange. As narrator Martin Sheen notes, "They were quiet and fast, produced no exhaust and ran without gasoline." Paine proceeds to show how this unique vehicle came into being and why General Motors ended up reclaiming its once-prized creation less than a decade later. He begins 100 years ago with the original electric car. By the 1920s, the internal-combustion engine had rendered it obsolete. By the 1980s, however, car companies started exploring alternative energy sources, like solar power. This, in turn, led to the late, great battery-powered EV1. Throughout, Paine deftly translates hard science and complex politics, such as California's Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate, into lay person's terms (director Alex Gibney, Oscar-nominated for Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, served as consulting producer). And everyone gets the chance to have their say: engineers, politicians, protesters, and petroleum spokespeople--even celebrity drivers, like Peter Horton, Alexandra Paul, and a wild man beard-sporting Mel Gibson. But the most persuasive participant is former Saturn employee Chelsea Sexton. Promoting the benefits of the EV1 was more than a job to her, and she continues to lobby for more environmentally friendly options. Sexton provides the small ray of hope Paine's film so desperately needs. Who Killed the Electric Car? is, otherwise, a tremendously sobering experience. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Stills from Who Killed the Electric Car? (click for larger image)
Writer/Director Chris Paine Blogs About Who Killed the Electric Car
When Who Killed the Electric Car premiered at the Sundance Film Festival (on the same weekend as An Inconvenient Truth), we wondered whether movie goers were ready for a new kind of 'action film'. Fortunately people jumped onboard and this seems even more true today.
We put this DVD together after the release of the film to include a dozen short scenes we couldn't quite fit into our story. My favorite is one with Stan and Iris Ovshinsky who developed the revolutionary battery technology that powered GM's electric car (and today's Prius). These two brilliant octogenarians took our small camera crew on a Willy Wonka style tour of their inventions including the world's largest thin film solar cell factory. As we stood under a football field size machine in Troy Michigan, I blustered "Is solar power back?" Stan exclaimed " What?! Solar never went away... What was back was backward thinking!" And as his machine cranked out miles of solar cells above us, we knew he was right.
I'm especially glad that the optimistic last scene of Who Killed the Electric Car has proven that we weren't just wishful thinkers when we finished our edit. The clips feature the first glimpse of the ultra fast Tesla electric sports prototype as well the Zenn neighborhood electric vehicle. Both cars are starting to roll off production lines today. And while the State of California (and some car companies) are still gambling on hydrogen fuel cells, plug-in cars are proving to be more environmentally efficient and popular. Early adopters deserve a lot of the credit. Oil companies and the internal combustion engine monopoly may have "killed" thousands of electric cars (EVs) in the 1990s, but EVs are coming back. (Stay tuned for next film...)
I hope you'll find our documentary takes you on a wild ride out of the 20th century and into the 21st. --Chris Paine, Writer/Director
"Who Killed the Electric Car?" is a documentary that explores the creation, limited commercialization, and subsequent destruction of the battery electric vehicle in the... Read morePublished 8 days ago by Desertman84
A must-see for anyone serious about the environment, serious about politics, or serious about movie-watching!Published 1 month ago by KD-D
If this is true, How will these Car Industry managers explain this to their grand children....
Must read, identifies corruption of the government, oil, and auto industries, and irresponsibility of consumers to get involved and be aware of what is going on in the world we... Read morePublished 1 month ago by nancy weaver
Great video chronicle of how big corporations chose not to embrace e better car.Published 4 months ago by Mark & Maria
|Topic||From this Discussion|
|GM EV1 made the list of "Worst Cars of All Time"!||
"Assume a tiny electric car can get 3 miles from each KWh of energy. So a 500miles driving range requires 166.7KWh. To deliver this much energy in 1/12 of an hour..." said NLee. But these assumptions are not realistic. Why would it be important to get a range of 500 miles from a... Read More
Jan 29, 2008 by njdj | See all 4 posts
|Audio or subtitiles in Spanish?||
the one i rented only had french subtitles available.
Jul 15, 2008 by McGirt | See all 2 posts
|Good Over-view of the EV1 Debacle Information Resource Link||
Hey Bugs, thats exactly what i thought after viewing the movie, but now after pleanty of research i feel GM did the right thing as they pulled the EV1 in order to refine the technology, which will be revelead with their new Cheverlet Volt, due out shortly. The vehicle has an ethanol engine and... Read More
Feb 18, 2008 by Simon Rosser | See all 4 posts
|The History of the Conspiracies Against EV's, Environment and Common Sense||
Am I missing something?? How does the advent of the EV shift us away from fossil fuels? Where is the electricity going to come from? Right now more than 50% of the USA's electricity comes from fossil fuel, converting millions of automobiles to electricity is going to greatly increase the demand... Read More
Jul 10, 2007 by TPower | See all 8 posts
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