Who Killed The Electric Car?

Official film description

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 Mel Gibson. 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.

Further reviews

A balanced examination of the reasons for the electric car's disappearance, reasons that include corporate collusion and greed, governmental spinelessness and oil company propaganda -- but also consumer indifference and the limitations of the vehicles themselves – San Francisco Chronicle

A murder mystery, a call to arms and an effective inducement to rage, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" is the latest and one of the more successful additions to the growing ranks of issue-oriented documentaries. Like Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" and the better nonfiction inquiries into the war in Iraq, this information-packed history about the effort to introduce — and keep — electric vehicles on the road wasn't made to soothe your brow. – The New York Times

Paine doesn't hide his liberal mind-set, but he lets all sides - from GM suits to Ralph Nader - have their say. By the closing credits, there's little doubt who killed the electric car. – New York Post

Technical information and screening rights...

Director(s): Chris Paine
Script: Chris Paine
Production: Jessie Deeter, Electric Entertainment, Plinyminor, Papercut Films
Music: Michael Brook
Actors: Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Martin Sheen
Year: 2006
Duration: 92 min
Country of origin: United States
Shooting Locations: United States
Our age recommendation: 14
Screening rights: Papercut Films ()

More information...


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Main topic(s): Mobility
Secondary topics: car innovation politics
Mentions: auto oil electric car industry EV1 GM General Motors
Topic Page(s): Mobility

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