Who Killed the Electric Car?
Director: Chris Paine
Writer: Chris Paine
Producer: Jessie Deeter
Interviews with: Phyllis Diller, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Martin SheenDavid Freeman
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 92 min
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A Review by Misael Soto
     Who killed the electric car? Ask yourself this question and I highly doubt you’ll be able to come up with an answer. In fact, you’d probably have even more questions, more than likely starting out with: who knew electric cars were even available? I knew they existed, and I knew they had ceased to exist and I thought I knew why. I figured they were simply short on “cool”. Electric cars, like General Motors EV1, looked odd, I assumed were slow, and generally lacked all the components that make Corvettes and Mustangs eye candy for any 15-year-old boy growing up. Add in the widely publicized hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that have been making headlines for the past half-decade, and I assumed the electric car was simply a bad idea that fell through as quickly as it was thought up. Enter Chris Paine’s eye opening documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?. I found that not only was I completely oblivious to the actual causes of the electric car’s demise and just how many parties were responsible, but I was also unaware of the cars’ immense practicality and how, by eliminating them, car manufacturers and everyone else involved not only stagnated but actually increased America’s dependence on foreign oil. I learned the electric car did not warrant its premature death, and I was steaming mad because of it.

      Paine proves not only adept at putting together facts in an overly engaging way but more than justifies action on the part of the audience. Paine logically and rather obviously organizes his film into three progressively concise and smaller portions: the history of the electric car, the proverbial one-by-one pointing fingers at who killed the electric car, and the overly optimistic conclusion of possible solutions. It’s amazing how many documentaries forget to set themselves up in such a rational way. Rather ingeniously the film builds, getting progressively more and more engaging, reaching an infuriating climax that had me wanting to punch the seatback in front of me. Paine then resourcefully takes this passion the audience feels about the issue and presents us with clear ways to channel that enthusiasm.

      The first part of the film, relating the history of the car and the fight between activists and almost everybody else, guzzles (hehe) about 2/3 of the film. This fills us in on just about as much background information as we can take, including the reasoning behind California passing its auspicious law in the early 1990s mandating all car companies doing business in the state to offer a zero emissions vehicle if they wished to continue selling cars in California. We learn about the cars themselves and the market for the cars at the times. It turns out I was wrong. The EV1, although a bit odd looking, could go 0-60 in 6.3 seconds and was generally all the “car” most drivers need on a daily basis. In fact, the waiting lists for the car were lengthy and after its introduction it seemed to continue to grow in popular acceptance. The fact was these electric vehicles were merely stalling until automotive manufacturers, Big Oil, and even the US Congress could get the California law overturned. Why would GM want their product to fail? The reasons behind the EV1 and other electric cars shrewdly being offered to the public only as leased products, allowing the car companies to retain the rights to all the vehicles, and how they were eventually wiped out proves so revealing and controversial that The DaVinci Code is a mere children’s story by comparison. I felt as ignorant as a five year old. And then to learn that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are just another attempt for them to stall our dependence on traditional autos and gasoline, I was amazed and dismayed at just how affective they have all been in concealing the truth from the general public.

      Who Killed the Electric Car? doesn’t present mindless facts that tend to go in one ear and out the other, like in this year’s other liberally touted documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. While presenting many undeniably eye opening statistics, Paine’s documentary does more; it presents us with the cause behind the statistics. We are not simply told what we must do to better the situation, but we are told why we must do it and how we can do it. I truly wanted to put my car up for sale as I walked out of the theatre. Forget Al Gore’s pie charts and laser pointer, this is the truly promising and engaging documentary to see this year. Not only does it provoke thought, it provokes change.

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