In 2006, Director Chris Paine debuted a documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?, with much acclaim. The documentary focused on the destruction of electric cars, like the EV-1, by the major automobile companies. Questioning the motivations behind the sudden extinction of electric vehicles, and the move back towards gas run automobiles and the dependence on foreign oil it was a harsh look into the reality of big business. Now five years later the topic is examined once again, from a drastically different viewpoint. In only five years the automobile industry has made electric vehicles a priority, and four are on the road today. Chris Paine’s Revenge of the Electric Car traces the steps three major car companies, GM, Nissan, and Tesla, as well as an underground environmentalist who is converting gasoline vehicles into electric ones.
The opening shot of the film is an image Southern Californians know very well, the 110/101/5 interchange in Downtown Los Angeles. A multitude of cars travel on the freeways below, over and under passes, finding their way to work, school, and home on a daily basis. This is one of the main traffic hubs of Los Angeles County, it is also one of the worst for traffic congestion and air pollution. Don Neil, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal is traveling along the highway, and he speaks about his love for the gas automobile, he is a regular car enthusiast. He also remarks that he will never buy a gasoline run car again. A big statement for a man living in a country where an all functioning electric vehicle is still on the horizon. Revenge of the Electric Car is a documentary set out to prove the possibility of a functional electric car is closer than we think; by functional I mean commuter friendly for longer driving distances than say 35 miles on one charge. Let’s face it, in Los Angeles, given the traffic conditions and large distances between Metropolitan areas, an estimated 35 miles is not going to get you very far.
Paine was given full access to the places that would have had him arrested when he made his previous documentary. He was allowed inside GM, Nissan, and Tesla. They spoke with him, showed him the progress of the electric car design and manufacturing, and even let him witness the pitfalls. The largest one being of course the financial crisis of 2008 that saw GM file for bankruptcy and Tesla unable to secure the needed funding. Revenge of the Electric Car gives viewers a close look at how the decisions were made to bring the electric car back from the dead. Some did it for the purpose of relinquishing our need for foreign oil and pollution, like Tesla. Others as a way to adapt to a changing landscape of economical politics, GM. The one who foresees the future, and the profitable nature of electric vehicles, even with the risk, Nissan. As for the underground entrepreneur, Greg “Gadget” Abbott, he is doing it for the right reasons altogether–he wants a cleaner world that still has classic cars. His converted 1967 Camaro attests to this fact.
The documentary does not admonish the car companies for what they did five years ago, it actually takes a very positive perspective on what they are doing know. There are interviews with journalists, specialists in the field of automobiles, and even celebrities that range from the non-believers to the die-hard supporters. These interviews are woven into the documentary to time perfectly with the timeline of action. Building an electric car for mass-production is not an easy feat for a company like GM who has made gas guzzlers such as The Hummer. Nor is it easy for a start-up like Tesla who decides to make the sports car of electric cars first, with a price tag over $100,000–not very mass-marketable. Nissan of course just wants to jump on board the newest craze. Their man-in-charge Carlos Gsohn is not known for being sentimental to the plight of the environment; he is all business, and business is money.
The four stories, all told from different people inside the walls of GM, Nissan, Tesla, and the Underground, provide insight into what the public may not know as to just how the new electric cars found a home again on the road. The documentary is interesting and factual. It is about the companies as well as the people involved with them. It does not shy away from the truth, but relies on recent history, and the true happenings of what really went on the past five years, to tell the story.
Revenge of the Electric Car also provides a happy ending, whereas Who Killed The Electric Car? left a sour taste in your mouth. There are four electric models on the road today, that you can purchase. Three of them are within reach for a normal consumer as well.
The Nissan Leaf: MSRP $35,200 (without federal tax rebates). 100 miles per charge.
The Chevy Volt: MSRP $40,280 (after rebates). 35 miles per electric charge. Back-up gasoline engine, estimated mileage 375.
The Tesla Model S: MSRP $49,900 starting price. Range of 160, 230, or 300 based on conditions.
The Tesla Roadster: MSRP Contact Tesla (est. $100,000). No longer in production but available stock for sale from factory.
Revenge of the Electric Car estimates by 2015 over one-million electric cars will be on the road. Costing less than $1 dollar “per gallon” to run. Sure, you have to install a charging device at your home, which may limit those who do not own property or live in apartment buildings or condominiums. But there is always the possibility of electric stations, that will replace your corner gas station. Imagine seeing a sign for Union 76 that includes “87, 89, 91, Diesel, and Electric” prices. The day may come, and if the car companies keep improving on the technology, making the charges last longer and therefore opening up the consumer market to commuters, electric cars will no longer need their revenge, they will have found it in spades.
Revenge of the Electric Car website: www.revengeoftheelectriccar.com
Nissan Leaf website: Nissan USA: Leaf
Tesla Model S / Roadster Website: http://www.teslamotors.com/
Chevrolet (GM) Volt website: GM: Volt