Revenge of the Electric Car


US filmmaker releases a follow up to 2006 film Who Killed the Electric Car. Rob Steadman looks under the bonnet.

In 2006, US filmmaker Chris Paine released Who Killed the Electric Car. This controversial independent picture accused General Motors and the auto industry at large of blocking the release of a mass produced electric car. It stirred up debate and controversy, winning several international awards in the process. It details General Motors’ scrapping of the EV1 a virtually electric powered car (it did carry fuel as a back-up) after losing billions on a leasing scheme. Paine argued corporate conspiracy between the auto and oil industry, general motors argued a lack of public interest.

In his new film Revenge of the Electric Car, Paine goes behind the scenes at Nissan, GM, and Telsa Motors, to document the return of the plug in electric car.

Initially it was difficult for Paine to get the film off the ground,

“I reached out to the car makers on hearing that electric cars might be coming back into production. Many said no. A few eventually said yes.  And I found independent money to make it. It took time and there was distrust on all sides at different times.  We knew we were vulnerable to car industry PR efforts and they knew they couldn’t control what we did editorially.”

The film opened on 21 October, in New York and Los Angeles. First screenings of the film welcomed by auto industry leaders, suggest a more sympathetic view to their work. Telsa for example are giving away tickets to screenings with Nissan holding private screenings of its own.

The revival of interest in the electric car has seen a number of countries subsidising and offering incentives to stimulate the production and sale, with the barriers for success being numerous. Mainly the lack of charging infrastructure and high prices (due to the lithium-ion battery) have held back sales. China has announced plans to put $15 billion into their electric car industry. The mass usage of the electric car would be a major factor in reducing global carbon emissions. A UK study by the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform stated that the electric car could reduce carbon emissions by 40%.

Revenge of the Electric Car chronicles the renewed public and commercial interest in manufacturing a car that could have significant implications on global climate change. Chris Paine is cautiously optimistic for the future, “I hope this film encourages more people to give highway speed plug-in cars a shot whatever their perspective or politics but there’s incredible pushback to fundamental change, this film is not an argument – it’s a story about momentum to change. We have the intelligence and renewable resources to do much better.” 

Watch the new film’s trailer or take a look at Who Killed the Electric Car. You might have to wait for a DVD release this side of the pond.