DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006)
Published on November 8, 2006
Documentary by Chris Paine
Narration by Martin Sheen
Studio: Sony Pictures 15286
Video: 1.78:1 enhanced for 16:9 widescreen, color
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, DD 2.0
Extras: Featurette “Jump-Starting the Future;” Deleted scenes; Meeky Rosie Music Video “Forever”
Length: 93 minutes
Another in a recent series of excellent and much-needed documentaries, now that documentaries are no longer a dirty word to movie exhibitors and distributors. The story line of the film works like a murder mystery, moving toward solving the crime of introducing and then killing off the all-electric car. It opens with a mock funeral ceremony that was held in LA for the electric car by one of the several organizations supporting the sensible alternative to internal combustion gas-guzzlers.
The story revolves primarily around General Motors’ fleet of EV-1 electric cars which were so efficient and loved that they were about to alert the future of the automobile in the U.S. The trick was that GM didn’t sell the cars, they only leased them. So when they decided to bury the entire project – even though many were clamoring to own them – they could just say the lease was up and the cars all had to be returned to be destroyed. Which they were. The scam seems like a repeat of the post-WWII destruction of the streetcars and trolleys and tearing up of their tracks, which was financed in many cities by General Motors. Of course they couldn’t have done it again without the help of oil-business-loving politicians.
Some of the on-screen talking heads include Ralph Nader, Ed Begley Jr., Mel Gibson and Alexandra Paul. Many of the EV-1s were placed with Hollywood celebrities; Tom Hanks is seen holding forth on one of the big talk shows about how great his EV-1 has been. The historical background of electric cars is also delved into; there were more of them on the road a century ago than gas or steam-powered cars. Today’s hybrid cars are discussed, as well as the possible problems of the hydrogen cell-powered cars which the current administration keeps promoting but which appear to impractical for several reasons. A promising possibility may be the adapted plug-in hybrid car, in which a standard AC charger is plugged into Prius-type vehicles overnight, greatly increasing the battery running time and thus reducing use of the gas engine option.
– John Sunier