New electric car film is…electric

Written by orrin


Who killed the electric car? That’s both the title and the question at the heart of Chris Paine’s remarkable whodunit documentary on the history of the electric automobile.

The film, which traces the development of the electric car from its popularity in the early 1900s to its near-death in 2003, drew a packed audience and received a standing ovation at the recent San Francisco Film Festival.

For many, the electric car represents both hope for the future and a crushing example of how industry incumbents exert pressure on politicians to eradicate potentially viable environmental products from the marketplace.

Why did the auto industry, which started pushing electric cars in the mid-1990s, suddenly ask for the keys back to all their leased electrics, even when so many owners wanted to purchase them? I remember sitting in a new electric vehicle in 1997 and thinking it was the start of a revolution.

Look around the road today and you’ll be hard-pressed to spot a single one. The story is too complex to do justice to here, involving automakers, the oil industry, consumers, and the California Air Resources Board. You’ll have to wait until this compelling documentary opens nationwide on June 28th.

After the movie, I hitched a ride to the after-party in a 100+ mpg plug-in hybrid electric Prius provided by CalCars. There, the assembled crowd of electric vehicle owners talked about their cars with both passion and unmistakeable affection. One EV owner said he was living in “utopia” and spoke of the transformative power of using the solar panels on his house to fuel his commute. Sun to roof to car. Pretty simple and amazing stuff.

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  1. Anonymous

    Dear Edward Rudelt:
    If you are still interested in talking about your ideas, please write me at [email protected].

  2. Doug Korthof

    To do 1000 miles driving per month (the national average) takes no more than 250 kWh of electric energy (the energy equivalent of about 7 gallons of gas).
    The average home uses 500 to 1000 kWh per month; some homes use more than 250 kWh for running an old refrigerator or two.
    So to do the average person’s driving, you would only need a fraction of your current electric usage.
    Moreover, the money you save NOT buying the average 50 gallons of gas it takes to go 1000 miles per month would more than pay the payments on a rooftop solar system large enough to make that much energy (1.3 kW, cost after rebate and tax about $6000).
    So what’s the downside?? Well, the only loser is Chevron Oil, which, ironically enough, owns control of the patent rigths for the NiMH batteries used on the only EV left, the Toyota RAV4-EV, and the standard EV battery.