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Encyclopedia > Chris Paine
Who Killed the Electric Car?

Promotional poster
Directed by Chris Paine
Written by Chris Paine
Starring Tom Hanks
Mel Gibson
Chelsea Sexton
Ralph Nader
Narrated by Martin Sheen
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics
Running time 92 min.
Language English
IMDb profile

Who Killed the Electric Car? is a 2006 documentary film that explores the birth, limited commercialization, and subsequent death of the battery electric vehicle in the United States, specifically the General Motors EV1 of the 1990s. The film explores the roles of automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, the US government, batteries, hydrogen vehicles, and consumers in limiting the development and adoption of this technology. Image File history File linksMetadata Who_Killed_the_Electric_Car_Poster. ... Thomas Tom Jeffrey Hanks (born July 9, 1956) is a two-time Academy Award-winning American actor, voice-over artist and movie producer who starred in family-friendly and screwball comedies before achieving notable success as a dramatic actor. ... Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson AO (born January 3, 1956) is an Academy Award-winning American-Australian actor, director, and producer. ... Chelsea Sexton entered the automotive industry at the age of 17 after buying her first Saturn, but found her first true home on the General Motors EV1 electric vehicle program. ... Ralph Nader Ralph Nader (born February 27, 1934) is an American attorney and political activist. ... Martin Sheen Martin Sheen (born Ramón Gerardo Antonio Estévez August 3, 1940 in Dayton, Ohio) is an American actor, best known for his roles in the film Apocalypse Now and, most recently, as President Josiah Bartlet on the television drama The West Wing. ... Sony Pictures Classics is the specialty films division of Sony Pictures. ... // Please note that following the tradition of the English language film industry, these are the top grossing films that were first released in the United States and Canada in 2006; because they may have made most of their income in a later year, they may not be the top-grossing... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... The Toyota RAV4 EV is powered by twenty-four 12 volt batteries, with an operational cost equivalent of over 165 miles per gallon at 2005 US gasoline prices. ... EV1 may also apply to the Saab EV-1. ... Automakers are companies that produce automobiles. ... The Oil industry brings to market what is currently considered the lifeblood of nearly all other industry, if not industrialized civilization itself. ... ... Four double-A batteries In science and technology, a battery is a device that stores energy and makes it available in an electrical form. ... A hydrogen car is an automobile which uses hydrogen (usually obtained from decomposition of methane, and sometimes from water using electrolysis) as its primary source of power for locomotion. ... Consumers are individuals or households that consume goods and services generated within the economy. ...


It was released on DVD to the home video market on November 14, 2006 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. DVD (sometimes called Digital Versatile Disc, or Digital Video Disc) is an optical disc storage media format that can be used for data storage, including movies with high video and sound quality. ... November 14 is the 318th day of the year (319th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 47 days remaining until the end of the year. ... 2006 (MMVI) is a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is the home video, DVD, and UMD distribution arm of Sony Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation. ...

Contents

Topics addressed

EV1s crushed by General Motors shortly after production
EV1s crushed by General Motors shortly after production

The film deals with the history of the electric car, its development and commercialization, mostly focusing on the General Motors EV1, which was made available for lease in Southern California in the late 1990's, after the California Air Resources Board passed the ZEV mandate in 1990, as well as the implications of the events depicted for air pollution, environmentalism, Middle East politics, and global warming. Image File history File links Evcrushed. ... Image File history File links Evcrushed. ... EV1 may also apply to the Saab EV-1. ... General Motors Corporation, also known as GM, is the worlds largest automaker and has been since 1931. ... EV1 may also apply to the Saab EV-1. ... Southern California Downtown Los Angeles Skyline Southern California, sometimes abbreviated SoCal or colloquially, the Southland, is an informal name for the megalopolis and nearby desert that occupies the southern-most quarter of the U.S. state of California. ... California Air Resources Board (CARB) is the clean air agency of the state of California in the United States. ... General Motors EV1 A zero-emissions vehicle, or ZEV will produce no emissions or pollution from the vehicle when stationary or operating. ... This article is about the year. ... Before flue gas desulfurization was installed, the emissions from this power plant in New Mexico contained excessive amounts of sulfur dioxide. ... The historic Blue Marble photograph, which helped bring environmentalism to the public eye. ... A map showing countries commonly considered to be part of the Middle East The Middle East is a region comprising the lands around the southern and eastern parts of the Mediterranean Sea, a territory that extends from the eastern Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. ... Global mean surface temperatures 1856 to 2005 Mean surface temperature anomalies during the period 1995 to 2004 with respect to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980 Global warming is the observed increase in the average temperature of the Earths atmosphere and oceans in recent decades. ...


The film details the California Air Resources Board's reversal of the mandate after suits from automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, and the George W. Bush administration. It points out that Bush's chief influences, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Andrew Card, are all former executives and board members of oil and auto companies. California Air Resources Board (CARB) is the clean air agency of the state of California in the United States. ... Automakers are companies that produce automobiles. ... The Oil industry brings to market what is currently considered the lifeblood of nearly all other industry, if not industrialized civilization itself. ... The Bush administration includes President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Bushs Cabinet, and other select officials and advisors. ... Richard Bruce Dick Cheney (born January 30, 1941) is the 46th and current Vice President of the United States, serving under President George W. Bush. ... Condoleezza Rice (born November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama) is the 66th United States Secretary of State, and the second in the administration of President George W. Bush to hold the office. ... Andy Card Andrew Hill Card Jr. ...


A large part of the film chronicles GM's efforts to demonstrate to California that there was no demand for their product, and then to take back every EV1 and dispose of them. A few were disabled and given to museums and universities, but almost all were found to have been crushed; GM never responded to the EV drivers' offer to pay the residual lease value ($1.9 million was offered for the remaining 79 cars in Burbank before they were crushed). Several activists are shown being arrested in the protest that attempted to block the GM car carriers taking the remaining EV1s off to be crushed.


The film explores some of the reasons that the auto and oil industries worked to kill off the electric car. Wally Rippel is shown explaining that the oil companies were afraid of losing out on trillions in potential profit from their transportation fuel monopoly over the coming decades, while the auto companies were afraid of losses over the next six months of EV production. Others explained the killing differently. GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss argued it was lack of consumer interest due to the maximum range of 80–100 miles per charge, and the relatively high price. Wally E. Rippel is an engineer at AeroVironment, and a long-time developer and advocate of battery electric vehicles. ...


The film also explores the future of automobile technologies including a deeply critical look at hydrogen vehicles and an upbeat discussion of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technologies. Sequel, a fuel cell powered vehicle from General Motors A hydrogen vehicle is a vehicle, such as an automobile or aircraft, which uses hydrogen as its primary source of power for locomotion. ... The number of US survey respondents willing to pay $4,000 more for a plug-in hybrid car increased from 17% in 2005 to 26% in 2006. ...


The film features songs/music by Meeky Rosie. Meeky Rosie are a band based in Devon, South West England, UK. The band became friends while at the University of Plymouth and have recently finished writing and recording their debut album on the banks of the River Dart in Devon. ...


Interviews

The film features interviews with celebrities such as Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Alexandra Paul, Peter Horton, Phyllis Diller, a bi-partisan selection of prominent political figures including Ralph Nader, Frank Gaffney, Alan Lloyd, Jim Boyd, and ex-CIA head James Woolsey, as well as news footage from the development, launch and marketing of EV's. Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson AO (born January 3, 1956) is an Academy Award-winning American-Australian actor, director, and producer. ... Thomas Tom Jeffrey Hanks (born July 9, 1956) is a two-time Academy Award-winning American actor, voice-over artist and movie producer who starred in family-friendly and screwball comedies before achieving notable success as a dramatic actor. ... Alexandra Paul is an actress. ... Peter Horton (born August 20, 1953) is an American actor and director. ... Image:Pdiller. ... Ralph Nader Ralph Nader (born February 27, 1934) is an American attorney and political activist. ... Frank J. Gaffney Jr. ... Robert James Woolsey, Jr. ...


The film also features interviews with some of the engineers and technicians who led the development of modern electric vehicles and related technologies such as Wally Rippel, Chelsea Sexton, Alan Cocconi and Stan and Iris Ovshinsky and other experts, such as Joseph J. Romm (author of The Hype about Hydrogen). Also featured in the film are spokesmen for the automakers, such as GM's Dave Barthmuss, a vocal opponent of the film and the EV1, and Bill Reinert from Toyota. An electric vehicle is a vehicle that is propelled by electric motors. ... Wally E. Rippel is an engineer at AeroVironment, and a long-time developer and advocate of battery electric vehicles. ... Chelsea Sexton entered the automotive industry at the age of 17 after buying her first Saturn, but found her first true home on the General Motors EV1 electric vehicle program. ... AC Propulsion is a San Dimas, California company founded in 1992 by Alan Cocconi who is currently the companys CEO. They produce goods such as electric vehicle drive systems and their top of the line electric sports car, the AC Propulsion TZero. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... Dr. Joseph J. Romm was born on June 27, 1960 in Middletown, New York. ... The Hype about Hydrogen, Fact and Fiction in the Race to Save the Climate is a book by Joseph J. Romm, published in 2004 (ISBN 1-55963-703-X) and updated in 2005 (ISBN 1-55963-704-8). ... EV1 may also apply to the Saab EV-1. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ...


Production

The film was written and directed by Chris Paine, and produced by Jessie Deeter, and executive produced by Tavin Marin Titus, Richard D. Titus of Plinyminor and Dean Devlin and Electric Entertainment. The documentary was featured at the Sundance, San Francisco, Tribeca, Los Angeles, Berlin, and Deauville Film Festivals and was released in theaters worldwide in June of 2006. The film features a score composed by Michael Brook and also features music by Joe Walsh, DJ Harry and Meeky Rosie. A young film Producer who has worked on a projects of a diverse budget range from blockbusters The Day After Tomorrow, ID4 and Godzilla to her more recent workproducing three Sci Fi Channel Original Movies including: Alien_Lockdown, The Man With No Eyes, and Mammoth. ... Richard D. Titus is a musician and entreprenuer and movie producer. ... Plinyminor is an entertainment production company with offices in London, Los Angeles and Baton Rouge. ... Dean Devlin is a former actor and current screenwriter and producer. ... Production company formed by Dean Devlin, which has produced Cellular, Flyboys and Who Killed the Electric Car?. ... The Sundance Film Festival is a film festival in the United States, and ranks alongside the Cannes, Moscow, Venice, Berlin, and Toronto festivals as one of the most prestigious in the world. ... The San Francisco International Film Festival, first held in March of 1957 in San Francisco, was the first North American film festival. ... Robert De Nero and Jane Rosenthal 2005 The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro in a response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the consequent loss of vitality in the Tribeca neighborhood in Manhattan. ... Annual event showcases North American independent, feature, documentary and short films, as well as music videos Categories: Festival stubs | Film stubs ... The Berlin International Film Festival, also called the Berlinale, is one of the most important film festivals in Europe and the world. ... Deauville American Film Festival is a film festival for American movies that occurs every year since 1975 in Deauville, France. ... A film festival is a mostly annual festival showcasing films, usually of a recent date, sometimes with a focus on a specific genre (e. ... A typical multiplex (AMC Promenade 16 in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California). ... Michael Brook (born 1952 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada) is a Canadian guitarist familiar with many disciplines including rock, minimalism and film scores. ... Joe Walsh (born November 20, 1947) is an American guitarist and rock musician who has had both a solo career and membership of bands such as the James Gang and the Eagles. ... Meeky Rosie are a band based in Devon, South West England, UK. The band became friends while at the University of Plymouth and have recently finished writing and recording their debut album on the banks of the River Dart in Devon. ...


The suspects

The last half hour of the movie is organized around the following hypothesized culprits in the downfall of the electric car:

Consumers
Lots of ambivalence to new technology, unwillingness to compromise for the environment.
Batteries
Somewhat limited range and reliability in the first EV-1s to ship, but better later.
Oil companies
Fearful of losing business to a competing technology, they supported efforts to kill the ZEV mandate. They have also bought patents to prevent modern batteries from being used in US electric cars.
Car companies
Negative marketing, sabotaging their own product program, failure to produce cars to meet existing demand, unfair business practices with regards to leasing versus sales.
Government
The federal government joined in the auto industry suit against California and has failed to act in the public interest to limit pollution and force increased fuel economy.
California Air Resources Board
The CARB, headed by Alan Lloyd, caved to industry pressure and repealed the ZEV mandate. Lloyd was given the directorship of the new fuel cell institute, so had an inherent conflict of interest. Footage shot in the meetings showed how he shut down the ZEV proponents while giving the car makers all the time they wanted to make their points.
Hydrogen fuel cell
The hydrogen fuel cell was raised as an alternative that distracted attention from what was presently possible to what might some day be possible.

The Toyota RAV4 EV is powered by twenty-four 12 volt batteries, with an operational cost equivalent of over 165 miles per gallon at 2005 US gasoline prices. ... California Air Resources Board (CARB) is the clean air agency of the state of California in the United States. ... A fuel cell is an electrochemical energy conversion device similar to a battery, but differing from the latter in that it is designed for continuous replenishment of the reactants consumed; i. ...

The verdicts

The movie's conclusions:

  • Consumers — Guilty
  • Batteries — Not Guilty
  • Oil companies — Guilty
  • Car companies — Guilty
  • Government — Guilty
  • California Air Resources Board — Guilty
  • Hydrogen fuel cell — Guilty

Criticisms

The film has been criticized for some of its suggestions.


From General Motors

General Motors (GM) has responded through a blog post entitled Who Ignored the Facts About the Electric Car? by Dave Barthmuss of their communications department. He does not address the movie directly, since he has not seen it, but tells GM's side of the story, about their big investment before and since the EV1, the limited market in spite of their efforts, and how they maybe could have handled the decommissioning better. A quote: General Motors Corporation, also known as GM, is the worlds largest automaker and has been since 1931. ...

Sadly, despite the substantial investment of money and the enthusiastic fervor of a relatively small number of EV1 drivers — including the filmmaker — the EV1 proved far from a viable commercial success.

He notes investments in electric vehicle technology since the EV1: Two-Mode Hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicle programs. The filmmakers suggested that GM did not immediately channel its technological progress with the EV1 into these projects, and instead let the technology languish while focusing on more immediately profitable enterprises such as SUVs. Advanced Hybrid System 2 is a set of hybrid car technologies jointly developed by General Motors and DaimlerChrysler. ...


Unlike the movie, GM is bullish on hydrogen, according to Barthmuss:

Although hydrogen fuel cell technology was cast as a pie-in-the-sky technology by the moviemakers, GM is making great progress in fuel cell research and development and is on track to achieving its goal to validate and design a fuel cell propulsion system by 2010 that is competitive with current combustion systems on durability and performance, and that ultimately can be built at scale, affordably.

Rebuttal

The movie pointed out that General Motors' customer survey may have served to lower demand. GM called interested customers and emphasized drawbacks to the car that were disputed by EV1 drivers. CARB officials have been quoted claiming that they removed their zero emission vehicle quotas in part because such surveys purported to show that no demand existed for the EV1s. Critics interviewed in the movie contend that the cost of batteries and electric vehicles would have been reduced significantly when mass production began, due to economies of scale. Economies of scale characterizes a production process in which an increase in the number of units produced causes a decrease in the average fixed cost of each unit. ...


From Edmunds.com

Karl Brauer, editor-in-chief of Edmunds.com, a popular auto market web site, wrote his own criticism of the movie, GM's EV1 -- Who Killed Common Sense?, contrasting the interpretations in the movie with his own in a rumor/fact format. For example, regarding how GM negatively marketed the car: Edmunds. ...

1. Rumor: There were 5,000 people who wanted an EV1, but GM wouldn't let them buy it.
Fact: There were 5,000 people who expressed interest in an EV1, but when GM called them back and explained that the car cost $299-plus a month to lease, went between 60 and 80 miles on a full charge, and took between 45 minutes and 15 hours to re-charge, very few would commit to leasing one (not too surprising, is it?). The film likes to quote a figure of 29 miles as the average American's daily driving needs, but that is a national figure and the EV1 was only sold in California and Arizona, primarily in Los Angeles. Anyone wanna guess what the average L.A. resident's daily driving need is? I'm betting it's higher than that national average....

Mr. Brauer's conjecture that "the average L.A. resident's daily driving need is...higher than that national average" is supported by a federal report that in 2001 the average Los Angeles commute was 16.2 miles (32.4 miles daily round trip), which was the highest of all American cities,[1] though that distance is still much less than the typical electric vehicle range.


Reviews

Metacritic gives it a 70[2], indicating generally favorable reviews. Metacritic is an Internet website that collates reviews of music albums, games, movies, TV shows, DVDs and books. ...


With brief quotes.

  • NY Times review of the film by Manohla Dargis
"It's a story Mr. Paine tells with bite. In 1996 a Los Angeles newspaper reported that 'the air board grew doubtful about the willingness of consumers to accept the cars, which carry steep price tags and have a limited travel range.' Mr. Paine pushes beyond this ostensibly disinterested report, suggesting that one reason the board might have grown doubtful was because its chairman at the time, Alan C. Lloyd, had joined the California Fuel Cell Partnership."
The sequence is not correctly represented here, but the point of Alan Lloyd's conflict of interest is one made in the film.
  • Hollywood Reporter Review by Michael Rechtshaffen
"Boasting a particularly articulate and colorful bunch of noncelebrity talking heads, including former Jimmy Carter energy adviser S. David Freeman and Bill Reinert, the straight-shooting national manager of advanced technologies for Toyota who doesn't exactly sing the praises of the much-touted hydrogen fuel cell, the lively film maintains its challenging pace."
  • Film Threat review from the Sundance Film Festival by Pete Vonder Haar
"Like most documentaries, 'Who Killed the Electric Car?' works best when it sticks to the facts. Showing us the details about the California Air Resources Board caving in to the automakers and repealing their 1990 Zero Emissions Mandate, for example, is much more effective than coverage of some goofy mock funeral for the EV-1 with Ed Begley Jr. providing the eulogy."
  • Review in OC weekly by Matt Coker,
"As most of the lazy media, prodded by the shameless oil men in the White House, spin their wheels over false 'solutions' like hybrids and biodiesel and hydrogen and ethanol and ANWAR, Korthof and his all-electric army continue to boost EV technology."
It's not really a review of the movie, but previews it, and includes an interview with EV activist Doug Korthof who says:
"We don't deserve the catastrophe in Iraq, and the two madmen arguing over oil supply lines seem intent on martyrdom for Iraq in a widening war. With EV, we need not get involved in seizing and defending the oil supplies of the Mideast; nor need we maintain fleets, bomb and incarcerate people we can't stand, give foreign aid to oily dictators, and so on. It's not anything to laugh about."
  • Rottentomatoes.com reviews list with quotes (approximately 90% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes).
  • External review list from The Internet Movie Database

See also

The Toyota RAV4 EV is powered by twenty-four 12 volt batteries, with an operational cost equivalent of over 165 miles per gallon at 2005 US gasoline prices. ... The future of the car is a controversial topic, with some advocates arguing that the car has no future, and others that the car will in the future supplant most other forms of transport. ... Sequel, a fuel cell powered vehicle from General Motors A hydrogen vehicle is a vehicle, such as an automobile or aircraft, which uses hydrogen as its primary source of power for locomotion. ... For the common automotive term of hybrid vehichle see: Petroleum electric hybrid vehicle A hybrid vehicle (HV) is a vehicle that uses two distinct power sources such as : an on-board rechargeable energy storage system (RESS) and a fueled power source for vehicle propulsion Human powered bicycle with battery assist... Artists rendering of SkyTran, a proposed PRT design. ... The Hype about Hydrogen, Fact and Fiction in the Race to Save the Climate is a book by Joseph J. Romm, published in 2004 (ISBN 1-55963-703-X) and updated in 2005 (ISBN 1-55963-704-8). ... A tribrid vehicle is a third generation in alternative propulsion vehicles, that is, a bivalent hybrid vehicle with turbine (second generation), that also obtains energy from the ambient environment (solar panel, windmill or sail). ... General Motors EV1 A zero-emissions vehicle, or ZEV will produce no emissions or pollution from the vehicle when stationary or operating. ... Meeky Rosie are a band based in Devon, South West England, UK. The band became friends while at the University of Plymouth and have recently finished writing and recording their debut album on the banks of the River Dart in Devon. ...

References

    External links


     
     

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