Who Killed the Electric Car?
A film review by Gary Chew

Tulsa TV Memories      

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

I don't know if Chris Paine, a Palo Alto, California native who directed "Who Killed the Electric Car?", is any kin of Thomas Paine or not. I know you recall old Tom Paine, though. Remember? He was born in England in 1737 and published something he called "Common Sense." The pamphlet had some sway in how the United States of America was founded. The title has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

That's what Chris Paine has done with his Sony Pictures Classics release about the disappearance of the EV-1, or electric car. This 21st century Paine has added some common sense to the cinema lexicon by documenting the development of such an automobile, its road performance and the various places where culpability is likely for the doing-in of a vehicle which came to live such a short life on the roads of California. Much of what took place was in the 1990s in the Golden State's capital, Sacramento.

Charging station

Charge it...

The lower left coast of the U-S had been struggling to breathe since the 50s with its clogged freeways of cars, trucks and buses propelled by the internal combustion engine. Finally in 1990, California's Air Resources Board invoked its Zero-Emission Vehicle mandate to get automakers off their "tailpipes" and manufacture cars that, over a sequence of years, would operate, more and more, without "benefit" of exhaust fumes.

With a relatively balanced hand, Paine provides many facts and figures framed in a sort of whodunit. Was it Big Oil? Was it GM? Was it lassitude on the part of consumers? Do you think maybe it could've been Big Government? You get to hear just about everybody's story on the demise of what seems to me to have been a rather bright idea, what with today's price of gasoline, pollution and (dare I mention?) Al Gore's inconvenient truth about global warming.

The film also touches on the new hybrids (gasoline plus electricity), just recently on the roadway. Even the newest and more questionable wave of the transportation future gets some screen time: the hydrogen fuel-cell and its facility in West Sacramento. President Bush made a stop there recently to inform us, not a minute too soon, that, "we're addicted to oil."

Pump numbers

...to our account

The film closes with a summation of who's innocent and who's guilty for the death and literal demolition of these amazing cars. Some were crushed; some were completely shredded. And the small number of consumers who had leased them were never allowed to purchase them. General Motors reclaimed them all with most lessees (some celebrities) complaining big-time. Not all of those people were "wacko" Hollywood liberals either. Mel Gibson was one, who, some have suggested, is just a "wacko." (Love you, Mel.)

When the sky at sunrise or sunset is a darker red than it has now become, and the weather begins to go really wacko; like, too hot, too wet, too windy, too icy; someone needs to reflect on what Chris Paine relates in this documentary as well as the vision of Thomas Paine, the man who vigorously supported our independence from Great Britain.

"The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind."

Times really haven't changed that much...so underscores "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

So, git ‘er done!

Plays 9/8-14 at the Circle Cinema.

"Who Killed the Electric Car?" official site.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net.

Copyright © 2006, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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