Who Killed The Electric Car?
It was among the fastest, most efficient production car ever built. It ran on electricity, produced no emissions and catapulted American technology to the forefront of the automotive industry. The lucky few who drove it never wanted to give it up. So why did General Motors crush its fleet of EV-1 electric vehicles in the Arizona desert?
Who Killed the Electric Car? chronicles the life and mysterious death of the EV-1; examining the cultural and economic ripple effects caused by its conception and how they reverberated through the halls of government and big business.
The year is 1990. California is in a pollution crisis. The smog is so bad that the state is on the verge of returning to the haze days of the 1970's brown outs. Desperate for a solution, the California Air Recourses Board (CARB) targets the source of its problem: Car exhaust. Inspired by a recent announcement from General Motors about an electric vehicle prototype, the Zero Emissions Mandate (ZEV) is born. It requires 2% of California's vehicles to be emission free by 1998, 10% by 2003. It is the most radical smog fighting mandate since the catalytic converter.
Eager to satisfy the largest car consuming market in the world, GM's EV-1 electric vehicle is launched in 1997 with great fanfare from California consumers. It was the first perfect car of the modern age, requiring no gas, no oil, no mufflers, and no brake changes (a billion dollar industry unto itself.) A typical maintenance checkup for the EV-1 consisted of replenishing the windshield washer fluid and a tire rotation.
Fast forward to 6 years later... The fleet is dead. EV charging stations dot the California landscape like tombstones, collecting dust and spider webs. How could this happen? Did anyone bother to examine the bodies? Yes, in fact, someone did. And it was murder.
The EV-1 threatened the status quo; the truth behind its murder closely resembling the climactic outcome of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. Multiple suspects, each taking their turn with the knife. Automakers, legislators, engineers, consumers and car enthusiasts from Los Angeles to Detroit work through the motives, alibis and fallout to piece the complex puzzle together.
Who Killed the Electric Car? is not just about the EV-1. It's about how this allegory for today's oil prices and air quality can also be a shining symbol of society's desire to better itself and the world around it. For a brief moment in time, we were closer to that dream than we'd ever been before, and while that knowledge may have been crushed, it has not been forgotten.
DIRECTOR: Chris Paine
SCREENWRITER: Chris Paine
STUDIO: Sony Pictures Classics
Wild About Movies Grade: B+