Who Killed the Electric Car?

Who Killed the Electric Car?

4.0 5
Director: Chris Paine

Cast: Chris Paine, Greg "Gadget" Abbott, Dave Barthmuss, Ed Begley Jr.


Filmmaker Chris Payne explores the many factors that played into the ultimate failure of the electric car to catch on with consumers, even as gas prices began to skyrocket, in a thoughtful meditation on the increasingly important role that renewable energy plays in modern society. Introduced as a means of providing an alternative to increasing oil consumption and… See more details below

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Filmmaker Chris Payne explores the many factors that played into the ultimate failure of the electric car to catch on with consumers, even as gas prices began to skyrocket, in a thoughtful meditation on the increasingly important role that renewable energy plays in modern society. Introduced as a means of providing an alternative to increasing oil consumption and reducing pollution in 1996, the electric car was an all-but-forgotten memory only a decade later -- but why? Through interviews with consumer advocacy experts, automotive industry experts, and oil industry heavyweights, Payne paints a thought-provoking picture of a culture whose aversion to change and reliance on dwindling resources may be rooted in the financial concerns of a wealthy few, and may also be leading consumers down a troubling path.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
The big oil companies and their political allies may hate the very idea of the electric car, but writer-director Chris Paine remains an unabashed fan of the technology. His informative and entertaining documentary, which makes an explicit link between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming, traces the evolution and eventual marketplace failure of the innovative vehicle. Laying the blame at the feet of General Motors (which eventually reclaimed the first models leased to consumers and crushed and buried them in the Nevada desert), apathetic politicians, and an unrepentant oil industry, Paine also gives voice to the car’s staunch defenders, Mel Gibson among them. He may have a clearly defined axe to grind but, in this war-ravaged and environmentally distressed day and age, Paine’s passion is worth attending to.
All Movie Guide
In its opening 30 minutes, Who Killed the Electric Car? is a disorganized information dump, failing to connect the various factors that may have helped remove this green mode of transportation from the American roadways. Characters are introduced without a clear sense of their role in the grand scheme, and factoids are put forth without the background needed to place them in context. But the documentary gains its footing as it goes along, and starts to sing when it switches up the narrative structure to mirror an actual criminal investigation. Director Chris Paine lists more than a half-dozen potential "suspects," ranging from various government branches to the automobile industry to the life of the cars' batteries, then considers the evidence that either implicates or absolves them in the metaphorical murder. This is Paine's apparent nod to impartial journalism, even if his conclusions mostly confirm the liberal bias he clearly brought with him to the project. Regardless of the perspective a viewer brings, certain indelible images are sure to penetrate, most notably the repossession of leased vehicles from satisfied customers (none were allowed to purchase their cars), followed swiftly by the demolition of those vehicles. De-commissioning them for further research and development would have been one thing, but sending them to be flattened into pancakes is quite another, qualifying as circumstantial proof of the politics and systematic intimidation at play here. Paine has also collected a good group of celebrities to add star power to his message, though Ed Begley Jr., often considered the poster child for electric cars, is conspicuous by his near absence from the film. One celebrity who doesn't necessarily help Paine's cause is Martin Sheen, whose narration is too polished, sounding too much like insubstantial advertising voice-over to be as effective as it could have been.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

"Jump-Starting the Future"; Deleted Scenes; Meeky Rosie music video "Forever"; Special feature not rated or closed-captioned

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Greg "Gadget" Abbott Participant
Dave Barthmuss Participant
Ed Begley Participant
Jim Boyd and His Men of the West Participant
Alec N. Brooks Participant
Alan Cocconi Participant
John R. Dabels Participant
Phyllis Diller Participant
Colette Divine Participant
Tom Everhart Participant
S. David Freeman Participant
Frank Gaffney Participant
Marc Geller Participant
Mel Gibson Participant
Greg Hanssen Participant
Peter Horton Participant
Leslie Kendall Participant
Doug Korthof Participant
Alan C. Lloyd Participant
Alan Lowenthal Participant
Edward H. Murphy Participant
Ralph Nader Participant
Dan Neil Participant
Linda Nicholes Participant
Iris Ovshinsky Participant
Stanford Ovshinsky Participant
Alexandra Paul Participant
Bill Reinert Participant
Wally Rippel Participant
Paul Roberts Participant
Joseph J. Romm Participant
Paul Scott Participant
Bob Sexton Participant
Chelsea Sexton Participant
Jananne Sharpless Participant
Martin Sheen Narrator
J. Karen Thomas Participant
John R. Wallace Participant
R. James Woolsey Participant
Bill Wylam Participant

Technical Credits
Chris Paine Director,Camera Operator,Screenwriter
Peter Afterman Musical Direction/Supervision
Natalie Artin Associate Producer
Michael Brook Score Composer
Jessie Deeter Producer
Dean Devlin Executive Producer
John Francis Asst. Director
Roger Gilbertson Camera Operator
Brian Hanish Camera Operator
Michael Kovalenko Editor
Michael Kovalenko Camera Operator
Alex Lamm Sound/Sound Designer
Jim Matiosz Cinematographer
Rachel Olschan Co-producer
Alexandra Paul Camera Operator
Steve Payne Camera Operator
Chris A. Peterson Editor
Jim Ridgley Sound/Sound Designer
Jayme Roy Sound/Sound Designer
Rob Scott Camera Operator
Howard Shack Camera Operator
Dan Squires Camera Operator
Neil St. John Camera Operator
Jeff Steele Associate Producer
Bill Stefanacci Sound/Sound Designer
Nick Chatfield Taylor Camera Operator
Richard D. Titus Executive Producer
Tavin Marin Titus Executive Producer
Thaddeus Wadleigh Cinematographer
Kathy Weiss Co-producer
Margaret Yen Musical Direction/Supervision

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Who Killed the Electric Car?
1. A Brief History [3:34]
2. Smog [1:54]
3. Experiments [2:56]
4. A Mandate [1:17]
5. They Appear [5:04]
6. Undermining [3:20]
7. No Demand? [6:59]
8. Hydrogen [1:23]
9. California Kills Mandate [4:00]
10. No Option to Buy [1:20]
11. Protest [1:55]
12. Crushed [8:08]
13. An Offer to Buy [2:10]
14. Conspiracy Theories [1:45]
15. Suspect: Consumers [2:01]
16. Suspect: Batteries [3:15]
17. Suspect: Oil Companies [2:55]
18. Suspect: Car Companies [2:21]
19. Lack of Maintenance Profits [1:39]
20. Hummer Tax Break [2:45]
21. Suspect Government [7:46]
22. Suspect C.A.R.B. [1:44]
23. Suspect: Hydrogen [5:31]
24. Hauled Away [3:29]
25. Museum Piece [1:23]
26. The Guilty [2:16]
27. Adapt to Change [1:27]
28. The Future [7:51]


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