Friday, February 4, 2011

Who Killed the Electric Car

My wife and I watched "Who Killed the Electric Car" last night. The basic premise is that in the 90s and early 2000s, these really great electric cars started to appear in California. They were environmentally friendly, fast, quiet, affordable, easy to take car of, and people who drove them loved them, but all of a sudden car companies stopped making them, took back the models they had already built, and destroyed them. This film looked at all the different factors that influenced this death of the electric car. They were very thorough in looking at all the different factors, and in the end didn't single out one culprit, but instead named many that all influenced this car's downfall.

The style leaned towards being a talking head film, but there was also a lot of really great footage they layed over the talking. Obviously there was a lot of footage of electric cars driving around and being operated, but there was also some really great acquired footage such as film of the very first electric cars (made way-back-when around the Model-T days), a Late Night interview with Tom Hanks talking about his electric car, and protesters having a funeral for their cars and then trying to stop GM motors from towing away the last of the electric cars. By far one of the coolest things they did though, was when they were initially trying to figure out what car companies were doing with the cars they were taking back, the filmmaker rented a helicopter and they flew over GM's vast property and found the cars all crushed and in piles.

The film did a great job of speaking to me and my wife, because as soon as it was over, we started looking up what electric cars were available now. We only found two, and were only excited about one, but at least that's a start. We also found a news article about Obama saying he wanted to have a million people driving electric cars by 2012, but that it probably wouldn't happen because car companies said there wasn't demand for them (the exact same thing they said in the film). But I had never heard of these cars. They're not really advertising them or even trying to sell them because they don't want to make them. It was crazy to have just finished the film and then see what they were talking about in action.

One last thing, even though this is probably over a page by now, something I did not like was that the film was extremely one sided. Pretty much everyone who was interviewed in the film was an electric car lover. There were just a few opposing arguments made, but they were mostly made out to be dumb or ignorant. It would have been interesting to interview someone from GM and see what they said was their reasoning for getting rid of the cars.

Overall though, I really liked the film and I think this is a very important subject that needs to be addressed. America keeps looking for an alternative to gas to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. We're trying to invent new cars that will solve this problem when we've already invented a solution. The only problem is it keeps getting killed off.


  1. What an interesting topic! Why do you think they got rid of the electric car? Maybe it was too good of a deal? So I'm super big on going green lately, especially when it comes to gasoline. I would rather walk three miles to and from class than waste a ton of gas to pollute the environment. I bought a scooter mainly because it saves SO MUCH on gas but unfortunately, it can be very dangerous at times and that scares me. I just wonder how people justify gas all of the time. Ignoring the fact that our planet is dying is pretty huge, we think it's not our fault but it is our fault just as much as anyone else-or we could blame those who refuse to continue making the electric car.
    I wonder if GM motors got rid of the electric car not because it would solve a lot of pollution problems but because it wouldn't make them as much money. With how much we're paying in gas, they would lose a ton of money in the long run. Why is our focus so much on money anyway? We grow up always wanting the latest toy which costs money, we go to school so we can get more money and we go to work mainly for money. Have we become so selfish that we would rather have money than a safer world? A better life for our future?
    About the film being one sided, it seems like it would be pretty hard to not make it one sided on such a topic. The people who got rid of the cars probably aren't willing to talk to the public and it is a film hoping for a change. Sometimes change is less likely when we hear the whole story because it seems less desperate that something should happen. I haven't seen the film myself but I would probably agree with you, when films are extremely biased they can be pretty frustrating to watch. Thanks for sharing Matt!

  2. It wasn't so one-sided that it was frustrating by any means. And I think they did a really good job of exploring all the reasons that the car might have been killed. Also, I agree with you, that even if they had wanted opposing opinions, I'm pretty sure the car companies wouldn't have agreed to an interview. I think it's a very important topic, and I am on the side of the filmmaker.

    My wife and I want to get an electric car one day, but for now they are pretty expensive, mostly because they are not being mass produced or advertised which is because car companies believe there is no demand which is because they are not being mass produced or advertised.
    Hehe, did that make sense? Basically the car companies don't want to sell electric cars so they are basically sabotaging their own products to keep people from buying them so they can stop selling them.

    One point you made, and that the point made, that I think is probably the main reason for this is that there are still millions of dollars to make in the oil industry. If we switch to electric too soon, no one will be able to take advantage of those billions of dollars.

  3. Did you guys hear about this doc's "sequel?"