Chris Paine has two major passions in life, movie making and environmental action. He has combined the two working with Jack Hanna, the people of New Orleans and storm survivors in the Philippines, but he is currently best known for his two documentary movies about electric vehicles 2006’s ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?‘ and the 2011 follow-up, ‘Revenge of the Electric Car’.
‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’
Paine’s first documentary examined the rise and fall of the General Motors EV1, an all-electric vehicle that debuted in the early 1990s. The car was only ever made available for lease and as a response to a legal mandate from the state of California that mandated that seven major car companies produce EVs in order to comply with the regulations set by the California Air Resources Board in order to be allowed to continue to sell gasoline powered internal combustion engine cars in the state of California at all.
The GM EV1 was the first of those cars. The documentary then details the California Air Resources Board’s reversal of the mandate following almost endless pressure and suits from automobile manufacturers, from the oil industry, at the time falsified hype over a future hydrogen car, and finally the George W. Bush administration. Eventually it also attempts to apportion the blame for just who was more responsible for the ‘death’ of the 1990s electric vehicles, most of which were eventually crushed for scrap, barring a handful that were donated to museums.
In the interests of suspense we will not reveal all the details here, but this is a movie well worth renting and even several years after its release it is still, in many places quite an eye opener about the way governments and oil companies work together against the environmental good. And it’s a good view in general too, as it won Best Documentary at the won 2006 Mountain Film in Telluride, The Canberra International Film Festival Audience Award, and was also nominated for Best Documentary at the 2006 Environmental Media Awards and Best Documentary by the Writers Guild of America
‘The Revenge of the Electric Car’
The second of Paine’s movies is a far more upbeat affair that chronicles the rise of the electric car in the 21st century, mainly by following four entrepreneurs from 2007 through the end of 2010, as they fight to bring the electric car back to the world market in the midst of a global recession; Bob Lutz from General Motors, Elon Musk from Tesla Motors, Carlos Ghosn from Renault-Nissan, and Greg Abbott, an independent electric car converter from California and then the creation of the Tesla Roadster and the Tesla S, the Nissan Leaf and the all EV version of the Chevrolet Volt.
Because the film was more of a cheerleading portrayal of some very passionate entrepreneurs and car makers rather than a muck raking expose in the way that ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’ It received less critical praise, but as a historical piece that chronicles the beginning of what is hopefully a new era in worldwide car making it is hugely valuable and very watchable.