A review of “Who Killed the Electric Car?” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: ***

Rating: PG for mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes



Rising prices at the gas pumps are certain to make this incisive documentary de rigueur summer viewing.

          Writer/director (and Palo Alto native) Chris Paine’s requiem for the electric automobile takes the country’s reluctance to accept the serious nature of our future (as we continue to pour massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere) and runs with it. Are we addicted to oil? Are we afraid of an environmentally clean future?

          Yes say the brains behind General Motors’ EV-1, the first electric car to be manufactured on these shores. In 1996 the original electric car appeared on the backroads; ten years later they are all gone despite a California legislation requiring automakers to manufacture a portion of future assemblies with zero-emission engines. What’s wrong with this picture?

With well-crafted momentum and a modicum of suspense Paine analyzes the conspiracy involving the untimely death of the EV-1. The suspects are legion: the oil industry, the consumer, the government, the California Air Resources Board and even the auto-makers themselves who lay down a double edged-sword of making and breaking the automobile of the future.

Paine goes to great lengths to wholly examine his theories, resulting in a too-lengthy running time and a surplus of facts and figures. Yet the specifics create a sit-up-and-take-notice aura of doom that pervades the narrative much like Al Gore’s impending disaster of “An Inconvenient Truth”. Martin Sheen’s narration is capable yet monotone, not completely in keeping with the crafty tone of Paine’s trenchant dirge.

This is a fight about the future and “Goliath” has won the first round. Stay tuned.