Electric cars are an inevitable part of our future. Actually, scratch that, electric cars are a part of our right now, and as enthusiasts we need to embrace that notion. Yes, you read that correctly – I just told you to embrace the electric car. Why? Because it’s the future of the automobile, and it’s far from boring.
OK, some of it might be boring, but the story of how the electric car has been revived is anything but. I had the chance to attend a screening of the new film Revenge of the Electric Car, and I’ve come away with a new appreciation for those dedicated to producing zero emissions vehicles. The movie is the result of years of hard work by director Chris Paine and his team. You might remember Paine as the man behind the film Who Killed the Electric Car, which took a look at the demise of the General Motors EV1.
Paine was one of the many EV1 owners who were rather upset when GM took their electric machines back, and promptly crushed them. Now, however, Paine has a new story to tell has automakers are bringing electrics back into the fold. In fact, a few new players have emerged to highlight the return of electrified automobiles, and Paine spins a wonderful visual tale of the EV revival with Revenge of the Electric Car.
Keep reading to find out why I loved the film.
[Disclosure: Nissan invited me to an early screening of Revenge of the Electric Car. The screening was intended for area Nissan Leaf owners, of which there were many who showed up. I arrived to drink two of their beers, eat the delicious popcorn that was handed out, watch the film, and then ask when I could spend a week with the 2012 GT-R.]
Back in 2007, Paine was given early access to a new program springing up at General Motors. The move came as a surprise, and the person responsible was even more surprising, since the invitation was proffered up by Bob Lutz himself. Mr. Horsepower seemed to have a more acute vision of the automotive industry’s changing landscape, and the Chevrolet Volt is proof that Lutz pushed GM to adapt. General Motors isn’t ready to dive headfirst into the electric movement, however, and Paine found other automakers who were a bit more eager.
Elon Musk has big dreams for his electric automobiles, and ROTEC captures the man at high highs and bottom-scraping lows as he struggles to bring Tesla Motors to life. Paine portrays Musk as the potentially misguided visionary that Elon probably sees in himself. At times, though, it seems like Musk realizes he is 100 feet underwater and the sunlight is fading. Still, Musk finds a way to climb back to the surface, and Tesla is still kicking.
A polar opposite to the idea of Tesla comes from an automaker based in the land of the rising sun. Carlos Ghosn, the Chairman and CEO of Nissan, is shown as a fearless leader who is leading the charge to put a mass-production electric vehicle into the hands of car buyers around the globe. Paine also manages to show that Ghosn isn’t in this so that your grandchildren will have a better future. Ghosn is betting big on electric cars, because he sees the massive pot of gold at the end of his battery-powered rainbow.
He might have made the right play too, because I attended this screening surrounded by a flock of passionate, cheering Nissan Leaf owners, whose vehicle is on track for strong first-year sales numbers.
Revenge of the Electric Cars isn’t just the big guys versus a Silicon Valley, however, and my favorite portion of the film (aside from Lutz ruling the screen every time he’s shown) was when Chris Paine took his cameras into the Los Angeles garage of Greg Abbott. He’s better known as Gadget, and he’s a hard-working fabricator that’s applying hoon’s touch to the world of electric vehicles. Gadget isn’t creating ugly green machines that focus solely on maximum range and efficiency. Instead, Gadget is applying his technical skill to turn some of our favorite automobiles into eco-friendly machines that silently turn heads as they roll on past.
Abbott and his wife live out of a converted bus and put all their time, money, and heart into building a more exciting brand of electric vehicle. Their pride and joy seems to be the converted Porsche Speedster, which Gadget claims can run from LA to Palm Springs on a single charge. Unfortunately, Abbott has a string of bad luck when his shop burns to the ground and an electric Camaro, TR6, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tools are lost. Gadget and his wife don’t give up easily, and turn things around. In fact, you should stick around through the credits to see the duo take a new version of their Speedster out for a run.
The film, which opens in Los Angeles on Friday the 21st, provides a look at four very different figures in the automotive industry who are all trying to accomplish very similar goals. Chris Paine uses Revenge of the Electric Car to give us a unique glimpse at what it takes to bring EVs back to life. It’s not just the four men showcased, however, that make this an entertaining film. Paine captured interview footage from Dan Neil (Pulitzer-prize winner, WSJ writer, and Car Show host), Danny DeVito (Former EV1 owner), Michelle Krebs (Edmunds.com Industry Analyst), and a host of other folks who know what they’re talking about (minus maybe one dude from some other site you’ve heard of, and the guy sitting next to him who stared with wide-eyed adoration and looked like he wanted to lick said dude’s face).
Chris Paine has succeeded in making a film about electric cars entertaining, as well as informative. As an automotive enthusiast, you must see this film. This is where the automobile is heading, and it would be wise to know more about what we may have in store for the future. That’s not to say we don’t want our grandchildren to be driving a rip-snarling 1969 Dodge Charger in the future, far from it. As acceptance and proliferation of electric vehicles grow, it also makes more room on the road and at the pump for our favorite classic machines. Eventually they may die out, but as that change happens, you should rest well knowing that people like Greg Abbott are out there on the frontier. Electric cars can be fun, and Gadget is living proof that the hoon spirit is alive in the EV movement.
Judging by the crowd of Nissan Leaf owners at the screening, a movement is the appropriate word here. These folks were so passionate about their decision to purchase an electric vehicle, it was nearly awe-inspiring. It’s the same feeling you get when speaking to any group of like-minded car lovers. You could have replaced the film with Revenge of the VW Squareback, and the conversations would have been of nearly the same angle.
The movie opens tomorrow and, if it does well enough here in Southern California, it will move on to a wider release. Stay tuned, because if it comes to a theater near you, I recommend you plunk down the money for a ticket.
Go see Revenge of the Electric Car.
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