Who Killed the Electric Car?

There's a nifty new documentary film floating around the United States this summer, called "Who Killed the Electric Car?" It's the story of the General Motors electric car, the EV-1, framed as a murder mystery. A few years ago, GM reclaimed EV-1s from people who had leased them, and then GM literally destroyed the vehicles. It's an Alice in Wonderland version of the usual American innovation narrative, as one of the nation's largest industrial enterprises went out of its way not merely to suspend work in an apparently unprofitable area, but literally to bury it. Why? One of those leaseholders had a motion picture camera and the nerve to try to answer this question.

I blog about this for two reasons.

First, so far as I know and despite wide critical praise, the film isn't being shown in Pittsburgh. Does anyone know whether there are plans to bring it here?

Second, the filmmaker, Chris Paine, is (or I should say, was) a schoolmate of mine; we were pals from kindergarten through our senior year in high school. We went to different colleges and gradually floated off into different fields. But Chris has always been someone with a lot of integrity and a lot of passion for whatever he's done. It's fabulous that he's completed a film that's gradually getting the attention of much of the country, and I'm happy for his success. Also, of course, I think that it's cool that he was on The Daily Show.

See Chris's appearance on The Daily Show (Part 1, Part 2).

Read production notes blogged by Chris (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) and by the film's producer (Part 1, Part 2).


5 Responses to "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

globalburgh said... 8/05/2006 2:36 PM

It opens at the Manor 4 on the 18th of August.


Mike Madison said... 8/05/2006 3:02 PM

That was fast! Thanks.

Mark Rauterkus said... 8/07/2006 7:06 PM

What about the electric bike? I'd like to give birth to them in the US. They are used a lot in parts of CHINA and are really valued there.

Amos_thePokerCat said... 8/10/2006 5:21 PM

Of course, if you don't want to wait until the 18th, it is currently at the Cedar-Lee in CLE. Any excuse is always a good excuse to go to CLE to get some decent dim sum from one of the three (Bo Loong, Li Wah, and C&Y Chinese) restaruants that serves it. Unfortunately, even if you still had an EV1, there is no guaranty that you could have made even just a one way trip to CLE since it is 133 miles.

The film is also currently shown in Buffallo, two places in Rochester, and Dayton.

Amos_thePokerCat said... 8/10/2006 11:33 PM

PBS' Now Show did an episode on "Who Killed the Electric Car?". They have video, and mp3 available. I just read the transcript, and I am sorry Mike, but Chris Paine comes off as a bit of a conspiracy nuter. Check out the quotes:

PAINE: Well -- In the process of making the film, I began to think of cars, especially SUV's and trucks, as being like those printers you get you know from the office supply store for $49. And then you buy these $79 cartridges to make them run. And that's kind of the way it is with the gas car.

They might practically give it to you, like I think some of the big car companies are giving 'em away, but then you add up the repairs and the gasoline over the years. And that's where the money is.

So, where are they giving away these cars? Because I'd like a cheap one.

Wikipedia has lots of numbers about the EV-1. Like based on lease payments of $299 to $574 you could est. a cost of $34K to $44K. $44K for a sub-compact!!! This is with the $1.2B Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. (PNGV) project. The actual cost to build each car $80K!!!!!!!

Now that is giving away a car for free.

Still with all the subsidy, they could only lease 800 out the 1100 car "production run".

Personally, I would not have distroyed the cars, just made all the rich Holly-weird types pay the actual cost to repair an experimental car plus 100% markup. New battery? $60k Ka-ching!

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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