Who Killed the Electric Car? Chris Paine

One wishes that this documentary would put a stop to its cutesy visuals and twinky music; otherwise, it’s a reasonably informative muckraker on the sabotage of a promising technology.

The subject is the brief rise of the electric car in the ’90s, mandated by a short-lived California law. The idea was to halt the state’s smog problem by lowering the number of internal combustion engines on the road. But there was simply too much money to be made by the car and oil companies, and they fought every step of the way, not only getting the law repealed but even going so far as to recall and crush all of the cars they had sold in limited-use agreements.

As a lesson in industrial chicanery the film is fairly damning, showing the lengths to which the car companies went to discourage customers, while so-called public servants went out of their way to accommodate their destructive bent. Too bad the film’s sunny disposition tends to minimise the outrage — despite an array of witnesses to the destruction (including celebrity owners like Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson and Alexandra Paul) director Chris Paine manages to actually make things seem less dire than the facts would suggest.

Still, one can see the issues behind the computer graphics, including the public switch to hydrogen fuel despite the many disadvantages and roadblocks to its implementation. And one can appreciate its upbeat attitude when it suggests that the times may have come to a point where the technology may make a triumphant return.

This is by no means a perfect documentary but it’ll drop a more than a few scales from the fronts of peoples’ eyes. (Mongrel Media)