Who Killed the Electric Car? Chris Paine

The most revelatory element of this pop doc about the transportation industry is that, in discussing the death of the electric car, it’s not about the end of a promising concept, or the halting of important research - there were fully functioning electric cars all over California roads in the mid-’90s. They came about after important, progressive legislation that would move California towards emissions-free roadways. Unfortunately, that legislation was successfully fought by a conglomerate of auto manufacturers and oil producers; once the law was struck down, so too were the electric cars - every last one was rounded up and crushed, along with the not-pipe-dreams of environmental advocates everywhere. Director Chris Paine is telling a fascinating story - narrated by Martin Sheen - and he gathers heartfelt testimonials from drivers and political activists who decry the end of this innovative technology. He unravels the various factors - lack of consumer demand, misinformation, a lack of technological advancement - that led to the end of the electric car but in the end, his documentary comes off as a fair and balanced treatment, one that lacks the legitimate outrage that could make it truly incendiary viewing. In trying to provide a voice for all sides - like, for example, the tech-dreams of hydrogen fuel cells, technology that is decades, not years, away - Paine manages to take away from the impact that a more strongly argued piece might have. On DVD, it’s fleshed out with more deleted scenes and a featurette that cover largely the same material. Plus: music video.