Monday, July 17, 2006


Who Killed the Electric Car?

Running parallel to this year’s slew of raucous summer spectacles is an unlikely subgenre kept stylistically meek as the box office underdog—namely, the environmental documentary. Born in the shadow of Al Gore’s mighty Powerpoint diatribe, Who Killed the Electric Car? may seem like a lesser son of this unofficial trend, but the comparison is hardly apt. I hear that Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth is a rallying cry to avoid global catastrophe, and I really need to make time to see the damn thing before it melts to DVD. Its seasonal colleague tracks the unfortunate decimation of General Motor’s promising gas-free EV-1 automobiles, using a narrow prism of storytelling that skews the title into a mournful wail. With his film, director Chris Paine is hosting a wake.

I mean that literally: The greatest set piece is a staged funeral assembled by EV-1 drivers in the summer of 2003 protesting the suppression of their pilfered transportation. The attendees lost the vehicles over the course of a year following a coarse announcement by GM that it would not renew the leases for its electric models. Other developers quickly followed suit. The decision was part of numerous hindrances for the EV-1, which was assailed by oil moguls and avaricious manufactures worried about the future profitability of gas powered vehicles. Surprisingly, their opponents were not primarily driven by larger environmental purposes; countless testimonies from EV-1 drivers suggest that the car was a damn sexy ride (albeit only for short distances). Being an urban dweller and having little use for automobiles these days (except when I ride the bus), I can’t say I feel like I’m directly missing out on anything, but broadly speaking, the politics of greed is a universal tragedy.


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