Movies / Movie Reviews

Who Killed the Electric Car? (Documentary)

By Leroy Douresseaux
November 26, 2006 - 11:11


Who Killed the Electric Car?
Starring:  Martin Sheen (narrator), Phyllis Diller, Mel Gibson, Peter Horton, Ralph Nader, Jim Boyd, Alec N. Brooks, Colette Divine, Tom Everhart, S. David Freedman, Alan Lowenthal, Dan Neil, Iris and Stanford Ovshinsky, Alexandra Paul, Paul Scott, Chelsea Sexton, J. Karen Thomas, and John R. Wallace
Rating: MPAA - PG for brief mild language
PRODUCER:  Jessie Deeter
GENRE:  Documentary
DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Classics

Chris Paine's documentary feature, Who Killed the Electric Car?, delves into the short life of General Motor's electric car, the EV1.  Once upon a time, the EV1 was the next big thing in cars, gaining attention in the mid-90's almost as soon as it first appeared.  By the early 21st century, however, GM was ready to pull the plug on the EV1 and began taking them from the people to whom the company had leased them.  Why did what had turned out to be such an efficient and green-friendly automobile disappear?

Amid ever-increasing gas prices, global warming, and political turmoil in many oil producing nations (especially Iraq), Chris Paine's film asks, "Who killed the electric car?"  Government, Detroit-based automobile manufacturers, and consumers are among a host of suspects.  Through interviews with former California state and federal government officials, former GM employees, activists, scientists, technical innovators, and concerned celebrities (such as EV1 drivers Mel Gibson and Peter Horton), Paine seeks to answer that question which is the heart of his film.

Who Killed the Electric Car? is unabashedly pro-electric car, and the film spends practically its entire running time arguing against the people and corporate and government entities that, who through their actions, seemed on making the electric car, particularly the EV1, disappear.  Stylistically, this documentary is like Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room by interviewing a large cast of players who are involved with electric cars.  In terms of facts and text, Paine's film is more like a Michael Moore documentary - a mixture of documentary, commentary, editorial, and news feature.

Unlike Moore, Paine allows his subjects to say their peace and ultimately his trust is rewarded with an ensemble cast of storytellers who make this film far more interesting and entertaining than it should be.  The interview subjects are all engaging (regardless of where they fall on this issue), although Mel Gibson seems scary and kind of wild sporting a heavy salt and pepper beard.  Still, like the rest, everything thing he has to say adds color to the story and enriches this document of a new breed of car that shouldn't have died.

For those whose politics run green, liberal, or even crunchy conservative, Who Killed the Electric Car? will be entertaining and appealing.  For those viewers who choose to look past the electric car at the larger issues affecting our environment and our government, Who Killed the Electric Car? will make you frustrated and mad.


A version of this review appeared at


Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15

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