Oil companies aren’t the only ones profiting from a spike in prices at the gas pump. It’s likely also to boost the prospects of “Who Killed the Electric Car?” a likable if partisan post-mortem on the now-defunct auto. Writer-helmer Chris Paine leaves no doubt he’s a huge fan of the car nor who he considers the bad guys to be in this tale of a technological dream deferred. But a bipartisan attitude and an optimistic conclusion (added after its Sundance screening as a work-in-progress) give the doc a chance at a wide aud and media coverage for its June 28 rollout.
With Martin Sheen’s canned-sounding voice as narrator, pic calls for an alternative to the smog-spewing automobile, particularly given the link between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. GM launched research in 1987 for a mass-produced electric car, with engineer Alan Cocconi designing the power system that allowed the vehicle — the EV-1 — terrific acceleration.
According to Paine’s report, the car’s beginning was in California, the first state to pass legislation requiring automakers to make a portion of their future fleets with zero-emission engines. The EV-1 fan club ranges from Mel Gibson to the pic’s hero, Chelsea Sexton, who worked on the EV-1 team, is now a vigorous activist for electric cars, and is seen throughout the doc leading protests against her former employer.
The film recalls — though never entirely explains — the efforts by manufacturers of e-cars to both make them and squelch them. But a finger is also pointed at government for failing to enforce its original mandate.
Story slips into a wistful mood as owners recount how their beloved leased EV-1s were taken back by GM, and then found crushed and dumped in the Nevada desert. A checklist of “guilty” and “not guilty” parties is included, but some will take issue with who’s on the roster.
Closing reel tries to stick a happy face onto the film, with ex-CIA chief James Woolsey urging auto and energy alternatives along with the geopolitical reasons behind them. Still, no amount of last-reel optimism will cool the anger of progressive-minded auds.
Vid-to-film transfer is fair, and talking head segments pile up like a bad day on the 405. A zippy pace is maintained by editors Michael Kovalenko and Chris A. Peterson.