By John DeFore
Readers who share entrepreneur Shai Agassi’s enthusiasm for a future of all-electric autos might get hot under the collar viewing Chris Paine’s 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? If you thought the hurdles to phasing out gas-guzzlers were mostly technological, the film is a brutal eye-opener.
Structured like a whodunit, the movie first has to prove there was something to kill: It introduces us to once-happy drivers lucky enough to have had leases on plug-in prototypes that drove beautifully, needed almost no maintenance, and spewed nothing into the air.
Then the leases ended, and customers had to return the vehicles. Few wanted to, and some went to extraordinary lengths in efforts to keep them — going so far as to follow the trucks that carted them away, stake out the lots where they were impounded, and watch in horror as these technological marvels were crushed, then shredded into metal-and-glass confetti.
The reasons for all this are tangled and sordid, and Paine dives into a saga where well-intentioned California legislators must contend with automakers worried they’ll be forbidden to hawk Hummers if the electric future looks too near at hand. Paine and his interviewees suggest that much of the hype around fuel cells and the like is designed to push the future back as far as possible.
Here’s hoping Agassi, and the legion of scientists, activists, and entrepreneurs with similar goals, can reinvent the auto industry without the help of those intent on slowing progress to a Model T’s pace.
Copyright © 2007 | Distributed by Noofangle Media