Who Killed The Electric Car? (U)

Written and Directed by Chris Paine
Screening at FACT from 5th-8th October 2006

Reviewed by Adam Ford

Watch the news on any given evening and what will you see? No doubt there’ll be some kind of bombing in the Middle East, as rival factions fight over control of the vast oil fields. There might even be a story about how petrol prices are going up, because oil is running out and becoming more difficult to extract. Maybe there will be an environmental story, discussing the threat posed by climate chaos over the coming century, which is being caused by pollution from cars amongst other things. Wouldn’t it be great if those guys and girls at the car companies finally got round to inventing a practical electric car? Well they did, a long time ago.

In fact, as veteran comedian Phyllis Diller reveals in this jaw-dropping and fascinating documentary, they were an everyday sight on America’s roads until gasoline cars became cheaper in the 1920s.

But in 1990, a General Electric team unveiled a prototype that ran on electric batteries, and could be recharged overnight in much the same way as we now recharge mobile phones. It would cost far less, reduce carbon emissions, and would even be much quieter than gasoline cars.

However, an axis of evil formed by oil companies, politicians, and even General Electric themselves combined to sabotage what might have been one giant leap for mankind. After all, the new engines didn’t have an internal combustion engine, so they would massively reduce car company profits. The oil industry would be wiped out almost overnight, and what could the military fight over if there were no more oil wars?

This isn’t the best presented of documentaries, relying on too many dry and technical interviews with various executives and inventors. But by the end, the essential problem is abundantly clear. Our planet is being destroyed because our society serves the interests of profit and not of people. We need to change that, or we have no future.

For more on the story behind perhaps the worst act of murder the world has ever known, visit www.sonyclassics.com/whokilledtheelectriccar

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