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Who Killed the Electric Car? Print E-mail
Reviewed by Ceri Balston   
Thursday, 26 July 2007
Director: Chris Paine
Who Killed the Electric Car? In the 1990s, following California's passing of the Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, American car companies began producing electric cars for mainstream consumption. GM's EV1, which was by all accounts quiet, fast, and capable of driving up to 130km on one charge, used no gasoline and quickly developed an intensely devoted following in California.

But even as its popularity grew, car manufacturers were fighting the mandate; it was overturned, and by 2005 just about every single EV1 had been recalled, crushed, and shredded. GM put its resources into the Hummer instead…

This is a remarkable documentary film that leaves you feeling angry and amazed at how such an obvious solution to so many of the world's problems (global warming, Middle East unrest, rising oil prices and pollution) was ruthlessly crushed by big business and government.

The film opens with a very sombre mock funeral for the star of the film, the EV1, one of the most popular and successful electric cars of the decade, owned and loved by actors such as Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks and Alexandra Paul, before it was recalled by General Motors to be destroyed. One of my favourite quotes was an admission by Ed Begley in his eulogy to the EV1, "Yes the electric car is not for everyone, it can only meet the demands of 90% of the population".

What I didn't realise before I watched this film was that electric cars (or EV's - electric vehicles) were so advanced (and this was 1996 when the EV1 was launched). I had this impression of slow tortoise like vehicles embarrassingly being rapidly overtaken by every other car on the road. In reality, to use the words of one EV1 owner driver Tom Hanks, "believe it or not that sucker really goes, that thing will take you so fast you can get a ticket". We are then treated to the screeching tyre, testosterone charged performance of the very impressive little car.

It is really truly remarkable that such an incredible product was so ruthlessly driven from the market. The electric car is phenomenally cheap to run, it's fast, extremely quiet and produces zero emissions, it really seems like a no-brainer… And it is this paradox that "Who Killed the Electric Car?" explores by looking at the tangled web of interests behind the car's untimely demise. Some of its discoveries leave your mouth agape…

One of the encouraging aspects of the film is the glimpse at the growing trend of smaller car manufacturers releasing their own EV's onto the market. In the film we are told that yes the car and oil companies are Golliath but with thousand's of David's (buying electric cars) we can bring Golliath down.

My family and I certainly found this to be an extremely inspiring film and straight after watching it we started scouring the net to find out as much as would could about EV's and if and where we could get an EV of our own.

For a glimpse at some the options available (unfortunately not here in SA, yet) check out and

PS. If anyone tells you that the electric car just can't match the performance a petrol driven vehicle point them to this website

Check out the trailer to the film here -
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