Revenge of the Electric Car: A New Hope
A good revenge story needs a long waiting period to savor the anticipation of getting satisfaction. That makes the story behind the new documentary "Revenge of the Electric Car" extra delicious, given that electric cars have spent more than a century languishing in the shadow of their gas-guzzling cousins.
Many of the first cars on American roads at the start of the 20th century were electric vehicles, as detailed in Alexis Madrigal's book "Powering the Dream" (De Capo Press, 2011). The very first New York City cab company ran a fleet of such electric cars with a battery-switching station not unlike the networks of battery-switching stations now being deployed by companies such as Better Place. But the limited road range and some poor business planning ended the American dream of electric cars early on.
Fast forward 100 years. Detroit auto giant General Motors began selling or leasing out a small number of EV1 electric cars in the 1990s, before taking and destroying the entire lot. Car enthusiasts argued that the auto and oil industries had conspired to halt the electric car's rollout; General Motors said that consumers had no interest in a car with limited range and a high price tag.
GM's abortive attempt to resurrect the electric car became the subject of a 2006 documentary film called "Who Killed the Electric Car?" The film's director, Chris Paine , told InnovationNewsDaily that he originally had no intention of doing a second film about electric cars. But he soon realized that he had another story to tell about the latest wave of electric car champions, which includes auto manufacturing giants such as Nissan and GM, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and a California garage tinkerer.
Paine's newest film to hit theaters, "Revenge of the Electric Car ," follows the four story threads of each champion. Bob Lutz, a former vice chairman for GM, helped the U.S. auto manufacturer develop its Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid car. Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of Renault and Nissan, has bet his corporation's future upon the all-electric Nissan Leaf as an affordable consumer car.
There are also the upstarts. Elon Musk, former PayPal entrepreneur and private spaceflight leader, founded Tesla Motors to produce an electric sports car as a lead-up to more affordable consumer cars. And Greg "Gadget" Abbott, a California mechanic, runs a shop that helps ordinary car owners convert their gas-guzzlers into electric vehicles.
Whether or not you believe Elon Musk's prediction that all vehicles will someday be electric , it's worth seeing "Revenge of the Electric Car" just to understand why both major car companies and smaller entrepreneurs have now embraced the electric car as a business opportunity. Anyone wanting more details about the economic argument for electric cars can also see Paine's earlier film, "Who Killed the Electric Car?"