In 2003, General Motors pulled the plug on its EV1 electric-car program, even going as far as to round up the groundbreaking vehicles from the street and destroy them (one was even snatched away from actor Danny DeVito). Documentary filmmaker and activist Chris Paine took action, exposing the whole ordeal in 2006’s Who Killed the Electric Car? Fast-forward five years and the electric car is back on track, which caused Paine to grab his camera again. His latest film, Revenge of the Electric Car, is a fascinating glimpse through the looking glass of a resurrected future.
When you wrapped on the first film, did you ever envision you would be making a second one?
I never imagined it would happen so quickly, because [the electric car] had been shut down so massively in 2003 by opposing interests. But when we began to hear rumors that some major players were taking this on at a very serious level, I thought we might be looking at a once-in-a-lifetime about-face in a major industry.
What do you say to those who believe an electric car is more of a bridge solution than a long-term, sustainable solution to our reliance on fossil fuels?
The electric car is both a bridge and a sustainable solution to the No. 1 issue for our generation: using less oil. What oil companies don’t want you to know is how much electricity they use to make gasoline itself. It’s insane. Electric cars are a way out of this mess.
What was the most fundamental change in the climate between the first and second film?
Gasoline going to $4 a gallon in 2008. Gas had been so artificially cheap for so long; this was the wake-up call that changed the debate for so many people. This pushed the whole debate over the edge and set our film up for a whole new direction.
What is the biggest challenge to the electric car becoming the norm?
Resistance to change, and money. There are plenty of people making money selling gasoline and gasoline-powered cars. They don’t want change, and many people agree with them. Same thing happened when automobiles first challenged horses. Automobiles eventually proved themselves and the money followed, but it takes individuals to create the momentum for changes.