EVs are back in Revenge of the Electric Car
Revenge of the Electric Car, by writer/director Chris Paine, follows General Motors’ Bob Lutz, Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn, Tesla’s Elon Musk and backyard inventor Greg “Gadget” Abbott from 2007 to 2010, when their respective companies were getting in (or returning) to the electric-car game.
Paine also wrote and directed the contentious 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? That film followed the GM EV1 electric vehicle from buyer’s hands to the junkyard when the company controversially collected and destroyed them all.
Revenge seems to be a bit more even-handed than Paine’s last doc on the subject, even including some personalities from Who Killed the Electric Car? who have since changed their tune.
The movie starts with GM adviser Lutz as he prepares for the launch of the Chevrolet Volt. Lutz was an outspoken detractor of electric cars in the past, and to have him back in the fold speaks not only to the quality of the car, but also to how far the market has come. Lutz always said that until there was a business case for the electric car, he couldn’t get behind it. In Revenge, he laughingly calls himself an environmentalist.
The second larger-than-life character in the movie is Tesla’s Musk, who gets the nickname the “Rocket Man.” Musk created the PayPal Web site and sold it before pioneering his own private space-travel company. He dumped millions of his own dollars into Tesla, later realizing that money is just one of the problems when trying to mass produce a car. The movie likens him to a real-life Tony Stark, hero of the Ironman movie franchise.
A particularly interesting part of the film is when Musk and Lutz meet up at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit and tour an area called Electric Alley.
Abbott, the third character in the story, is known as the “Outsider.” He’s a self-proclaimed tinkerer who spends his days in Culver City, Calif., turning conventionally powered cars into electrics. He works his magic on unexpected cars such as the Triumph Spitfire and a classic Chevy Camaro. Early in the movie, we see Abbott dropping batteries into a Porsche Speedster. Things turn sour for Abbott when his shop burns down and he has to decide to either give up his dream or reinvest.
The last piece of the puzzle is Nissan’s Ghosn. He is portrayed as the “Warrior,” like Sun Tzu, who does what he needs to do to compete in the business. Aptly, he knows how to “be where the enemy is not.”
During the movie, Ghosn is bringing the electric Nissan Leaf to the table just as the Volt and the Tesla are getting off the ground. Ghosn has bold plans to make millions of Leafs and push them in to customers’ hands.
Revenge of the Electric Car ends on a decidedly more optimistic note than the last movie did. The Volt wins car of the year, the Leaf wins European car of the year and Tesla gets a government loan to continue to build its roadster and sedan. Even backyard mechanic Gadget finds a new shop to finish his all-electric Speedster.
The point of the movie is clear: Like it or not, electric cars are here to stay. Whether the public will commit to them en masse, only time will tell.
Revenge of the Electric Car will be released on Oct. 21 in Los Angeles and New York and in other locations in the following weeks.
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