Over the last century, GM has made 400 million petrol-burning vehicles. They also created the EV1, the first modern electric car, but gave up on the idea, recalled and crushed them. As technology and commercial prospects improved, red-hot entrepreneur Musk launched Tesla, a high-end electric roadster. GM's car-guru Lutz responded with the Volt, a much-cheaper hybrid, while shark-like Nissan CEO Ghosn became determined to tap into a generation that won't even consider buying a fuel-burning car. Meanwhile, Gadget is quietly converting classic cars to electric engines.
The film centres on these four men, filling facts in with informative narration from Robbins and knowing commentary from journalist Neil. Old-school Lutz admits that the electrification of the car is a foregone conclusion, but idealistic pioneer Musk grew tired of waiting for corporations to get going.
Modern-day businessman Ghosn aggressively leads the charge to the mass market, while Gadget is a feisty small-business owner doing everything his way. All four are forces of nature, battling against obstacles that make the usual questions (about pricey batteries and limited range) almost irrelevant.
Paine keeps things moving briskly, stirring in comments from high-profile celebrities, automotive executives and experts who speak with a blend of authority and earthy humour. The film's chronology includes the global financial meltdown, which has has a particular impact on the car industry, as well as more personal calamities, such as a devastating fire at Gadget's workshop and Musk's facing company problems in the middle of a divorce.
Along the way, Paine digresses unnecessarily into these men's personal lives and also tells the story of Preston Tucker, the last entrepreneur who tried to re-invent the car industry. More interesting is the question of why it's taken so long to break oil company control over the industry, especially after the EV1 debacle. As several interviewees say, this is only act two in the electric car saga: we still don't know what will happen next. But Paine's closing clips give us something to look forward to.
Run time: 90 mins
In Theaters: Friday 20th July 2012
Box Office USA: $0.2M
Distributed by: Midwest Films
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Fresh: 28 Rotten: 12
IMDB: 7.0 / 10
Director: Chris Paine
Producer: Jessie Deeter, PG Morgan
Screenwriter: PG Morgan, Chris Paine
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