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CSI: Electric Car

You don’t have to believe that Elvis lives or that space aliens have landed to think that oil companies kept electric cars off the market.

A new movie called Who Killed the Electric Car? just might make you more likely to believe all the above conspiracy theories. But the documentary also demonstrates that simple questions can produce very complicated answers.

Who Killed the Electric Car? brilliantly shows how our energy policy gets shaped by all kinds of self-interests: economic, political, and social.

Who killed the electric car? Yes, it was the oil companies. But the movie doesn’t stop there. It also accuses the car companies and their repair shops, government energy policy, personal greed, and Americans’ love affair with Hummers and other high-powered status symbols.

The documentary covers all this in a way that keeps you watching. It will even make you a little emotional as a frighteningly powerful machine shreds one of the last, attractive-looking little electric cars.

The movie tells the story of a General Motors electric vehicle produced in California to meet a requirement that a small percentage of cars sold in that state produce zero pollution.

The EV1, as it was called, proved wildly popular with the people who drove the vehicles. But the drivers weren’t allowed to buy them, and when they went in to renew their leases, GM took the cars back. Despite protests in which car owners were arrested, GM sent the EV1s to a site in the Arizona desert to be crushed.

A surprising number of circumstances came together to get rid of the nonpolluting car. For example, the movie describes how a clever reduction in oil prices by Saudi Arabia in the 1980s produced the intended result of dismantling several government programs aimed at reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

Don’t expect to see this movie in your theaters. I had to rush to a Louisville movie house known for showing obscure art films. By now it may be out on video. Or maybe the big oil companies bought up all the copies.

I give two thumbs up for Who Killed the Electric Car?

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