Who Killed the Electric Car? 

Documentary is a big business murder mystery

If JFK were the name of an electric car, only a handful of people would remember his name in the months after his murder, and within a few years, most Americans would deny any knowledge of his existence. The public would be largely unaware that his assassination went unpunished and like a herd of cows led to the slaughterhouse, the voting majority would unwittingly champion their leader's indirect involvement in the murder as he cleverly diverted attention to a "better alternative." Is it silly to compare a car to the late 35th president? Sure. But in terms of each one's premature demise and hopeful contributions to history, hardly.

Ostensibly this is a review, the rules of which dictate that one who has seen a film deconstructs its worth by reconstructing its plot and passing judgment. Want judgment? Who Killed the Electric Car? is gut wrenching. But not because the film gets a little bogged down in the tediousness of lawsuits and the nuances of California politics. And not because endorsements from electric car owners Mel Gibson and Tom Hanks create a dim picture of our society's collective willingness to follow celebrity authority over scholarly research about the doomsday statistics of global warming. WKTEC?--the story of General Motors' Electric Vehicle One (EV-1), of which 800 were leased in the state of California between 1996 and 2000 before being recollected by GM and subsequently shredded--is a tear-jerker for two simple reasons. First, it illustrates that a small faction of consumers are helpless protesters against corporate business, especially when well-donated-to politicians are pulling for the big guys. Second, the filmmakers make American consumers look like a bunch of half-witted ninnies who've been duped in a big way. But if you're willing to feel helpless and tricked, WKTEC? is among the best time and money you'll spend.

Here are the facts as presented by WKTEC?: Electric cars were on the road and in high demand by consumers. The infrastructure--like battery charging stations--had been created. California lawmakers, in an effort to push the entire auto industry in a direction it looked to be heading in anyway, passed legislation incorporating the use of electric vehicle technology. Suddenly a small faction of "consumer and taxpayer watchdog" groups (who, incidentally, were funded by oil companies) started raising a stink. Then GM chose not to renew leases on any of its EV-1s and instead, crushed the whole fleet. Enter President Bush, an oil man with a vested interest in ensuring that the $100 trillion worth of oil still to be extracted from the earth's crust and sold, with his bid to promote the hydrogen fuel cell, a technology still years away from consumer realization.

WKTEC? ultimately places some very harsh criticisms on the majority of American consumers, but if you can stomach the well-deserved hand-slapping the film delivers, the filmmakers have taken care to address all of the criticisms of electric vehicle viability (including battery life, for which better technology does exist, but it's unfortunately owned by Texaco), as well as to elicit candid explanations from both camps.

Want to know why you're paying so much for gas? Because the serial killer is still at large.

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