REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR
3 stars out of 4In his first and only other film ("Who Killed the Electric Car?"), director Gary Paine proved himself to be an adept button-pusher cut from the same hysterical, liberal-biased cloth as Michael Moore. Despite his own obvious personal opinions on his subject matter, Paine delivered a "documentary" that proved to be far more entertaining than it was informative.
"Revenge" is the happier, bookend/companion piece to "Killed" and is equally entertaining and lacking in substantive facts we don't already know. While often overstating the obvious regarding the benefits of electric passenger vehicles, Paine deserves high marks for also including the few, but considerable, drawbacks and does so within the framework of four engaging human interest subplots.
Most people are as largely uninformed about the history of electric cars as they are of 3-D films. While currently fashionable, in vogue and regarded as new and cutting edge, both technologies were invented more than 100 years ago and have gone through many peaks and valleys in that time. Both technologies offer perceived benefits and values and -- not surprisingly -- both cost more than the average consumer wants to spend on it.
As with all new -- or in this case -- revamped technologies, progress comes at a great cost to both manufacturers and consumers. Of the big three electric companies, the lowest-profile Tesla has the most to lose. Spearheaded by PayPal founder Elon Musk, Tesla's niche is the high-end sports car.
Despite being a multi-millionaire, Musk lacks the financial cushion of major corporations and has gotten close to going bankrupt on multiple occasions over the last decade. In addition, Tesla has only manufactured a couple hundred cars in that time, all with a minimum sticker price of $100,000 or more each.
Faring the best so far is General Motors with their Chevy Volt, which while still pricey ($35K-$50K), offers the most viable option to green-minded potential buyers and has the added benefit of market saturation advertising. The GM portions of the film focus mostly on Bob Lutz, a guy who over his 40-year-career has worked for GM, Ford, Chrysler and BMW.
One of those accused of squashing the electric movement in "Killed," Lutz is an old-school gearhead and industry dinosaur who fought the electric wave as long (probably longer) as he could and here finally -- most grudgingly -- admits electric is the future of the industry.
Getting into the electric market last was Nissan with its Leaf, which was shepherded to market by CEO Carlos Ghosn. Looking like a cross between Saddam Hussein and comedian Rowan Atkinson, Ghosn is presented here as a brutally efficient, take-no-prisoners type who is dead-set on claiming the lion's share of the electric market.
The personal styles and differing approaches to business and innovation of Musk, Lutz and Ghosn provide the best parts of "Revenge" and flavor the film with a modest mystery element. Throughout Paine also weaves in the story of Greg "Gadget" Abbot, a blue-collar mechanic who takes older sports car and refits them with electric motors.
Another key point that Paine surely was pained to include is the fact that many electric cars are low on performance and still require old-fashioned, gas-based back-up engines. Most people -- even those calling themselves "green" -- are nestled deep in a petrol comfort zone and largely share Lutz's perspective. As long as gas prices stay relatively stable and the global economy remains stagnant, the electric industry is going to continue to max out with about 3 percent of the worlds' auto-sales. It's going to take $5 a gallon gas and a median $20,000 electric model before it even has a chance of making a significant dent in auto industry sales. (West Midwest)