'Revenge of the Electric Car' movie: Elon Musk and Bob LutzEnlarge Photo
Revenge of the Electric Car dispenses its auto-industry education in small, digestible doses. Pulitzer-Prize-winning auto writer Dan Neil explains the challenges of the industry, and longtime industry analyst Michelle Krebs adds some cold-headed reality checks.
Despite ominous background music, what little drama there is arises from the economic meltdown of 2008. It almost sank the marginally funded Tesla Motors, and threatened to delay the 2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt.
GM's 2009 bankruptcy is covered, but with a light touch--that's an entirely separate movie--and the Volt skates through essentially on time for its production debut late last year.
Missing: the evil villain
Revenge of the Electric Car is a well-told story that should make electric-car advocates happy, and educate its viewers while entertaining them. Its challenge is that, unlike Paine's first film, it has no specific villain.
'Revenge of the Electric Car' movie: Tesla RoadsterEnlarge Photo
Without an evil antagonist, the movie becomes the story of major companies struggling to develop complex, expensive new products that will appeal to customers.
That's not inherently the stuff of high drama.
It is, however, the reality of the auto industry. It has just survived a crushing recession, it faces tighter gas-mileage and emissions regulations, and its executives must make billion-dollar bets with little idea of where gasoline prices will be when those products launch.
To its credit, the movie lets Krebs and others point out the essential truth of car buying: It's rarely about being green, but all about the gas price.
If the electric car has indeed gotten its revenge (on GM, presumably), it's because the technology is now, finally, close to ready for mass production--and because champions like Lutz, Ghosn, and Musk have pushed hard to take their companies to the next level.
That's a story worth telling, and Paine does so entertainingly. Even if there's no villain to hiss at.