Posted July 25, 2012 by Chris Patmore in DVD/Blu-ray

Revenge Of The Electric Car

Who’d have ever thought the day would come when we would see documentaries getting sequels, but that is essentially what Revenge of the Electric Car is (and not a green sequel to Peter Weir’s The Cars That Ate Paris).

Who’d have ever thought the day would come when we would see
documentaries getting sequels, but that is essentially what Revenge of the
Electric Car is (and not a green sequel to Peter Weir’s The Cars That Ate
Actually, to be fair, it is a follow-up report on the changes to
the automotive industry after director Chris
‘s Who Killed the Electric Car?
However, this one is a little bit too pleased with itself. There is a sense of
“told you so” about it that means it doesn’t fully investigate the
implications of these new developments. For Bob Lutz of GM and Carlos
of Nissan, the choice to go electric is purely a business one,
completely free of the altruism of wanting to reduce the usage of oil. The
major car manufacturers have been working in league with the oil companies for
so long that they are unlikely to break up that partnership any time soon, especially
given the dubious business ethics and practices of the oilmen who have most of
the world leaders in their pockets. You only need to read Greg Palast‘s book The
Vultures’ Picnic
to get a glimpse of what is going on there.

The only people
that show even a modicum of altruism were Greg
, a do-it-yourselfer, whose workshop was mysteriously hit by an
arsonist, and Elon Musk, who runs
the Silicon Valley start up (although Detroit see him more as an upstart) Tesla
Motors, who make the very sexy, and fast, electric sports car that bears the
Tesla badge. The movie compares Musk with 1940s’ innovative automobile designer
Preston Tucker, but not in a
favourable way, and they skip over the fact that Tucker’s business was
“sabotaged” by the Big 3, who saw his designs as a challenge they
weren’t willing to take on. Check out Francis
Ford Coppola
‘s excellent but little-known film Tucker: The Man And His Dream, with Jeff Bridges in the lead role.

It is highly
commendable that Musk is using Tesla’s name for his car company as Nikola Tesla
first proposed electric-powered cars in 1901, and built one in 1931, putting an
electric motor in Pierce-Arow car, which was no lightweight like those of
today, and drove it up to speeds of 90mph, using an AC motor and a box of his
own invention that did not require batteries (it took the electricity from the
earth’s magnetic field), thereby overcoming the biggest downside of modern
electric cars – distance between charges. As with most of Tesla’s inventions,
because there was limited revenue to be made from them, they were met with
little enthusiasm from manufacturers and investors, so Tesla shelved the idea,
the only problem was, he kept most of his ideas in his head, where they
originated, and didn’t put them on paper. So, even though Musk has taken
Tesla’s name he is lacking all of the great man’s inventiveness, and relying on
lithium ion batteries to power the car.

Tesla was always
about using renewable natural energy, and although electricity is a much better
option than oil, it introduces a whole new element to be exploited: lithium. In
2010 US geologists “accidentally” discovered the world’s largest
lithium deposits in Afghanistan. You can bet that the major oil companies are
invested in that discovery, and “freedom and democracy” in
Afghanistan is going to remain a pipe dream. It was, coincidentally, after that
discovery that GM, Nissan et al suddenly all became that more interested in
producing electric cars.

Alternatives to
petrol-driven cars are definitely a necessity, but with oil companies holding
so much economic and political power they aren’t going to give it up in any
hurry, and electric cars in their current format are not necessarily the right
solution, especially as there are others, such as water-powered (and not steam
driven) engines. This movie doesn’t look at any of these issues and only makes
a cursory mention that as electricity production becomes “greener”,
so will electric cars. However, there is nothing said about the dangers of
lithium batteries and their disposal, not to mention the implications of what
will happen to the Afghanis.

This movie is more
like a marketing piece for the electric car industry, especially with the
inclusion of celebrity advocates, rather than a piece of investigative
documentary-making that continues to probe the motives of the auto industry
and, as such, like the electric cars, loses its power before it covers any real

Chris Patmore