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Sierra Daily

May 25, 2011

The Charge of the Battery-Powered Brigade…Maybe

13 If you happened to double-book and missed the premiere of Chris Paine’s Revenge of the Electric Car at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival on Earth Day, you’ve got several opportunities to see the (relatively) upbeat sequel to the documentary filmmaker’s decidedly downbeat Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006) before it becomes widely available.

Paine’s new documentary, which looks at the resurgent electric-vehicle industry not through the eyes of climate-change-weary environmentalists but through the bottom-line tribulations of businessmen trying to make a go of it, will be shown this week at the Mountainfilm festival in Telluride, Colorado, and in June at film festivals in Little Rock, Arkansas; Long Island, New York; and Seattle, Washington.

Revenge shows just how far the auto industry has come since GM crushed the last of its leased EV1 electric cars in 2003. Today, GM sells the hybrid-electric Volt (shown above on its assembly line, with the film crew), while Nissan offers the all-electric Leaf  and upstart Tesla produces its zoomy, $109,000 battery-powered Roadster. BMW, Mitsubishi, Ford, and others are waiting in the wings with their own electric-vehicle offerings. Or not. One thing Paine’s doc makes clear is that bringing an electric car to the street is a nail-biter, whether you’re an independent electric-car converter working out of a fire-prone warehouse or an international conglomerate facing global economic meltdown.

Only one of many hurdles is the hesitance of American car buyers. A recent USA Today-Gallup Poll found that in seven states where gas had surpassed the July 2008 record of $4.11 a gallon, more than half of those surveyed said they have made major changes to compensate for the higher prices. But according to another USA Today-Gallup poll, nearly 60 percent of Americans will not buy plug-in electric cars, no matter the cost, because they do not have the same range as a conventional gasoline-powered car. 

For more information, check out the Sierra Club’s Go Electric campaign and Charged Up & Ready to Roll: The Definitive Guide to Plug-in Electric Vehicles from Plug-in America.

--Reed McManus

Image: Revenge of the Electric Car

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