Film Review: Revenge of the Electric Car

If you enjoyed Who Killed the Electric Car?, you'll love this new documentary

2 min read

This past Tuesday I had the pleasure of attending an early screening of the new documentary Revenge of the Electric Car, a follow-up to Chris Paine’s 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? The showing took place at the Plug In 2011 Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, to the delight of several hundred electric-car enthusiasts in the audience.

Whereas the story told in Who Killed the Electric Car? makes you want to cry, the new film, written by Paine and P. G. Morgan, moves you to laugh—at GM’s sudden fondness for electric vehicles (or at least its plug-in hybrid, the Volt), at the shift in sentiment generally about electric cars (which thanks to the Tesla Roadster are now seen as sexy), but most of all at the cast of characters who are slowly but surely helping to electrify automobile transportation. The list includes Bob Lutz (of GM), Elon Musk (of Tesla Motors), Carlos Ghosn (of Nissan and Renault), and Greg “Gadget” Abbott (who converts gasoline cars to electric drive).

Unless you’re very close to the budding electric-car industry, you’ll likely learn a great deal about the various twists and turns that have befallen GM, Tesla, and Nissan as they strive to produce practical electric—or at least partially electric—cars. What’s absolutely astonishing, though, are the inside peeks at these companies and their leaders that Paine’s team was able to get on camera. Lutz, Musk, and to a lesser extent Ghosn are captured sharing what are seemingly their most candid thoughts about cars, the press, the stress of their jobs, even their family lives. And those often-humorous snippets rapidly cut these larger-than-life figures down to very human sizes.

Geeks might complain that the film doesn’t delve into the technological advances that have taken place since the “death” of the EV1 in 1999. Hard-core engineers like Alan Cocconi (who discusses battery technology in Who Killed the Electric Car?) never appear. The focus here is definitely on business and personality, not technology. But that’s okay. And it’s definitely entertaining. So by all means, go see Revenge of the Electric Car after its general release this fall.


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Chinese Joint Venture Will Begin Mass-Producing an Autonomous Electric Car

With the Robo-01, Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely aim for a fully self-driving car

4 min read
A black car sits against a white backdrop decorated with Chinese writing. The car’s doors are open, like a butterfly’s wings. Two charging stations are on the car’s left; two men stand on the right.

The Robo-01 autonomous electric car shows off its butterfly doors at a reveal to the media in Beijing, in June 2022.

Tingshu Wang/Reuters/Alamy

In October, a startup called Jidu Automotive, backed by Chinese AI giant Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely, officially released an autonomous electric car, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition. In 2023, the car will go on sale.

At roughly US $55,000, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition is a limited edition, cobranded with China’s Lunar Exploration Project. It has two lidars, a 5-millimeter-wave radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 12 high-definition cameras. It is the first vehicle to offer on-board, AI-assisted voice recognition, with voice response speeds within 700 milliseconds, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8295 chip.

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