REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR
A conversation with director Chris Paine
We live in a world of innovation and constant change.
Writer and film director Chris Paine has a mission
when it comes to innovation: he’d like to see the end
of the gasoline car. It’s driven his filmmaking, first with
the acclaimed Who Killed the Electric Car, released in
2006, and now with Revenge of the Electric Car, opening this October. He sat down with LA Yoga to discuss
these films that he says showcase first the crushing of
innovation and then the leadership that can promote
Felicia Tomasko: What action do you hope for people to take after seeing the film?
Chris Paine: I hope that people, if they can afford it,
will lease or buy an electric plug-in car. I hope this film
encourages people to be early adaptors of the technology. If this film accelerates that shift, then I know I’m
doing a good job. I’ve been driving an electric car for
12 years; I’ve never run out of power and I’ve bought
very little gasoline. Overall, it’s been fun and I want
other people to have that.
FT: What do you drive?
CP: I’m driving the Chevy Volt and my girlfriend is
driving a Nissan Leaf. We love these cars. They each
came with a $7,500 rebate and we charge both from
the solar panels on the roof of our house. The first 800
miles that I drove the Volt, I used only two gallons of
gasoline because it was mostly running off electricity.
Then we drove to Telluride for the film festival; after
you use up the battery, the car becomes a 35-mile-per-
gallon car. After driving it 6,000 miles, my average
mileage is about 64 miles to the gallon. The GPS systems in these cars will tell you where the nearest charging station is or what your range is. After a while, you
learn to estimate it.
FT: What are your answers to the issues surrounding
CP: We decided in Revenge of the Electric Car not to
make it an issue movie but to make a momentum movie. Let’s talk about emotional momentum. To explore
the issues around electric cars would take a six-hour
mini-series to talk about the real cost of oil.
I tried to put this in the film but couldn’t: people
don’t know that for every gallon of gasoline refined
from oil, just the last step of the refining process takes
six kilowatt hours of electricity. Six kilowatt hours are
enough to drive a car twenty miles. The oil companies
don’t want people to know how much electricity they
use to refine gasoline.
The arguments for the electric car comes down to
One: Forget the environment and think about natural
security. What if we just don’t want to buy oil from the
Middle East anymore? Let’s keep those billions of dollars here in the U.S.
Two: If you care about the environment then the
argument becomes, well, it’s much more efficient to
power a car on electricity. Electricity is the only energy
source that you can clean up; currently 50% of our energy for electricity comes from coal. If we continue to
clean up our grid, that energy source becomes cleaner.
If you live in Southern California, with solar panels on
your roof, you can go 100%
Three: The electric car experience is significantly different. It’s more advanced and smoother to drive; you
feel like you’re in a futuristic device.
Los Angeles resident Greg "Gadget" Abbott showing the
batteries in his converted car. Image Courtesy of Area23a.
FT: What were the most inspiring or hopeful moments when making Revenge of the Electric Car?
CP: I didn’t think I would like Bob Lutz [the former
vice chairman of General Motors]. I don’t agree with
him all the time, but charisma and leadership sells and
I ended up liking Bob a lot.
We heard that GM was making electric cars again
months after the first film came out. They were passing
out copies of Who Killed the Electric Car to the design
team so they knew the back history.
FT: Is there a resurgence of interest in the first film
with Revenge being released?
CP: There is a resurgence of interest every time gasoline rises over $4 a gallon.
Who Killed the Electric Car was a push back to the
auto and oil industry. Revenge is about how motivation and personal leadership can create change.
Revenge of the Electric Car will be released in
theaters on October 21. For more information,