"Revenge of the Electric Car" Premiers in New York

By · April 24, 2011

Panel Discussion After Revenge of the Electric Car

For the past few weeks, I have been trying to score some tickets to see "Revenge of the Electric Car" at the Tribeca Film Festival. I wasn't having luck, even though I had an "in" because months ago I was contacted by the film's marketing agent and asked if they could use my EV story on their website, which of course I gave them permission. You can still see it under the "Take Revenge" tab on their website. However, when I contacted her about scoring some tickets, she said she couldn't help me because they had so many requests that they no longer had any tickets.

Then, last Wednesday I went to the N.Y. Auto Show and did a live webcast Q&A about the BMW ActiveE at the request of Rich Steinberg, manager of electric vehicle sales for BMW North America. After the show, I went out to dinner with some of the BMW EV folks and the topic of the show came up as they were planning on going as well. I casually mentioned that I tried to get tickets, but had no luck. Two days later, I got an email that there were two tickets waiting for me at the Will Call booth for Saturday's show, which is the one I really wanted to go to because there was going to be a discussion after the show with Chris Paine, Carlos Ghosn, Elon Musk, Dan Niel and moderated by actor David Duchovny.

I won't go into much detail, because I don't want this to spoil it for the PluginCars.com community. I'm sure many of you plan on seeing it when it's available. I will say that I was surprised to see our own Brad Berman make a quick cameo appearance in the movie. Way to go, Brad! I will also say that Chris Paine had a tough act to follow, with the first movie, "Who Killed The Electric Car?", was very well done, and told a compelling story that many people simply didn't know had happened, outside of a small group of people in Southern California. To this day, many people still don't about how electric vehicles made in that era were almost all destroyed.

The new film is about what has been going on behind the scenes at G.M. with the development of the Chevy Volt, at Nissan with the LEAF, at Tesla with the Roadster, and oddly enough, the trials and tribulations of Greg “Gadget” Abbott, who wants to convert gasoline-powered cars into EVs. I believe Chris wanted Gadget to represent the many folks out there doing home conversions, but he just had so many setbacks that to me he seemed to be a distraction in the film. But hey, I'm no film critic. I just would rather have seen Chris include a company like AC Propulsion, or even a company like Aptera as the "industry outsiders" to document their struggles and successes as they try to compete with the big boys.

I read one writer, who said the film "lacks a villain" and I understand what he means, but that's not where we are now. "Who Killed the Electric Car?" left most people upset at what had happened, and wanting to rally the troops to fight back and that's not the case with Revenge. There's nobody to be mad at, there's no conspiracy, and the main "enemy" in the movie is actually the recession that hit in 2008. One thing the movie does do is give a clear picture of the types of men the three main characters are, as Chris had incredible access to Elon, Carlos and Maximum Bob. I was also surprised that I actually felt bad for Elon, as the movie shows how he was on the brink of ruin and the stress of running Tesla really broke him down. The film also shows Ghosn as a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners leader that is convinced electric cars are the future. It reveals that he was recently offered the chief executive officer job at GM, which he turned down.

Q and A

The discussion after the film was very interesting. There were times when journalist Dan Neil would express his doubts about EVs, and Elon quickly would say that he's wrong and even offered to bet him. Dan accepted the wager. Carlos Ghosn is either completely convinced electric cars are going to dominate the market in the near future, or he's a fantastic actor, because this man talks the talk. He called out the other automakers, saying while they're all talking, he's selling electric cars. One person from the audience asked him what do you say to the person in the pickup truck in middle America that wants a car that can go 300 miles every day? Without hesitation, he said, "I'm not concerned with these people. I can't build enough LEAFs as it is. I don't worry about convincing people that EV's are right for them. Enough people already know that, and I am catering to these people. I have 250,000 people that have already raised their hands and said they want a LEAF. Our biggest problem is not being able to build them fast enough."

I thoroughly enjoyed the film and recommend watching it. Just don't expect it to give you the "us verses them" Hollywood feeling like "Who Killed?" did. Man, what a difference six years makes!

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