Conscious Choices: Revenge of the Electric Car

Chris Paine, Revenge of the Electric Car

Chris Paine, signing a poster from his Revenge of the Electric Car film

Is it revenge, a revolution or just a temporary comeback? That is the question that spun around my head as I drove home from a screening of Chris Paine’s sequel movie The Revenge of the Electric Car last night. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, which follows four key characters in the race to re-birth the electric car: Mr. Detroit (legendary GM executive, Bob Lutz), The Warrior (Carlos Ghosn, CEO & President of Nissan, creators of the Leaf), Rocket Man (renegade CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk) and The Outsider (Greg “Gadget” Abbot, mechanic extraordinaire!). Documenting their trials and tribulations over a three year period, the film-makers achieved incredible behind the scenes access  enabling them to record the high’s and low’s of each player as they try to lead, influence, promote, drive, develop and invigorate the electric cars place in  mainstream global car market. It’s quite the adventure!

After watching Chris Paine’s previous film on this subject, Who Killed the Electric Car, I was pretty angry. It was obvious that there was some discontent from the oil industry at the possible loss in revenues if large numbers of consumers stopped guzzling gallons of their product each year and spent their money with the utility companies instead. Unsurprisingly,  the car companies appeared to have been quickly dissuaded from continuing their development of the electronic car, or the EV as they became known. GM who made 660 of the Gen 1 EV’s which were leased temporarily to individuals, including Danny Devito and Tom Hanks, proud owners, were incensed when GM recalled all the cars in 2003 to have them crushed after deciding that the electric vehicle market was unprofitable. The environmentalists, activists, people with a conscience and the EV owners were flabbergasted when these cars were recalled. As was I after watching the film. Frankly I was annoyed by the fact that the opportunity to make a conscious choice, to drive a car that would reduce our dependency on fossil fuel and result in zero emissions was no longer available to me, or anyone else for that matter. Coming from England I knew nothing of the existence of EV’s as the GM trial had centered on the West coast of America. The most we’d seen of electric cars was the rather precarious launch of the three-wheeler Sinclair C5 in 1985 before the company went into receivership.

As I drove home in my gas guzzling vehicle from the Nuart Landmark Theatre yesterday my emotional barometer was anger free. However, my mind was racing. Here we have a situation where the commercial opportunity for a seismic shift to electric vehicles is a reality, where there is a greater awareness about global environmental issues than ever before,  and the major car companies are actually competing neck and neck to own space in the electric market place. It appears that demand is there, right? Doesn’t everyone want to drive a clean car? You’d think the answer to that would be a yes. Surely the average Joe wouldn’t say no to fresher air and cheaper fuel,right? Well, not necessarily.

A number of people at the after show event where the limited collection of EV models from Tesla and Nissan were on show pontificated that they’d “love to switch” but couldn’t afford it, or “couldn’t possibly get out of their lease,” or “couldn’t cope with filling out the forms,” or some other lame excuse. Still one person harped on about how much guilt they felt when they got in their gas guzzler everyday. Obviously not a Catholic then? As consumers we have a choice. We can make the conscious choice and walk our talk, or we can twitter on about how we want a clean, healthy, green, loving, warm fuzzy world and then get in our gas guzzling cars and cruise on home to complacency.

This revenge of the Electric Car can only become the Revolution that Chris Paine, and his subjects desire if, we, the consumers take this opportunity and leap. This is one opportunity that may never come again. If the EV market doesn’t grow, and quickly, the car manufacturers, who are already struggling in a rocky economic climate will not continue taking risks on futuristic product developments. Really, the message of the film is that; If you really want the better world that you say you do, if you really want to help reduce global warming, reduce dependency on oil, help prevent corruption in the third world, promote the evolution to a clean grid, then put your money where your mouth is and register for a very affordable Nissan Leaf, or the Tesla’s Model S, or the Chevy Volt, or the Ford Focus Electric or one of Toyota’s three EV town cars that they plan to launch in 2012.

Toyota paved the way with the Prius, a hybrid car that has sold over 2 million units. When one chap asked how many units Nissan had sold of the Leaf, Greg “Gadget” Abbot answered around 4,000. That’s all? ‘Crikey’ I thought. We’ve got some consuming to do. So people. When you are writing your Santa wish list next month, or making your financial plans or your New Years resolutions for 2012, may I suggest you add “Go Electric” to them and figure out a way to switch. If you live in a major city and travel less than 50 miles on the majority of your journey’s you really have no excuse. And the latest models look good too!

I did chat to one couple last night who proudly drove up to the crowd in their new Nissan Leaf asking them about running and fuelling costs. Previously they were spending around $200 a month on gas. Now they charge their Nissan at night and they’re good to go for the morning commute to work. The increase in their electric bill each month: $40. That’s a saving of $160 a month, that’s $1,920 per year! And after buying the Leaf they got a Federal tax rebate of $7,500 and another $2,500 for their in-home charging unit. That’s a further saving of $10,000. And then, there’s no oil changes, less maintenance, oh yes, and less pollution! Hmmm . . . what is the potential saving in human lives, sea life and birds that don’t get destroyed in oil spills, people who aren’t affected by asthma or other conditions influenced by poor quality air. It seems to me there is really no decision to be made.

This isn’t one of those “Oh I’ll do that in a year or two or three when my lease expires.” Go ask your lease provider, neogitaite, see if there’s room to switch. In this ecomony a new sale looks good for shareholders and the car manufacturers want us to buy these. If we don’t show the car makers that this is what we want, that we want to make the conscious choice, then these cars will have a similar fate as the GM EV’s and the revenge will not be from an inanimate object but sadly on our children, the planet, and our health.

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One Comment on “Conscious Choices: Revenge of the Electric Car”

  1. David Block
    October 25, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Unfortunately, not as easy as all that. I agree that we need to put our money to support this kind of innovation. I purchased my first Prius, for example, in November, 2000, because if people did not buy hybrids then, no one would be buying them now. Plug-in cars, however, are not feasible for me, and many urbanites like me, who either park on the street or otherwise don’t have a garage in which they can plug the car in overnight. The savings mentioned is impressive. As with hybrids, though, the energy is likely from carbon sources from the utility. Still, like hybrids, it’s clearly superior to conventional models. If people don’t demonstrate demand today, they won’t offer them for sale tomorrow.

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