Sunday, December 02, 2007

[DVD] Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006)

RIP to Good Technology

Many friends have asked if I would get a car, and the answer is an almost definite no. The price of one in Singapore is insane, and for that amount of money you have to pay, it's a downpayment for a reasonably comfortable roof over your head. Also, it's an immediate liability once you drive it out of the showroom, and being in debt in such a way is something I do not plan to get myself into. So while I continue to drool at some of the car models out there, owning one is almost out of the question.

And not to mention the high operating costs involved, with parking fees, installments, taxes, and the ever increasing petrol prices that never seem to be on its way southwards. Besides, a car pollutes, which is possibly my main gripe, other than the frustration of getting stuck in jams and travelling at a snail's pace during peak hours on expressways, no thanks to those trying to beat the ERP timings by getting creative with their accelerator pedal.

But anyway I digress. This documentary is quite timely as we're beginning to see some focus put onto environmental issues. With millions of cars having contributing to greenhouse gases through their exhaust, wouldn't it be nice to have a car that doesn't directly pollute? And did you know that the technology had already existed since 1990, but was, for some questionable reasons, shelved and destroyed?

Who Killed the Electric Car presents to us the various models from GM, Honda, Toyota etc, and debunked some of the common myths of operating such a car, like the mileage you can milk out of one full charge, the top speed you can reach, and the time taken to charge it. In fact, for a small city like Singapore with its very minute and finite network of roads from one end to another, and the number of traffic lights preventing you from shifting to gear Turbo, an Electric Car might possibly work here. In fact, charging it could be simple, given the number of multi-storey car parks that could have solar panels fit on top (therefore reducing reliance on the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity) and each lot provided with a charging plate.

Sounds appealing? So do the stars and test users of such a vehicle. The car's extremely quiet, designed stylishly with a futuristic dashboard, and the best of all, ZERO emissions. Then why did the project get unceremoniously canned? This documentary seeks to find out, as it looked at the consumer demand, industry supply, and pressure from the government and oil companies most definitely. It's quite strange altogether to have working models of the vehicles collected back from the user, and then destroyed, almost as if to cover up the fact that these vehicles are case in point to revolutionize the way cars will be built in the future. The documentary offers very compelling discussion points, and somehow makes you feel sorry that the benefit of a few outweighs the benefit of all humankind in the preservation of our environment.

Narrated by Martin Sheen, it's highly organized and structured, bringing us various viewpoints, especially from those who have driven the vehicle, and got it yanked from them through legal force. And it's still perplexing why the vehicles were not sent for mass production, or have an advertising blitz announcing the arrival of the future. Something that works, is popular and properly tested, but shelved nonetheless. Definitely worth a watch, and I'm recommending it!

The Code 1 DVD by Sony Pictures comes in anamorphic widescreen presentation, and in English 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. Subtitles are available in French only, and scene selection is over 28 chapters.

The extras in the DVD are the music video (3:50) of a very soulful sounding song "Forever" by Meeky Rosie (which you can view here):

A short documentary called Jump-Starting the Future is somewhat like a companion piece to the main documentary, and explains how to actually get one (more applicable to the USofA), through the various options like Conversion, getting a Hybrid vehicle, using alternative fuel or biodiesel, doing a neighbourhood car pooling, and of course, community activism.

There are a total of 10 deleted scenes in the DVD, though there are no reasons to exclude them other than pacing I feel. To list them down, they include Do You Want to Have this Argument on Camera? (1:28), Dream Car (1:53), Hallowed Grounds (1:03), Colette and J.Karen (1:40), Brakes and Tailpipes (very interesting look at the reduction of mechanical car parts, 1:27), Stan & Iris: Building a Better World (2:03), Are EVs Less Polluting (done presentation style with charts hammering home some facts which you can view from this link, 1:59), Street Theatre (2:27), Shooting the EV1 (done in car commercial style, a behind the scenes look, 2:34) and Who Killed the Electric Street Car (2:13), an excerpt from "Heartbeat of America" by Stephen Talbot (1993).

No less than 16 preview trailers are included in the DVD, all of which are Sony movies, which include Curse of the Golden Flower, Sketches of Frank Gehry, The Pursuit of Happyness, Casino Royale and The Holiday.

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