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LISTEN: Exclusive Interview with Revenge of the Electric Car Director Chris Paine: Parts One and Two



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Local News / Entertainment

Tuesday, 8 November, 2011 2:59 PM

'Revenge of the Electric Car' to open Friday in Royal Oak and Ann Arbor

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Revenge of the Electric Car will debut at the Main Art Theatre and the Michigan Theatre on Nov. 11, 2011.


by Jason Rzucidlo



ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Many people agree that the 1916 Detroit Electric was one of the first electric vehicles. Over the past 90 plus years, automakers have been perfecting gasoline-powered vehicles. From 1996 to 1999, General Motors produced the EV1, the first mass-produced electric vehicle. In 2003, GM Vice President Bob Lutz encouraged CEO Rich Wagoner to cancel the EV1 project.

“I am a filmmaker and right now, I live in Los Angeles,” Director Chris Paine said in an exclusive phone interview. “I grew up in California and went to school in New York and briefly in Michigan.”

He discussed the EV1 project extensively in his 2006 documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?

“I drove an EV1 in 1997, I bought the car,” the film director said. “I drove it for about six years. I was really impressed by it. The car company said that nobody was interested in electric cars. We didn’t think that was the whole story so we made a movie about it.”

From 2008 to 2010, Paine interviewed Lutz, Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn, Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk and EV do-it-yourselfer Greg “Gadget” Abbott. Lutz is the same man who changed his mind and decided to move forward with the production of the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle. Now, Paine is back five years later with his new documentary film, Revenge of the Electric Car.

“It was very difficult to get them to appear in the film,” he added. “We talked to a lot of car companies and many of them didn’t call us back. Even with the car companies that we did film, it took about a year to get permission to film. The condition was that we were allowed to film for three years on the condition that we would not show any footage until 2011. It was great to film in Detroit as much as we did.”

The film made its world premiere at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival on April 22. It had its Los Angeles and New York premieres on Oct. 21.

“He is the one that is converting cars to electric,” said Scarlet Abbott, wife of Greg ‘Gadget’ Abbott, who appears in the film. “He’s driving. We’re on our way to Palo Alto for a screening. I was involved in the production for the whole three years. It’s a fabulous movie. It’s been very inspiring to be in all of the screenings.”

Why did Bob Lutz cancel the EV1 project, but yet move forward with the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle?

“I think he changed his mind for a lot of reasons,” Paine explained. “GM got a lot of criticism for ending their electric car programs. Bob wanted to change his legacy from being just a gasoline-powered guy into a guy that could see the future of the electrification of the automobile. He also felt, I believe, that GM could reinvent itself with a really bold play and convince the board of directors to invest in a plug-in hybrid, which became the Volt. He also helped convince GM to let our cameras follow him for three years to tell part of the story.”

Do you think that automakers made the wrong decision to focus back on gasoline-powered vehicles over the last nearly 100 years?

“I think that electric cars should have always been a part of the option,” the director added. “Part of the tragedy for the 20th century is that gasoline vehicles were the only option for most people. It’s true that gasoline has advantages in lots of situations. Electricity has incredible advantages in many other situations, especially with the advance in technology and the increasing cost of gasoline.”

The timing of your movie release seems perfect. Chevrolet just celebrated its 100th anniversary and the Los Angeles Auto Show opens in one week.

“When we started the film in 2007, we thought we can’t have a film with the title Revenge of the Electric Car unless people could actually buy electric cars,” he said. “This has been essentially impossible as you said since the Detroit Electric with very few exceptions. We knew that the car companies, not just GM, but also Nissan and Tesla said they would have cars available for sale by 2011. That was part of the premise of the movie. In a way, the timing is perfect, because people can try these cars out themselves and see if they like them.”

Is this new documentary sort of a follow-up or a part two to your previous film, Who Killed the Electric Car?

“This is a new film, but we certainly reference the old film because that’s where this started,” Paine answered. “People find the films to be very different, but the subject matter is similar. It’s just that the stories themselves are very different.”

Revenge of the Electric Car opens on Nov. 11 at the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, Mich. and at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“Bob Lutz is coming to the screening in Detroit [Royal Oak] on Friday, the 11th and he will be in Ann Arbor on the 13th,” the director added. “He will also be signing copies of his book, ‘Car Guys vs. Bean Counters’ at the Michigan Theater that night. We really hope people come out to Ann Arbor to see the film and meet Bob Lutz. That’s going to be our grand event. I’ll be there at the Friday night screening and Michelle Krebs is going to be there from Edmunds and maybe some surprise guests.”

To purchase tickets to the screenings in Royal Oak, visit To purchase tickets to the screenings in Ann Arbor, visit

For more information about the movie, visit or


Photo credit:

Bob Lutz with a Chevy Volt at a press event.


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Carlos Ghosn in a Nissan LEAF at a press event.


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CEO Elon Musk at the Tesla IPO.


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Greg "Gadget" Abbott showing the batteries in his converted car.


Photo credit: Kelle Deeter

Director Chris Paine




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