Who Killed the Electric Car?
A funeral procession from the film "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

Who pulled the plug?

Posted November 16, 2006

The year is 1990. California is in a pollution crisis. Smog threatens public health. Desperate for a solution, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) targets the source of its problem: auto exhaust. Inspired by a recent announcement from General Motors about an electric vehicle prototype, the Zero Emissions Mandate is born. It required two percent of new vehicles sold in California to be emission-free by 1998, 10 percent by 2003. It is the most radical smog-fighting mandate since the catalytic converter.

With a jump on the competition, thanks to its speed-record-breaking electric concept car, GM launches its EV1 electric vehicle in 1996. It was a revolutionary modern car, requiring no gas, no oil changes, no mufflers, and rare brake maintenance (a billion-dollar industry unto itself). A typical maintenance checkup for the EV1 consisted of replenishing the windshield washer fluid and a tire rotation. But the fanfare surrounding the EV1's launch disappeared and the cars followed. Was it lack of consumer demand as carmakers claimed, or were other persuasive forces at work?

Who Killed the Electric Car?
A documentary whodunnit.

Fast forward to six years later. The fleet is gone. EV charging stations dot the California landscape like tombstones, collecting dust and spider webs. How could this happen? Did anyone bother to examine the evidence? Yes, in fact, someone did. And it was murder.

The electric car threatened the status quo. The truth behind its demise resembles the climactic outcome of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express: multiple suspects, each taking their turn with the knife. "Who Killed the Electric Car?" interviews and investigates automakers, legislators, engineers, consumers and car enthusiasts from Los Angeles to Detroit, to work through motives and alibis, and to piece the complex puzzle together.

"Who Killed the Electric Car?" Saturday, Nov. 18, 7:30 pm, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Spring Street, Vineyard Haven. Tickets are $6 or $4 for film society members. Rated PG. A discussion will follow at Beetlebung Coffee shop, Beach Road, Vineyard Haven. For more information visit