Set back in the early 90’s, this doc is a fast and furious tale about the heroic group of civic-minded auto manufacturers who wanted to save a hemorrhaging planet. In 1990, California’s smog-busing Air Resources Board adopted the “Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate,” which forced auto companies to produce exhaust-free vehicles.
The air in California cities was (and still is) causing birth defects, severe respiratory illnesses, and chronic health deficiencies. The goals of the mandate were modest: by 1998, 2% of all new cars would be exhaust-free.
Many auto manufacturers had already been creating mass-production prototypes of electric cars since the late 80’s, and electrical technology sufficient to rival gasoline-powered cars has been around since the 1940’s.
Tapping his A-list Hollywood chums for interviews, director Chris Paine outlines our country’s orgy with gasoline-thirsty transportation and the subsequent outrage of Californians when they discovered that automobile emissions were poisoning their families. In response, G.M. creates the EV1 in 1996, the first mass-produced electric car, costing $34,000 with a range of 100 miles.
Then, in 2002, each of the EV1s suddenly vanished from the road without a trace. Who killed the electric car? The answer is a roller coaster tale of corporate greed and governmental corruption, idealism and outrage, mystery and intrigue.