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Electric Car Film's Director Talks about PHEVs on PBS Now!
Jun 15, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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Three weeks before the premiere of "Who Killed the Electric Car" (opening June 28, initially in NY and LA then in many other locations), PBS Now!, the TV News Journal formerly hosted by Bill Moyers, ran a 20+ minute interview with Director Chris Paine. We transcribed the last few minutes, where talked enthusiastically about plug-in hybrids' benefits and future. "Who Killed the Electric Car?, a Sony Pictures Classics release­whokilledtheelectriccar NOW (with David Brancaccio) Friday, June 9, 2006­now/­shows/­223/­index.html#here

[18:08 David Brancaccio, DB:] All right, so the [purely] electric car, in that version, doesn't make it. But look around you know -- the so-called "hybrid" is hotter than the San Diego Freeway during a mid-summer rush hour. I mean everybody's grabbing those things... success there?

[Chris Paine, CP:] Yeah, yeah. It's terrific, the hybrids are taking off. And this is a great thing, because hybrids get people used to the idea of having electricity in a car. In fact, you'll find that when people drive hybrids, within the first couple months, you begin to see them just trying to just keep their car in electric mode -- they don't want to hear that gas engine turn over. And I think this is very good.

DB: So we can change behavior is what this shows.

CP: Yeah, but the problem with the hybrids is that they still run on gasoline.

DB: There's still a tailpipe, there's still some pollution when the gas engine turns on.

CP: And you still have the internal combustion engine.

DB: Well that's interesting to me -- in the film, you could have left it with these images of death, the demise of the car, but you don't. You come back toward the end of the film with a different vision of the future.

CP: I think the United States is particularly good at creating innovation. And even though the electric cars in our film were destroyed, a lot of new electric technology is coming to the fore-front now. For instance, there's the plug-in hybrid.

DB: PLUG-IN hybrid...

CP: Yes.

DB: A hybrid now you never plug in... you turn it over, the gas engine runs it and puts energy into the electric part of it, but it DOESN'T plug in the wall.

CP: Right. Yeah, the difference with a plug-in hybrid is you take your hybrid car, and at night time you plug it in your garage, and it charges overnight. And then the first forty, fifty miles of your next day's driving are all electricity. So your gas engine never kicks on. So suddenly you're seeing the equivalent of 150 miles per gallon in a car.

DB: And if your batteries run down, then there's a little engine to get you where you're going.

CP: Then the engine turns on and keeps you going

DB: So some people are making these modifications -- turning their hybrids into the plug-in kind?

CP: Right. Right now it's mostly people doing conversion kits, but there are rumblings from Toyota and others that plug-in hybrids may be coming around the corner. I'm hoping to hear that out of General Motors and Ford, too. They could do it -- it's just so far they've lacked the will to really invest in ELECTRICITY as a way to power cars.

DB: But if you're bucking for sort of the ultimate revolution here in clean transportation, you've got to have a bigger coalition than these kind of Tom Hanks/Ed Begley, Jr. characters as you have in the film, who love their EV1 cars. You need MORE people focused on this.

CP: Yeah. Well, in the film -- at the end of the film, we have "What is this new coalition?" And this includes, uh... what group do we have? We have "What would Jesus Drive?"

DB: So you have Christian Evangelicals interested in making the world a better place...

CP: And we have the tree-huggers, and we have a lot of Reagan people that are part of a group called Set America Free.

DB: Well you're talking about them as neo-conservatives... What's the neo-conservative pony in this race?

CP: Well, I think conservative because these are people who look at transportation issues from a National Defense point of view. And they go, "If we spend so much money protecting the flow of oil..."

DB: From the Middle East.

CP: From the Middle East, this is not good. Whereas, if we use electricity, this is domestically produced, and it's possible that it can be renewable -- this is good for the long term. So these neo-conservatives, if you will, have joined with environmentalists, and really anybody who says, "Ok, I'm done with gasoline -- how can I get off this stuff?"

DB: I mean, given the price of gas these days, given the uncertainties of the Mid East and so forth, one wonders if these car companies are having second thoughts about their decisions involving the electric car.

CP: I think they really are, I mean car companies have all these big cars sitting in their lots right now. And even last week, Rick Wagoner at GM said that axing the EV1 was probably the worst decision he made on his watch. It's too bad -- I feel like the electric car story was an example of us losing two years, maybe five years, at a time when we really don't have a lot of time to play with.

DB: Well Chris, THANK YOU for this.

CP: It's been great.

DB: Chris Paine is the Director of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" It opens in New York and LA June 28th, and it's likely to show up in a theatre near you SOME time this summer.

And that's it for NOW. From the middle of traffic somewhere, I'm David Brancaccio. We'll see you next week.

Info about the film, including dates when it opens in different locations, at "showtimes" on the bottom of the page at­whokilledtheelectriccar Also don't miss a timeline that ends with plug-in hybrids and EVs on the horizon:­now/­shows/­223/­electric-car-timeline.html And Alex Paul's entertaining interview:­now/­shows/­223/­paul-interview.html

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