The Revenge of the Electric Car: Would You Like to Buy a Tesla?

I couldn’t get my parents to watch Who Killed the Electric Car?, Chris Paine’s indictment of the forces that brought down a promising green technology, when it came out in 2006. Their lack of interest in the issue typified a culture, as Churchill once noted, that does the right thing only after working every other possible angle; public complacency might well have been factored into GM’s business plan. Five years later, it’s a radically different story, and Paine is back with Revenge of the Electric Car, a conversion narrative in several deftly interlocking parts. This time, Paine is on the inside, the invited guest of heavies such as GM’s Bob Lutz and Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn, both now racing to build the first mass-market electric vehicle. Spurring them on from Silicon Valley is Elon Musk, an entrepreneur who bet the cube farm on his own model, the Tesla, and nearly had a nervous breakdown trying to get it rolling. Sleekly designed (Tim Robbins narrates) with excellent mileage, Revenge is a balm for beaten-down times. In lieu of a business case for ethics, it tells the story of a rare moment when the bottom line finally dovetails with the greater good.