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Energy | Transportation | Ecotrope

Electric cars: Bringing grandchildren back to life

Thanks to Iris Kuo for clueing me into Chris Paine’s new documentary “Revenge of the Electric Car.” This is a follow-up to “Who Killed the Electric Car?” – a 2006 film that explores a conspiracy theory about why GM released a line of electric cars in California and then took them back and destroyed them. Paine’s new film takes viewers behind the scenes at Nissan, GM, and the Silicon Valley start-up Tesla Motors for an up-close look at the electric car’s resurgence. (You may remember, Oregon has already received its first all-electric Nissan LEAF).

I like the guy in this promo (I assume he’s a GM executive), who sums up all the e-mails he got from people after slaying the early electric car: “You sold out to the oil companies and you killed my grandchildren. I hope you rot in hell.”

Well put. The grandchildren argument is a useful tool in debates over environmental issues. Although a shrewd and unfeeling opponent might quip: If you really cared about the planet, you’d think twice about having grandchildren. Have you heard what overpopulation does to natural resources?

Now, GM has introduced the Chevy Volt, a hybrid plug-in electric that can go 25 to 50 miles without gasoline. Does that bring everyone’s grandchildren back to life?

Maybe now’s the time to note that the electric car doesn’t resolve all transportation-related environmental problems, though it could reduce our country’s use of foreign oil and trim related greenhouse gas emissions. The electricity for the cars still needs to come from somewhere: How much will be natural gas, coal, hydroelectric, wind or solar power? It depends on what the grid has in store for you.

In light of Paine’s celebration of a rise in electric car production, Kuo also shared some news on two companies that are revving up their electric car models: Tesla just unveiled the Model-S sedan, and the electric car start-up Coda has raised $76 million in capital and has plans to try for an IPO. Can you hear the children of the future taking a deep breath of clean air?

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