Electric cars in film
En In 2006, the documentary Who killed the electric car? by Chris Paine (launched directly to DVD, without playing in the cinema) focussed on something that is always surprising after hearing it for the first time: the electric car was born before petroleum cars. They competed for a few years, and we know who won in the end.
The documentary Who killed the electric car? tells the story of the first electric car by General Motors, from its birth until being shredded (literally). Obviously, the defence of emissions-free cars pitted ecologists against petroleum companies and the political backdrop of the matter affected the United States government (with then-president George W. Bush).
The company’s director drove with pride and satisfaction a GM EV1, the first modern electric car: fast, clean and simple and with a 130 km-autonomy. But in 2001, General Motors stopped manufacturing it. A complicated labyrinth of laws and pressures (the cars couldn’t be owned, for example, only rented) led them to being destroyed and manufacturing them was no longer worthwhile.
The film stood out at several festivals and had an impact on defenders of bringing electricity to car fleets. In fact, The revenge of the electric car premièred a few years later, which picked up right where the first documentary left off. In it, Elon Musk, with his recently launched Tesla Motors factory, showed his grandiose dream for building clean and attractive electric sports cars. The domino effect also made Nissan want to appear in the documentary, as the idea that the future of cars was electric had started to spread among manufacturers.
Cars from films, but also from books
But before these films clearly focussed on electric cars, there were other pioneers who were able to see the narrative possibilities of cars. As a symbol, as technology, and even, as frightening characters. Christine, the novel by writer Stephen King tells the story of a demonic car. The car is free and autonomous (understand the proper meaning of the word...) to do away with someone it doesn't like. The film was shot in 1983. The director, John Carpenter, chose a 1958 Plymouth Fury manufactured by Chrysler. It’s not easy to find one (neither demonic nor normal): Chrysler made few units and many were destroyed while filming.
There were even fewer units made of the Probe 16—only three—to give life to the Durango 95, the sports car of Alex and his friends in The Clockwork Orange, the mythical film by Stanley Kubrick. There are two copies of the Ecto-1 kept at the Sony Pictures studios, the Cadillac Miller-Meteor (kitted out with tools for ghostbusters) that was used in the United States in the fifties to transport patients and that is an authentic icon of the film Ghostbusters.
The eighties reeked of petroleum, there’s no doubt about it. But the need for ecological batteries that didn't emit CO2 was out in the open and the film industry was not unaware of this demand, and attempted to explore the possibilities of the future. In Minority Report, Tom Cruise drove a Lexus 2054 Concept. They say that Spielberg himself designed the Lexus (millions of dollars were invested). This two-seater drives on magnetic rails, it goes up walls (not a figure of speech) and is crashproof. Oh, and it changes colour upon command.
The list is never-ending...from Back to the Future to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang...which one will you ask for this Christmas?
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