Filmmaker kicks off energy and sustainability conference at UD
Filmmaker Chris Paine says electric cars are back from the dead and they're here to stay.
Chris Paine: Electric cars can be "fast, futuristic and fun."
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11:34 a.m., Aug. 11, 2009----Filmmaker Chris Paine told an audience of more than 150 people at the University of Delaware on Sunday that electric cars are back from the dead, and this time they're here to stay. Writer and director of the 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?, Paine is now working on a sequel, Revenge of the Electric Car, which will be released in 2011.

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His talk at Clayton Hall was part of Energy and Sustainability 2009, which was organized and run by the students in UD's Solar Hydrogen IGERT Program.

EV1, an electric car produced by General Motors during the 1990s and available only through leasing agreements, was unceremoniously killed off when the company recalled and destroyed the entire fleet, claiming that there was no demand for the product.

“That won't happen again,” Paine said. “The public is paying attention this time.”

Paine spooned from an alphabet soup of reasons for the nascent EV renaissance, all the way from “A” for air pollution and asthma to “Z” for Zeitgeist. His recipe included all 26 letters, resulting in a cogent argument for why electric vehicles make sense and a conviction that they will be accepted by an enlightened public in the 21st century.

“D,” of course, was for Detroit. Paine said the auto industry now understands that it needs to get into the electric car business if it's going to resurrect itself. “We saw lots of electric cars at the Detroit Auto Show this year,” he said. In fact, GM is leading the way with the Chevrolet Volt, which can go up to 40 miles on a full charge. As Paine pointed out, most of us live and drive on “25-mile islands,” so this is all we need for daily use.

Despite the stereotypes associated with environmentally friendly vehicles, the electric car of the future is more than just a practical but dull means of transportation. “These cars can be fast, futuristic and fun,” Paine said.

Electric cars have no catalytic converters, mufflers or tailpipes, and many of the maintenance and repair needs associated with gasoline engines are eliminated with electric vehicles. “Many people felt [with EV1] that electric cars threatened the entire service industry,” Paine said. “My answer to that is they also open all kinds of opportunities for retraining in areas like solar power and battery technology.”

Paine praised the University of Delaware for its ongoing research in alternative energy.  “There’s some incredible work being done here,” he said.  

Paine studied film at New York University and acting at New York's Playhouse Theatre and then went on to graduate from Colgate University in 1983. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, he was both an entrepreneur and a political activist. Since 2000, he has written and produced several documentaries.

Article by Diane Kukich
Photo by Doug Baker