Guest Post: The Top 5 DVD Documentaries about Electric Vehicles

Here at Transport Evolved we like nothing more after a long day at work than sitting down in front of the TV with a cup of tea and seeing what’s on. When we want to treat ourselves we may even have a chocolate biscuit and put on a DVD about electric cars. But which one should we choose? Luckily a wonderful viewer of ours, “Teary Eyes” Anderson, has come up with his top 5 EV DVDs. 

Who Killed the Electric Car

The movie starts with a funeral for the the EV1, GM’s electric car from the 90s, of which the director of the film, Chris Paine had been a driver. As other leasers of the car find out that the vehicles are being taken back and crushed, they begin to demonstrate and protest against the removal of their cars. Similar to a mystery/conspiracy movie, it investigates the rounding up, destruction and/or deactivation of all of these cars.

It also tells the history of electric vehicles in general, their advantages, and disadvantages. It looks at the California Air Resource Board’s (CARB) fight for cleaner air, talks with users of the cars, and also shows reasons why some people are against EVs.

The movie is available on DVD and direct viewing. The DVD’s price varies from location to location, but their are several bonus features and deleted scenes that are exclusive to the DVD.

The instant viewing format can be found at sites such as Amazon and iTunes for around $9.99.

What is an Electric Car?

I think of this movie as ‘Electric Car 1.5’ that is followed by the much different Revenge of the Electric Car. This film has more of an infomercial theme to it. It is about a fictional college girl named Julie Smith that decides to do a research paper on electric cars. The movie then begins interviewing people on their feelings towards the cars and looks into the various models and styles of cars that were available at the time.

There are similarities between this and Who Killed the Electric Car? Several of the people interviewed also appear in Who Killed the Electric Car? and it tells the story of the EV1 – albeit with more information. It also goes into the insurance requirements that led to the cars being destroyed and how the EV1 went through the standard safety tests that were required for the cars to be sold, leading it to only be leased. In the end the Julie finishes her report and convinces her dad to look into buying a EV.

If you like this movie, you might also like the infomercial styled Life With Tesla – The Documentary where a business man decides to get a Tesla Roadster.

Revenge of the Electric Car

Thematically this film is quite different from Who Killed the Electric Car? It follows four central people as they try to build their own versions of an electric car. To help with new viewers it also recaps the first movie and the destruction of the EV1 and the fall out from those events.

The movie looks at Bob Lutz, GM’s Media spokes person and vice chairman, as he tries to get GM to build the Chevrolet Volt: A half electric, half gas powered car. Next it introduces Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and their building of the Roadster: The first fully electric sports car. Then Greg ‘Gadget’ Abbott and his wife Charlotte are introduced. It tells about their converting of gas car into electric vehicles. Nissan and Renault’s chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn is the last personality we are introduced to.

Like the first film there are the occasional interviews with skeptics and supporters. Eventually each of the cars get finished and are unveiled to the public.

Besides the DVD, the movie is available on direct digital viewing at places such as Amazon and iTunes for prices from $2.99 to $12.99. The DVD offers bonus features such as audio commentary and outtakes, as well as a post-screening discussion by its stars and the director.

Sadly, in my opinion, the movie contain some of Musk’s most rude and grumpy moments. For a better view of Elon Musk I recommend watching two other documentaries about him: Bloomberg’s Risk Takers: Elon Musk and National Geographic’s Mega Factories Supercars: Tesla (a documentary about the production and release of the Model S).

Another documentary you might like if you like this one is Making of the Mitsubisih i-MiEV Electric Car.

Charge: Zero Emissions/Maximum Speed

chargeThis movie tells the story of several teams of engineers that try to get their motorcycles ready for the first ever all electric Isle of Man TT race: The 2009 TTXGP.

It follows these teams as they rush to complete their bikes before race day. In some cases the teams got as little as four months notice.

The movie includes interviews with most teams, but the film mostly focuses on Agni Motors and MotoCzysz.

The film was first released on DVD in 2011 as a ‘Special Preview Edition’. Later in 2013 the movie was extended after the 2010 results to include footage from the 2011 and 2012 races, for a total of slightly over two minutes of additional material.

Racing Green: First Electric Car to Drive the Pan-American Highway (also known as “Racing Green Endurance”)

racing-greenThis film follows a team of students from Imperial College in London as they build, test, plan and drive their prototype electric car from Alaska to Argentina. They start with a gasoline powered racing car and convert it to a fully electrically powered vehicle. This documentary follows the team on the road.

The documentary chronicles their progress and the difficulties they have to overcome to complete their task from breakdowns to crashes. Despite the car having no roof and having to deal with rain and other problems they were able to complete their task in 70 driving days.

The film was broadcast in eight 22 minute episodes on BBC World News television. It was released in the UK on PAL format DVD in 2011 but wasn’t available outside the Racing Green Endurance website in NTSC format until 2013. The DVD includes bonus features such as a 16 minute behind the scenes look at how the motorcycles helped in the making of the film and other outtakes. A special signed edition of the film was also available from the movie’s website it was priced at $125.00.


My favourite of these films in order of best to least favourite are as follows:

  1. Revenge of the Electric Car. Minus the grumpy scenes of Elon Musk.
  2. What is an Electric Car. I like stories with happy endings.
  3. Who Killed the Electric Car? People have to make tough decisions about the things they believe in.
  4. Racing Green. A hopeful view of the world and the reality of things falling apart but getting the job done.
  5. Charge. People working hard, swearing a bit, getting things done, and several failures along the way.

For a more detailed review of each of these movies, you may also wish to read my full reviews of them on Amazon.


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