Review on the Greatest Battle of the 21st Century – The Revenge of the Electric Car
Director Chris Paine takes his film crew behind the closed doors of Nissan, GM, and the Silicon Valley start-up, Tesla Motors, to chronicle the story of the International resurgence of electric cars from 2007 to 2010. The documentary sheds a light on both the extreme successes and failures experienced by these key players in an attempt to be the first to successfully turn their prototype electric vehicles into mass-market production, and as a result receive the public recognition that they all so longingly desire. Right from the beginning, we are brought to the understanding that we need to cut our umbilical cord to fossil fuels and the only way forward is the electric car.
The documentary focuses on the lives of these four entrepreneurs: Bob Lutz “Mr. Horsepower” vice chairman of General Motors, Elon Musk “The Rocket Man” CEO of start-up Tesla Motors, Carlos Ghosn “The Warrior” CEO of Renault-Nissan and Greg Abbott “The Outsider”, an independent player from California who converts gasoline cars to electric ones in his own warehouse.
It is a competitive race to the finish line. When the global recession hits in 2008 it has a major impact on all the protagonists, which catalyzes a desperate fight to bring the electric car back to the world market. As a result of the economic crisis we see GM on the brink of bankruptcy, and Musk is left with no choice but to apply for a loan from the Department of Energy. Greg Abbott’s private warehouse is burnt down to the ground and $250 000 worth of damages incurred without insurance; the question of arson is in the air. Greg, like Bob and Elon, has discovered “Revolutions don’t come easily.” Whilst Carlos’s competitors are in complete disarray he launches the ‘Leaf’ and reveals his plans to produce 150 000 cars a year – the largest deployment of electric vehicles ever. At this stage Carlos feels he is definitely at the head of the game saying, “if it happens, we will be ready.” Despite his leading streak, Carlos is gambling with billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs and the sharks are circling.
The documentary not only delves deep into the working lives of these determined individuals, but their personal lives too. Which sheds light on the huge pressures faced by these individuals and not just from the perspective of their companies. Elon has invested $50 million of his own personal wealth into Tesla with the prospect of it becoming the greatest car company in the 21st century. But when we come to discover that Tesla have plowed through $100 million and only produced 100 ‘Roadster’ vehicles, most with minor faults, we start to see the cracks in the wall. No only this, but he has five sons to care for, facing a very public divorce, as well as a lawsuit from his previous partner (Martin Eberhand), and trying to run the company SpaceX all at the same time.
President Obama fires Bob Lutz and we see his lifelong legacy destroyed. Greg is continuously facing issues in an attempt to rebuild his warehouse whilst he expresses his anger and frustration. Even the favourite for the race, Carlos Ghosn, faces financial issues and is loaned 1.4 million dollars from D.O.E to meet production costs.
After all the hardships faced by these four individuals, we begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Some element of success is achieved by all; Elon sells his Tesla stock shares for a high price, Bob happily retires and GM pays back their government bailout loan, Greg Abbott gets a fresh start with his new shop and Carlos continues to dominate in the industry. In the end, we realize that the real revenge of the electric car is just a matter of time.