Who Killed the Electric Car Analysis

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IN 1996, ELECTRIC CARS BEGAN TO APPEAR ON ROADS ALL OVER CALIFORNIA. THEY WERE QUIET AND FAST, PRODUCED NO EXHAUST AND RAN WITHOUT GASOLINE. TEN YEARS LATER, THESE CARS WERE DESTROYED.

TEACHER’S
GUIDE
“A QUIETLY SHOCKING INDICTMENT OF OUR
GAS-GUZZLING AUTO COMPANIES AND
THE PETRO-POLITICIANS WHO LOVE THEM.”
–KAREN DURBIN, ELLE MAGAZINE

SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2006



TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2006

WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR?

NOTE TO THE TEACHER
Who Killed the Electric Car? is a powerful tool pertinent to many academic disciplines and adaptable to a variety of abilities, learning styles, and classroom goals. This rich, self-contained film requires little or no additional research on the part of the instructor or the class, but can be used as the foundation for independent student research. The film divides neatly into two nearly equal and independent segments that can be shown on successive days or at different points in a unit. Both segments offer excellent discussion opportunities.

The classroom experience of students taking courses on
environmental science or offerings that include a unit on air quality or environmental concerns would be enriched by viewing Who Killed the Electric Car?. Courses that encourage interest in engineering and practical math applications would also benefit. The ethical and civic questions that the film explores offer a natural connection for teachers working in the area of civics, government, ethics, and business ethics. In many of these courses the film could be treated as a case study. The ethical questions raised are nearly unlimited and a large variety of higher-level-thinking activities can be developed from the film.

Included in this packet are discussion prompts, class activities, and research suggestions.

1

FILM SUMMARY
included, the General Motors electric vehicle is
featured. As this segment concludes, the success of
the industry’s legal strategy is symbolized by a
celebrity-studded funeral for the electric car. This
segment is filled with factual analysis that examines
conflicting claims about emissions, practicality, costs
of various fuels, and consumer demand.

Who Killed the Electric Car? is presented as a whodone-it mystery. Staying true to this genre, the film opens with necessary background information,
describes the crime committed, answering all of the
what, where, and when questions, and then in the
style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gathers the suspects for
close scrutiny, coming to a conclusion on the guilt or
innocence of each.

The second half of Who Killed the Electric Car? is
Sherlock Holmes at his best. The seven suspects
identified in the first half of the film are scrutinized. One by one, consumers, batteries, oil companies, auto
manufacturers, the U.S. government, the California Air
Resources Board, and the newest villain, the hydrogen
car, pass under the bare bulb in the inspector’s
interrogation room in an attempt to answer the
question asked in the film’s title: Who Killed the
Electric Car? At the end of each segment the
featured suspect is judged as guilty or innocent.

Opening with a bit of automotive history that
establishes the electric car as a competitive alternative
to the internal combustion engine, Who Killed the
Electric Car? takes the viewer back to the beginning
of the twentieth century and the dawn of the
automotive age. A straightforward explanation of why
gasoline beats out electricity as the fuel of choice and
how the internal combustion engine wins dominance
concludes the broad overview.
The film then moves to the recent past with the
introduction of the California Air Resources Board and
their 1990 decision to require that ten percent of all
cars sold in California by each car manufacturer be
zero-emission vehicles by the year 2003. The Dr. Jekyll
and Mr. Hyde response of automotive companies is
revealed; production and marketing of zero-emission
cars is detailed, a period...
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