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It ran on electricity, produced no emissions and catapulted American technology to the forefront of the automotive industry. The lucky few who drove it never wanted to give it up. So why did General Motors crush its fleet of EV-1 electric vehicles in the Arizona desert? Writer/director Chris Paine chronicles the life and mysterious death of the EV-1, examining the cultural and economic ripple effects caused by its conception and how they reverberated through the halls of government and big business. Interviews with automakers, legislators, engineers, consumers, celebrities and car enthusiasts piece the complex puzzle together.
 

 Dude, They’re Taking My Car!
 Or Sunset Boulevard Revisited in an Electric Car

The buzzer SOUNDS.

GILLIS
Yeah.

The buzzer SOUNDS again. Gillis gets up and opens the door. Two men wearing hats stand outside, one of them carrying a briefcase.

NO. 1
Joseph C. Gillis?

GILLIS
That's right.

The men ease into the room. No. 1 hands Gillis a business card.

NO. 1
We've come for the car.

That’s exactly what it felt like. They may not have been in hats and suits, and I wasn’t living on Sunset Boulevard, but when a certain carmaker sent me a certain letter about my electric car, I knew the repo man had arrived.

The funny thing is that, unlike Mr. Joseph C. Gillis, I had never missed a car payment. Sure, I had been late once, but never long enough to dread a pile of late notices in my mailbox.

I was a perfect customer and when my lease was up, I offered to buy the car or simply extend the lease. But the carmaker said no. They wanted their electric car back.

But why? Why couldn’t I keep my car?

There was nothing wrong with it. In fact, it was the best car I had ever owned by a long shot. Fast…zero to 30 in three seconds. Zero to 60 in eight seconds. Quiet. Just a faint futuristic whirrrr like the Jetson-mobile.

And...oh yes, it didn’t use a drop of gasoline.

All you’d do is charge it up in your garage overnight. It took about $3 of electricity to go 100 miles. Or you could juice it up for free around town at one of dozens of charging stations L.A. built during the 1990s. Some of them were even solar powered. This car had turned me, for the first time in my life, into a car lover.

Frankly, after five years of driving bliss, I had known the end was coming. Other electric car drivers had already lost their cars. In fact, no major carmaker was letting drivers extend their electric car leases. And because almost none were ever available for sale, it was impossible to keep them.

What was left to do? What would Joe do?

GILLIS (V.O.)
I knew they'd be coming around and I wasn't taking any chances, so I kept it a couple of blocks away in a parking lot behind Rudy's Shoeshine Parlor.

But here’s the rub. The parking lot behind Rudy’s Shoeshine Parlor disappeared years ago and so had Rudy’s. And second, even if I could find another safe house, I’d likely end up in court eventually for a stolen car. And when I lost, in addition to a felony, as the contract clarified, I’d be liable for GM’s legal fees. Multiply four corporate lawyers times two years and you’ve got a bill that Norma Desmond couldn’t pay.

For those who knew how easy it was to live without gasoline; for those who knew you could charge a car off of your house without a pound of CO2 adding to global warming; for those who loved their electric cars, it was a whole lot more than the repo man.

Perhaps the press could help us turn the tide. We held a public funeral. Evelyn Waugh would have been proud. Our loved ones, the last electric cars in procession, at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. But the media’s wrap-up was that the car of tomorrow had become a car of the past. But what about today? It was here, now. From here, only one recourse was left—to make a film.

You couldn’t blame the carmakers for wanting their car back. They were beautiful. In fact, the leasing company went over every car with a fine tooth comb. Damage fees would apply. So when rumors surfaced that the cars were then being destroyed, it all went to another level.

GILLIS - AT THE DOOR

Over the shot the SOUND of the truck being started and the cars moving away. Gillis moves out into the courtyard and stands staring after the car. From the house comes Norma.

NORMA
Now what is it? Where's the fire?

GILLIS
I've lost my car.

NORMA
Oh...and I thought it was a matter of life and death.

GILLIS
It is to me. That's why I came to this house.
That's why I took this job...

FIN