A documentary about electric cars, a cool climbing app, and the best long-form journalism websites
Media: August 2011
Director Chris Paine talks about his new documentary Revenge of the Electric Car; the best websites for long-form journalism, and an iPhone app with beta on 17,000 climbing locales.
Director Chris Paine talks about his new documentary Revenge of the Electric Car
A record 27 Hollywood sequels are hitting theaters in 2011, and now even the documentary world is embracing the recycling craze. Following up his 2006 hit Who Killed the Electric Car?, which chronicled the demise of General Motors’ EV-1, director Chris Paine is back with Revenge of the Electric Car. Paine spent three years following the development of a trio of new vehicles: the Tesla Roadster and Nissan Leaf (both pure electric plug-ins) and the Chevy Volt (a plug-in hybrid). If the first film was a murder mystery, Revenge is a race against time—and a surprisingly gripping one, thanks to a global recession that wreaked havoc on the companies’ plans. The author spoke with Paine, who was behind the wheel.
OUTSIDE: Is this an OK time to talk? It sounds like you’re driving.
PAINE: I am. I’m going to my house in Culver City. And I’m in a Chevy Volt! I have all three cars. The Tesla I bought three years ago. And the Volt and the Nissan Leaf I bought this year—all at full price, I might add.
You got pulled over the first time you were driving the Tesla.
Right. The police stopped me because the officers were arguing about whether it was electric. It was pretty ridiculous.
GM looked like idiots in the first film for killing their own invention just as gas prices were surging. For Revenge, they rolled out the red carpet for you. How did you manage that?
The brand had suffered so much after making mediocre cars for so many years, they didn’t really have much to lose. We told all of these guys—Nissan, GM, Tesla—that no footage would be screened until 2011. That’s why we got as much access as we did.
Did you panic when the recession hit?
We wanted to tell a story about entrepreneurship and what it takes to turn things around. When the meltdown happened, it was kind of perfect. I didn’t know if Nissan was going to pull the plug on the Leaf, or if GM was going to be forced by the bailout to destroy the Volt, or if Tesla would run out of money.
All three cars are now on the market. But when will we have an electric vehicle that can fit my kayak and mountain bike for a cross-country trip?
You can be a kayaker and rock climber and drive an electric vehicle if you play within a reasonable distance of your home. There are so many people that could take advantage of a car with a 100-mile capacity. Even if every factory was churning these out, they couldn’t meet the potential demand.
With prices starting at $32,780 for the Leaf and going up to $160,000 for the Tesla, do you think people will shell out?
The fortunes of the electric car will go hand in hand with gas prices. If gas is up over $4 per gallon, the consumer says, “Huh, electric car. Maybe I’ll check it out.”
Are you still driving?
I just got home. I’ve driven 550 miles since I bought this car. So far I’ve used 1.4 gallons.
App of the Month
An iPhone app with beta on 17,000 climbing locales.
Mountain Project provides detailed information on routes, approaches, and weather for some 17,000 technical climbing areas around the world. The data is crowdsourced, but like Wikipedia it’s vetted by a team of experts. Download the app and you’ll have a browsable pocket guide even when you’re out of service range. Free; for Android and iPhone; mountainproject.com
Literary journalism’s new ally: the Interweb!
Literary journalism has found an unlikely ally: the Interweb! Here, Outsideonline.com editor Joe Spring (Twitter: @joespring) reviews the best digital platforms for finding a great read on your next international flight.
Think of Longreads.com as the Huffington Post of long-form journalism, minus the celebrity op-eds. Launched last October by Manhattan digital strategist Mark Armstrong, the website picks three to five outstanding stories each day. Visit the community page to see what big-name authors and editors are reading. Bummer: featured stories are occasionally behind paywalls. Free; Twitter: @longreads
Want just one big story per day? Visit Longform.org and click Editor’s Picks, a collection of hand-selected articles with a focus on storytelling, not news relevance. This is where to get your 22,700-word 1978 New Yorker yarn on Johnny Carson. Text-only versions are available for the iPad, iPhone, and Kindle. Free; Twitter: @longformorg
No site pushes the limits of long-form journalism like The Atavist (atavist.net), co-founded in 2010 by Outside contributor Evan Ratliff: as you read an original story on your iPad about a failed bank heist, a map of the crime scene pops up, along with security video of the breach. Available for Kindle, Nook, iPad, and iPhone. $1.99 for Kindle and Nook, $2.99 from iTunes; Twitter: @theatavist
No video extras here: Byliner (byliner.com), from website developer Ted Barnett and former Outside editors Mark Bryant and John Tayman, focuses on original reporting. The site made a whale-size splash in April with its first story, Jon Krakauer’s “Three Cups of Deceit,” an 89-page evisceration of Greg Mortenson that became a Kindle bestseller. The full site launched in June, giving readers easy access to more than 25,000 curated feature articles–with recommendations based on users’ interests and reading habits. $1.99–$4.99 for Byliner originals for iPad and Kindle; the aggregation service is free; Twitter: @thebyliner