Running on Empty, Combustible engines are on their way out,

The writing is on the wall, and on the road. Combustible engines are on their way out, and electric cars are our future. The countries that lag behind this emerging trend are destined to be left in the dust. So argues the new documentary Running on Empty. The film compares the wholehearted embrace of electric car innovation in Norway and China, and contrasts it to the middling interest itќ’s generated in Germany.

No other country has more electric cars per capita than Norway. Areas that were once highly polluted are now lined with electric charging stations. The country is meeting its emission goals, and setting the standard for a greener future that other countries can follow. This approach is so widely accepted, in fact, that 65% of drivers in Norway own electric cars.

That number stands at only 7% in Germany. The film explores the reasons why the country falls behind its competitors in this regard, and what this could mean for their global economic outlook.

Germany was once a world leader in automotive manufacturing, but it has been uncharacteristically skittish when it comes to jumping on the electric car bandwagon. As explained in the film, it’s largely a matter of political will. Traditional automobiles continue to represent a sizable chunk of their economy, and any drastic changes might temporarily endanger countless jobs. While these challenges are understandably anxiety inducing, the country’s snail-like pace on this issue favors short-term success over the trends that will increasingly define our future. Eventually, the great driving innovator will be relegated to riding in the back seat.

The film features a series of panelists – including transportation researchers, economists and a representative from the Germany Transport Ministry – who offer a diagnosis to the issues currently facing German auto manufacturers, as well as a few potential solutions. Most of the panelists agree that Germany will have to reframe the conversation and embrace bold new initiatives in order to regain their standing as a leader in the automotive industry.

Produced by the always engrossing DW Documentary series, Running on Empty effectively outlines what it views as an existential crisis for Germany.