Ed Begley's New EV
By Bill Moore
By Ed Begley, Jr's count he's owned nine electric vehicles in the last twelve years starting with a Taylor Dunn golf car. He's owned a Subaru EV conversion that he paid just $1,700 for, a Bradley conversion, a Festiva EV conversion by SolarCar, a Richard Maher converted VW Rabbit, and one unnamed conversion that never worked properly. He then leased one of the first GM EV1s and followed that with a Generation II EV1 in 1999. Now, just two weeks ago he took delivery of the first Toyota RAV4 EV to be made available to consumers in California, making it the ninth electric car he's owned.
So why is Begley so keen on EVs, we asked.
He replied, "It's a technology that is important. You know it's a tool in the tool box, but a very important one. And by that I mean, you know everyone thinks they need a sledgehammer. But everyone is really just putting in carpet tacks. You don't need a sledgehammerto put in carpet tacks. People are going to and from the market, to and from work, to and from the bank, and to and from the video store. Once and while you need a sledgehammer, but you can go rent one when you need one."
"When you need to go beyond the range of an electric car, for most people who are not traveling salesmen going a few hundred miles a day, . . . most people could get by the vast majority of the year with an electric car, and then occasionally rent a car for longer distances."
In Begley's case, he is fortunate enough to own two of the world's cleanest, most efficient motor vehicles, a Toyota Prius hybrid-electric sedan and the RAV4 EV. His wife uses the Prius, while he uses the RAV4 EV to run errands and to commute to work at Disney Studios. In his words, he's just driving carpet tacks most of the time.
He lives with is wife and new baby in Los Angeles and finds the RAV4 EV meets half of his family's transportation needs. Since he's only had the vehicle for two weeks, he's not taken it all that far, though he recently made a 50 mile round trip jaunt to a plastics recycling center in the City of Commerce. He pointed out that nearly any EV can drive 50 miles, even the conversions.
And Baby Makes Three
Begley explained that he terminated his Generation II EV1 lease early because of his new daughter. He simply couldn't accommodate the new baby in a two-seat sports car.
"I wanted to get a car that was a four or five seater. A car with a back seat," he noted, "The RAV4 is such a car. It is terrific. I just hauled some cargo the other day in it. You can fold the seats back. My family loves this car! "It is a huge change for us for the better."
"Now we've got a baby seat in both cars; in the hybrid, which my wife drives day-to-day, the Prius. The Toyota RAV4's got a car seat sitting in it. If I want to take my daughter somewhere now, I don't have to say, Oh my gosh, I hope my wife comes home soon. I've got to take my daughter to blah blah blah. I have a vehicle that will take her anywhere now. It's the RAV4."
Begley told EV World that there's been a fair amount of high profile interest in EVs in and around Hollywood. He named a number of well known celebrities like Danny DeVito and Jack Nicholson who owned EV1s for a short time, but turned them in as GM began cutting the program back. He also said there were technical problems with the cars. Chris Guest's EV1 had brake problems and GM had to replace, at its expense, six sets of battery packs in Begley's Generation II EV1.
"I don't know if other people had such a problem. I was very happy I wasn't paying for that, but GM was, so that was a lot of times to be replacing modules."
Leasing the RAV4 EV
Begley was first in line for the 300 RAV4 EVs available only to California drivers, in part, he believes because he made the effort to drive up to Sacramento for the EVAA's 2001 conference and exposition. It was here that I finally met Begley in person. He approached Toyota and told them he wanted to be one of the first to take delivery of the car, which Toyota willing obliged.
Not that Toyota cut him any deals on the price of the car, which is $42,000. "I didn't have to jump through a lot of hoops. I filled out a lease agreement like anyone else. I chose not to buy it because of the expense mentioned on replacing the batteries. The warranty is up in five years. That [$30,000] seemed like a lot of money to me. It would seem like a lot of money to anyone, so I chose to lease it instead." He added that the monthly lease is $529, but that this is before some rebates that he apparently qualifies for.
If you were to buy the car outright the State of California and the federal government would rebate some $12,000 in incentives, which people leasing the car don't qualify for. However, Toyota informed him that he will still get some money back, though he isn't sure just how much at this time.
While he's never been in a conventional gasoline version of the RAV 4, he's been told that the EV version is very comparable in performance. "I can promise you that it has enough pick-up for me to pull into and merge safely with traffic to get on the freeway. "I've done all these things many times. . . to go up a steep hill like Laurel Canyon near where I live. All these things are possible and indeed comfortable in the RAV4. It's got great pick-up."
Begley estimated that the RAV4 meets 50% of his family's driving needs. He added that when he got the EV1 in 1996, he wasn't married and didn't have a baby. Even when he got the Generation II EV1 in 1999, he still didn't have to worry about traveling with an infant. When the baby came along, he found himself driving the EV1 less, he calculates maybe 30-40% of the time. He drove it to work and to run errands.
With the RAV4 EV, he said he's been getting 70 miles of range quite "comfortably." "That's really racing around and kind of being new to the car, flooring it a lot to see how it picks up. . . really running it hard it gets 70 miles. 80 to 100 miles is very possible.
Of Solar Charging & Hot Curlers
When I first interviewed Begley shortly after launching EV World, he explained that he was able to charge his EV1 from electricity produced by the 7.5kW photovoltaic array mounted on his house in LA. In fact, he paid LADWP only about $100 a year for electricity. The rest he generated on site. He said he can still recharge his RAV4 EV with solar-generate electricity, but that he now pays the power company $400 a year for electricity.
He teased that this is because his new wife has appliances he claims he's never heard of, things like electric hot curlers and such. But he hastened to add that the $400 a year he now spends on electricity is "green electricity" purchased from solar, wind and geothermal producers under a special LADWP program.
"I am not using a coal or nuclear to charge the car, to run the house. I'm not using any natural gas. It's all wind, solar and geothermal."
He also commented that while some people think that such green power programs is just so much shady bookkeeping, he said that if you put your money in an ATM at one location and take it out at another, you can't expect it to be exactly the same money.
"It's still a very real cash transaction." So, while he still provides the majority of his electric needs from his own PV system, he likes the fact that the $400 of city electricity he does use is coming from non-polluting, renewable sources.
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