Actor Ed Begley, Jr., who walks the walk more than most Hollywood green, is over the moon about plans for Toyota and Tesla to jointly develop an electric version of the RAV4. “I am elated,” he told me.
Why’s Ed so happy? He’s owned a prime example of the first-generation 2002 electric RAV4 for more than eight years and, as MNN readers know, Begley couldn’t be happier with it. Unlike the General Motors EV1 (which was crushed, as horrified viewers of the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?" saw), the RAV4 escaped. Some 800 of 1,484 leased, sold or delivered with nickel-metal-hydride batteries are still on the road. Tom Hanks has one (Begley helped him get it), and Begley has another, and it recharges from his solar panels. The RAV4, with 85,000 miles on the clock (Hanks’ has 50,000) complements his other car, a Prius.
“I think there is an important place in our transportation portfolio for pure electrics,” Begley said. “It satisfies the vast majority of my transportation needs, and has not cost me one dollar in maintenance. I predict Toyota will do well with this.”
If he needed another car, Begley told me he’d take a look at the Chevrolet Volt, but he’s content with what he has now. But by the time the new RAV4 electric is built (the target is 2012) maybe he’ll be ready to buy new again.
Hanks, by the way, doesn’t drive his car anymore -- one of his “crack staff of employees” does. He told the New Yorker that the car has “four doors, a rear hatch, room for my family, including a dog in the back, power windows, A/C, a great sound system, and the fastest, most effective windshield defroster known to mankind. When the car companies collectively, and, to some, diabolically, decided to take these cars back, the electric vehicles disappeared. But not mine. I have the pink slip. I own that car, and it is still driven every day...”
Although details are sketchy, the new RAV4 could be built without a drivetrain at Toyota’s factory in Canada, then shipped to Tesla’s NUMMI plant in California for the shoehorning of an electric drivetrain. The companies reportedly are looking for a 150-mile range and a $30,000 price, so it’s not likely to be a speed demon like the Tesla Roadster. But it will be really cool, and celebrities will be all over it. Even if it’s their “crack staffs” that drive them.
Below is a video I recently shot at Ed Begley's home where he took me to the garage to show off his first-generation electric RAV4: