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As one of the most recognized environmental advocates around, Ed Begley Jr. can be a lightning rod for criticism and is often a target for jokes on late-night television. Sometimes his enthusiasm comes off as preaching; but he is true to the cause, living an environmentally-focused lifestyle that includes using solar power for his house. As for transportation, Begley has owned numerous electric vehicles, including a converted VW Rabbit, a GM EV1 and a Toyota RAV4. He also owns a Toyota Prius for long trips. AutoblogGreen caught up with Begley at the SEMA Show where he was promoting the introduction of the Phoenix Motorcars sport-utility truck, an electric vehicle that could go on the market next year. Begley has a brisk yet pleasant manner. He speaks with confidence and knowledge about products that can harm or help the environment. During the Phoenix press conference, he stressed the economic advantages of owning an electric vehicle or hybrid over the environmental impact of importing oil from the Middle East. My first question posed the possibility that Hollywood personalities can help promote green awareness or they can be perceived as being elitist. Begley took the conversation from there and rarely let up.

Begley: There is that risk. We don't want to appear elitist or be elitist in any fashion. But if we can provide a vehicle for someone somewhere to get them out of a limo, that's a good thing. Or provide a vehicle for someone on low income and save them money, they'll embrace it, too. You're going to save money in the long run. I've saved so much money with that Prius I bought for $20,500 in August 2000. It has 120,000 miles and all I've paid for are lube and oil and about $500 to $700 for the regular service appointments. I've never had a car so cost effective, ever.

(Read the rest after the jump)
Begley: There are some people who don't have $20,500, so there are other options available to them. But many people are spending much more on cars. So I wouldn't call the Prius elitist, and I wouldn't call any of the electrics I drove before this elitist. I bought an electric car in 1990 for $1,700. It was a used car but I drove it around for years. It was a really good car. I put $2,500 into it. People can buy retrofit cars. There's a form of technology for everybody. Take public transportation. I ride my bike a lot. There's nothing more cost effective than that. It's a good question you ask about elitism. Everybody should pick the low-hanging fruit first, whatever your income bracket. Compact florescent bulbs, energy-saving thermostat, bike riding, public transportation, and then if you have the resources get some of the more expensive solar technology or hybrids or electric cars. But you can do only what you can afford and no one is suggesting otherwise.

AutoblogGreen: I see a correlation from the '80s with the diesel engines. There is still a stigma left over that they're smelly and sooty. Is there a stigma left over from the '90s with electric vehicles that they were just bad vehicles? That they were cramped and drivers were concerned about reserve capacity, getting stuck somewhere without a charge.

Begley: That's why the hybrid took off because people saw they could go 400 or 500 miles on one tank. That's as good as you're going to get with a fillup.

AutoblogGreen: And they get home.

Begley: Exactly. They weren't afraid of running out. There was a lot of disinformation about the car. I'm 6-4 and I was comfortable in the EV1. I got around lots of places in LA. It had a 135-mile range. Living within the parameters of the car, I was fine. As I said, the basic thing with electric vehicles is that you don't need a sledgehammer to put in a carpet tack.

AutoblogGreen: Last question. There is a strong push for hydrogen...

Begley: I'm all for hydrogen if you can demonstrate it's made from clean technology. If you're using dirty coal, and I'm not a fan of nuclear, then I'm not on board. But certainly hydrogen is something in the future. We all agree that the roof is leaking and we have to design a new roof. In the meantime you need someone with a can of tar and a ladder. That's what these vehicles are; something you can use today to stem this flow of Middle East oil that's a big problem for us, and to stop the pollution that's a problem in some cities.

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  • 8 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      When you examine the energy expended vs. the work done, electric cars (in most cases) are very inefficient. They use alot of electricity for a relatively short range. The power doesn't grow on trees. It has to come from somewhere. Wind and solar power as of now will never provide enough energy. How ironic that it has required an internal combustion engine to make electric propulsion viable.
      • 8 Years Ago
      we should compair our work mine is a ''lost industrial process''so that if water is in the system all the water superdecomposes to oxygen and twice as much hydrogen...neat eh?..and since hydrogen and oxygen are always preasent in water it takes less energy to remove the bond between the two then the hydrogen will return when used to drive a fuel cell...thats why hydrogen is so abundent in this universe...in space....the reaction is in a vacuum...neat eh?..and all this can be done for little or nothing since if a known industry will make a ''plumbing change to its production line it will become the largest producer of hydrogen if a supply of water can tbe added....andy


      • 8 Years Ago
      to show you i am serious about this new/old science please goooogle ''andy janson hansard'' so you will know what i am doing to make canada the world leader in super cheap clean and safe hydrogen research and production and distribution please understand this will cost little or nothing to start since it is a ''plumbing change'' to an allready runing industry that in 1923 tried a new production process and produced an all new way to produce almost unlimited hydrogen...that had no real value in 1923 and was cancelled because the metals of the era could not cope with the runaway reacation and the cracking of the cast iron pipes so please call on tuesday andy 519-652-0285


      • 8 Years Ago
      to make the whole world hydrogen based it is a process
      >called the janson process...it is based on a 1919 to 1925 industrial
      >process that has been abandoned account it was unrelated to hydrogen
      >but the byproduct was surplus hydrogen..when you understand the bond
      >that holds a single unit of oxygen to two units of hydrogen at 104.5
      >degrees of angle with the hydrogen unit having no magnetic field you
      >will understand that the bond can be ''stripped away'' with the
      >janson process at little or no cost..the 1923 process[of which i
      >have the 1938 papers on the subject] used 1/2 unit of energy to
      >release the bonds for one unit of hydrogen at its colorice vale
      >[heat] yet with 2005/06 off the shelf equipment it only requires .2
      >unitsof energy to release one unit of hydrogen energy...at first it
      >sounds too simple yet the energy has all ways been here it just has
      >to be fine tuned to be pure hydrogen to be compressed and bottled
      >for power use...please contact me at home at 519-652-0285 andy
      • 8 Years Ago
      "Don't want to seem elitist..." He's probably a nice but it's too late for that dude. Not only do the enviros seem elitist but they are, and they know it. There is a thumbing of the nose and an "I'm smarter than you" feel about the whole movement. I don't know if anyone has ever told him before but outside of Hollywood the vast majority of people do not ride around in limos.

      There is an incredible amount of environmental data that has either been ignored, or intentionally mis-read (CO2science.com) to satisfy the "man is destroying the world" point of view. Anything that contradicts this theory can't possibly be true since enviros are never wrong.
      • 8 Years Ago
      to best explain what i wish you to front take a
      >>>now running industry that from 1916 to 1925 attempted to advance
      >>>their production process with a new system it failed because of
      >>>the metals of the era...but...it produced unlimited surplus
      >>>hydrogen...what you must do in secret is to meet with people of
      >>>this industry to arrange a world wide contract to pass back to
      >>>them their own lost science and to get the world wide % of the
      >>>world wide sales of hydrogen...and to be one or two steps ahead of
      >>>the other affected industries that will harness this ''new way''
      >>>such as the auto industry it will cost little or nothing for
      >>>this industry to up date to this lost technology that has nothing
      >>>to do with hydrogen but if they are forward thinking they will at
      >>>least want to build a operational version in several of their
      >>>older operations....and to convert over is more of a ''plumbing
      >>>change'' then a major project...more like going from vacuum tubes
      >>>to micro chips...with is just sand used in a different way....
      • 8 Years Ago
      to best explain this ..this will not require any money but it will require several contacts in very high places to approach a series of industries that from 1919 to 1925 built a series of advanced [for the time ] production lines that had a byproduct that will strip the bonds off fresh water to release oxygen and hydrogen...the projects were cancelled in 1925 account of a ''runaway processes'' that cracked the cast iron pipes of the era..i collect old technocal books and i have a 1938 book on the process..and the reasons it was cancelled ..yet today all the materal process can be overcome with ''off the shelf'' parts and equipment to allow local hydrogen production and soon home hydrogen production at very low cost..cheaper then tap water is now ....to read what i am doing please goooogle ''andy janson hansard'' a goverment group i was asked to appear before or phone me at home at 519-652-0285 in ontario canada thankyou andy
      • 8 Years Ago
      Man, that guy's seen better days.