Actress Kristin Scott Thomas Drives a(n electric) G-Wiz!

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by: Michael Hoexter

On a Top Gear show aired last night on BBC America, the well-respected actress Kristin Scott Thomas (”The English Patient”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral”,  “Mission: Impossible”) confesses to the bloviating but funny Jeremy Clarkson that she drives the G-Wiz electric mini-car when she is in London.

This is a brave move on a show more tuned to the nuances that distinguish the Ferrari F430 from the Porsche 911 Turbo. Of course it helps that Scott Thomas is beautiful, witty and able to discuss and comment on some less eco-friendly rides.

Her confession is also somewhat less daring or surprising in England, as the London Congestion Charge has stimulated the market for electric vehicles, especially the small low-speed electric vehicle class that we call “Neighborhood Electric Vehicles” or NEVs (If you are interested in finding out more about life with the NEVs in Britain check out the video blog “Danny’s Contentment”). The G-Wiz, made by Reva, is not uncontroversial as it lacks many of the safety features of larger vehicles as it is classed as a “quadricycle”. Despite not being an ideal EVs, the G-Wiz and other NEVs such as the Think! and the Kewet Buddy have gained a devoted following in Britain. Having a G-Wiz or other, what the leaders and founders of Tesla Motors, call “punishment cars” have been functioning as status symbols of eco-awareness in Britain, not unlike how the Prius has functioned here in the last few years.

While Britons may be more likely to embrace a mini-car like the G-Wiz due to a history of smaller vehicles, higher fuel prices, a national love of quirkiness, and less huge vehicles on the road, a serious turn towards electric vehicles here in the US will see a rise in mini-cars here as well. For one, the (gas-powered) Smart car has arrived and is gaining a small following despite decidedly mixed reviews. More importantly, the inexpensive lead-acid batteries which these cars are built around will remain the cheapest option in batteries for a long time to come.

With, other than public transit where available, electrics being the only sound refuge from escalating gas prices, more Americans, I believe, will shed more of the large-car prejudices they have for simply being able to charge up and get around.

So I welcome the image of Hollywood and British film royalty getting in and out of small electric cars, even though there are, with the advent of more capable batteries, more capable and capacious electric cars coming down the pike. Right now, I don’t think we can afford to celebrate ONLY the more technically advanced options, especially if we are serious about getting off petroleum.

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