Electric-car pioneer Paul Scott looks back on 15 years of plugging in

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Paul Scott and Barbara with Zero electric motorcycle  [photo: Charles Ryan-Barber]

Paul Scott and Barbara with Zero electric motorcycle [photo: Charles Ryan-Barber]

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Most of the U.S. was unaware that modern electric cars got their start in California between 1996 and 2002.

Many of the earliest owners and EV advocates from those days remain involved 20 years later, though their names may be familiar only to a small group of activists.

One of those people is Paul Scott, who's been part of several important events in the early history of modern EVs.

What follows are his words, lightly edited for style and clarity by Green Car Reports.

DON'T MISS: Modern electric cars at 20: from EV1 to Bolt EV, where are we now? (Dec 2016)

Life is a journey. I was a young hippy from San Antonio who found a new home in Eugene, Oregon, until a visual effects company offered me a job in Santa Monica, California.

After 23 wonderful years in Eugene, I had little notion of how life-changing that move would be. Shortly after the move, my life changed forever at age 49 when I received some sobering news from my doctor. 

When death knocks at your door, you tend to think about what you have done with your life and what you always wanted to do.

In that moment I decided it was time to get serious about going clean, meaning clean energy. I would get the solar-power system I’d always wanted, so if nothing else, I’d leave a legacy of clean energy.

2002 Toyota RAV4 EV on eBay. Image: Plug In America

2002 Toyota RAV4 EV on eBay. Image: Plug In America

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2002 Toyota RAV4 EV on eBay. Image: Plug In America

2002 Toyota RAV4 EV on eBay. Image: Plug In America

Enlarge Photo
2002 Toyota RAV4 EV on eBay. Image: Plug In America

2002 Toyota RAV4 EV on eBay. Image: Plug In America

Enlarge Photo

Researching solar panels and installation, I came across an electric-car website talking about the first-generation Toyota RAV4 EV electric car.

I was intrigued, and asked the group if there was any way I could test-drive one. The next day Bob Seldon brought his RAV4 over and let me take it for a spin.

I was floored by how nicely it drove, and Bob encouraged me to buy one. Toyota was willing to sell its electric cars, even then, while other makers were only leasing them—including the General Motors EV1.

READ THIS: Review: 'Revenge Of The Electric Car' Optimistic, Accurate, Lacks A Villain (Apr 2011)

I took a deep breath, accepted Bob’s advice, and went for it. On my 50th birthday, the solar-panel installation was completed, and our first electric car arrived a couple of months later on December 21, 2002.

My wife and I were now powering both our home and our car on sunlight. It was an incredible feeling to know we had eliminated most of our personal pollution.

That gave me a new-found passion in my life: clean energy and driving electric.

Cast and crew of 'Who Killed the Electric Car?' at Sundance Film Festival

Cast and crew of 'Who Killed the Electric Car?' at Sundance Film Festival

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Around that time, I discovered DontCrush.com, a website sounding the alarm that the manufacturers of those limited numbers of first-generation electric vehicles were taking them back and destroying them.

A group of EV advocates—Doug and William Korthof, Alexandra Paul, Linda Nicholes, Mike Kane, Sherry Boschert, Chelsea Sexton, and Marc Geller— began to organize events to publicize this.

Director Chris Paine had attended nearly all of our meetings, and ended up filiming and documenting our events for almost three years.

CHECK OUT: In an ideal world, this is how electric-car tax credits should work

We began as a tiny group wanting to save a single vehicle—and our small but mighty team managed to save 200 trucks in the end. That gave us the confidence to go bigger, and we did. 

One day, I received a phone call from Chris Paine, saying his movie—Who Killed The Electric Car?—had been accepted into the Sundance Film Festival.

With that validation there was no looking back.


 
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