When it comes to new gadgets, hypes and fashion, celebrities are often ahead of the curve. One could thus use them to figure out the future fortunes of new products. Conventional wisdom holds that these "products" are often kitschy luxury objects, a range of new drugs, or the latest applications of botox, fillers or other medical inventions. But what about electric and plug-in hybrid cars, or other things used to make the world more sustainable? We checked the driving habits of celebrities around the world, leading to some unexpected findings and conclusions.
Before the mass production of electric vehicles by Nissan, Tesla, BMW, Renault and other manufacturers, celebrities could be found among the early adopters of this new kind of cars. And not only the fancy and fast cars, but the small ones as well. A funny example is the REVA-i, produced by REVA Electric Car Company from Bengalore (India), a joint venture of the Maini Group India and AEV of California. The REVA-i, or G-Wiz as it was usually called, was introduced in the UK in 2001. It became something of a cult in London. Among the owners were Jonathan
Ross, an influential TV and radio presenter, Jerry Hall, the American actress and ex-wife of Mick Jagger, and British actress Kristin Scott Thomas, who told reporters: "I love my G-Wiz. It is such fun to drive, easy to park, nippy. Children laugh when I pass by." Despite its popularity, the G-Wiz suffered from issues with its batteries and difficulties to pass crash tests. But it did not end the interest of celebrities in electric cars. Another extremely small car was the Tango T600, the first luxury model of this brand that was introduced in 2005. It measured only 99 by 257 centimeters, but showed impressive specifications with an acceleration of 0-60 MPH in 3.2 seconds, and a center-of-mass only 11 inches from the ground.
The first Tango was received by actor George Clooney, while Google founders Eric Schmidt and Larry Page were among the other owners. While electric cars still had a long way to go at that time, celebrities were also among the very frequent buyers of the Tesla Roadster, the first car by Tesla, of which 2400 were produced between 2008 and 2012. Celebrities, like US actors Matt Damon and Dustin Hoffman, and comedian, actor and talkshow host Jay Leno, were among a long list of stars driving this revolutionary car.
Dustin Hoffman drives a Tesla Roadster, the first car of Tesla, of which 2400 were produced between 2008 and 2012.
Leonardo DiCaprio even helped Tesla kick off an eight-month, 24,000-mile world tour, aimed in part at promoting its battery-powered sports car. The car broke a distance record in 2009 by driving 501 km on one charged battery, which is still impressive, eight years later. Not all of the celebrity drivers were totally pleased with their new car, though. George Clooney complained regularly and told Esquire magazine: "I was one of the first cats with a Tesla. I think I was, like, No. 5 on the list. But I'm telling you, I've been on the side of the road a while in that thing, and I said to them, 'Look, guys, why am I always stuck on the side of the fucking road? Make it work, one way or another.'" Clooney finally auctioned off his signature limited edition model Roadster for charity for $99,000, with only 1825 miles on the meter, according to media reports. With the current, more developed market of EVs and hybrids, almost any type has its ambassadors, though some cars seem particular popular.
Some examples, with a few of their well-known drivers: The Tesla Model S (Katy Perry, Steven Spielberg, Will Smith), Lexus Hybrid (Kim Kardashian, Prince Albert II, Paul McCartney), Porsche Cayenne Hybrid (Reese Whitherspoon, Adriana Lima, James Corden), Toyota Prius (Miley Cyrus, Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts), the Mercury Mariner Hybrid (Hillary Clinton) and the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
THE CAR CONNOISSEUR
While celebrities are clearly among the early adopters, they are also frequent buyers of the most stunning models. One of them was the Fisker Karma, introduced in 2011 as the world's first premium plugin, range-extended, luxury sports sedan. It was produced by Fisker Automotive from California, and produced by Valmet Automotive in Finland. The unique sportscar, with its roof filled with solar panels, was only produced for two years, before Fisker went bankrupt in November 2013, as a result of battery recalls that had already bankrupted its battery producer in 2012. The car, however, became something of a celebrity itself, and had many well-knowns owners.
The Fisker Karma was listed among the "The Best Inventions of 2011" by Time Magazine, and won the 2012 "Design of the Year Award" by Automobile Magazine. It was also chosen as "Luxury Car of The Year" by Top Gear Magazine and German Auto Bild awarded the Fisker Karma the "Golden Steering Wheel Award." Among celebrities, the Fisker Karma was particularly popular. American actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Ashton Kutcher and Taylor Lautner were driving the Karma, as well as singers and actors Alicia Keys and Joe Jonas, and rapper Mac Miller. Logan Henderson, actor and singer, is even known to own two Karmas, according to several media reports. The youngest Fisker Karma driver received his car as a birthday present. When Justin Bieber appeared on Ellen, one of the most popular talkshows in the US, also aired in several European countries, his manager made a surprise appearance to hand over the Fisker Karma as present for Bieber's eighteenth birthday. When one includes other "celebrities," it looks as if almost all Fisker Karmas were claimed by stars from the film industry, politics, sports and music.
And for the Fisker Karma fans, there is some good news. The Chinese auto parts giant, Wanxiang, that picked up the pieces in 2013, has brought the car back to life and, this year, will see the introduction of the Karma Revero, that has been improved in every possible way, after years of R&D in California. A plug-in hybrid that is tremendously popular among showbiz stars is the BMW i8, a sportscar with remarkable looks and butterfly doors. Hip-hop stars like Fetty Wap and DJ Mustard, and singer-songwriter Austin Mahone are just a few names in a long line-up of celebs driving the BMW. South African entertainer Somizi Mhlongo, or "Somgaga" as he is called by his millions of fans, known for his outrageous personality, not only drives a BMW i8, but can be found on YouTube actually dancing with his car. Irish actor and former James Bond Pierce Brosnan is another household name driving the German car, while Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, owner of soccer club Leicester
Miley Cyrus and Toyota Prius.
City, further spread the i8 virus by giving each member of the championship winning squad a BMW i8 in Leicester City blue. At the absolute top of the hybrid and electric cars market, made up of exclusive hybrid or full-electric models of Genovation GXE, Rimac, Porsche and Mercedes Benz, it is a bit harder to find celebrities, as they are sold in extremely small numbers to begin with, like the Rimac Concept One, with a limited edition of only eight cars globally. The only known owner of a Rimac Concept One, Paul Runge, a physician from the US and the first person to import a car from Croatia to the US, may actually become well-known just because of this, while he also drives a Tesla Model X and Nissan Leaf.
Among the celebrities driving these rare hypercars is Jay Leno, the famous comedian and talkshow host. Leno drives a Porsche 918 Spyder, when he does not feel like driving his Chevy Volt or Tesla Roadster. Other famous drivers are the actor Patrick Dempsey and producer, actor and comedian Jerry Seinfeld.
CELEBRITIES AS ROLE MODELS
While owning an electric car does not automatically imply a desire to promote a more sustainable lifestyle, or even change the world, some celebrities can be seen as role models. Leonardo DiCaprio not only drives a Fisker Karma, Tesla and Toyota Prius, he is a true environmentalist. He produced the global warming film "The 11th Hour" and continued to lobby hard for a variety of environmental and humanitarian issues, including forest preservation, healthy oceans, clean water access, and renewable energy. DiCaprio actively serves on numerous environmental boards and makes sizeable donations himself. Besides driving a Toyota Prius, Julia Roberts has a solar home, and she took the lead in protecting New Mexico's Valle Vidal wildlife sanctuary from the threat of oil drilling. And as a spokesperson of Earth Biofuels, she strives for the development of retail fueling stations that will sell ethanol and biodiesel.
Irish actor and former James Bond Pierce Brosnan and his BMW i8.
A celebrity who can be seen as a true veteran here is Robert Redford. He started lobbying for the Clean Air and Clean Water acts back in the 1970s, and in the 1980s, he began organizing international conferences about global warming, when most people had not even heard of it. More recently, he has been campaigning for solar energy and, at his Utah home, he has vegetable gardens, solar panels and a strict recycling program. He claimed to drive hybrid cars when they were still rare. In an interview with Playboy in 2007, he said: "I drive hybrid cars. I've had passive solar heating and wind generation in my Utah home since 1975. But I must say, I do like racing fast cars. It's a hypocritical, weak move on my part. But I've always loved speed." These Hollywood stars are just a random sample from the many stars seriously involved in the promotion of solar energy, electric transport, saving rainforests and many other causes. It seems the stereotype of hedonist celebs living the fast life, if ever true, needs to be revised. They are actually a productive force to reckoned with, supporting the image and quality of electric cars, among many other causes.
Text by: Edgat Tijhuis