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Jay Leno on Electric Cars, Hydrogen Fuel, Space Travel—and His Recent Accident

Richard Cranium

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Jay Leno on Electric Cars, Hydrogen Fuel, Space Travel—and His Recent Accident

The comedian and car lover has been very happy with the EVs he has bought. He is less interested in leaving Earth, though


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‘I’m quite proud of American manufacturing’ and the EVs coming from U.S. companies, says Mr. Leno, shown at his 1930s mansion in Newport, R.I. ALLIE LEEPSON + JESSE MCCLARY FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Two years ago, we invited Jay Leno to write about his love of cars, and his thoughts about driving during the pandemic. In that article, he also talked about his fondness for electric cars.

A lot has happened in those two years, with technology companies, auto makers and governments betting a lot of money on electric vehicles as the transportation of the near future. So we thought it was time to check in with Mr. Leno, who is back performing at comedy clubs after his accident in which he suffered severe burns while working on one of his cars. He has new material from the accident, he says.

Here is what Mr. Leno had to sa
y, as told to The Wall Street Journal.

Out with the old, in with the old

They had electric cars before they had gas cars back in the early 1900s. But at the time, what they didn’t have was electricity, at least in homes. I mean wealthy people had it, which is why wealthy Wall Street types bought electric cars for their wives, because they could putt around town and not get on your hands and knees and crank it and get dirty and set the choke and get gasoline on your hands and that kind of thing.


So electric vehicles were always quite popular for that reason. I’ve said this before, but for new technologies to succeed, it can’t be equal. It has to be superior on every level and to other forms.

I’ve got a 1909 Baker Electric and I’ve got a 1914 Detroit Electric that we’ve converted to modern electrics. We put air conditioning and Bluetooth and all kinds of things in the Detroit Electric. My 1909 Baker Electric has not needed any service in the 30 years that I’ve had it. I’ve replaced the batteries because they’re basically like golf-cart batteries, deep cycle six volts. And they last about 12 years. They’re not lithium ion. You could change to lithium ion if you wanted to, but it’s an antique vehicle.

Powering your car and home

I’m quite proud of American manufacturing.

The new electric Ford F-150 is unbelievable. I drove it as a work vehicle. It is eminently practical. You can you go 240 miles on it, and you can power your house for three days with it if you lose power.

When they had the big freeze down there in Houston last year and people had no electricity for days, dealers, in one of the most brilliant public-relations moves, just gave the trucks to people, and people powered their houses for days—making them, if not customers, certainly fans.

The Chevy Volt at an auto show in Detroit. Mr. Leno owned one that he says he drove for 90,000 miles—and only 3,800 of that was gas-powered. PHOTO: ALEXIS SIMPSON/ZUMA PRESS

Affordable options

I thought a car that was just brilliant was the Chevy Volt. I had one for seven years. It’s a hybrid and you got 40 miles electric free without using any gas. It didn’t seem like much, but I put 90,000 miles on that car, only 3,800 of it was gasoline-powered. I used it at my shop: We’d plug it in, then we’d go to lunch in it, go run an errand and do some chores, which is 25 to 30 miles around Los Angeles. We’d come back, plug it in, and you go back to work for a couple of hours.

I was never having to switch over to the gas part of it. Once a year, every Dec. 7, not for any particular political reason, just every Dec. 7, I’d fill up the tank.

When the Volt stopped that they went to the Bolt, which is pure electric because in a lot of states now you can’t get the tax break or anything with a hybrid.

If you have weighed the purchase of a hybrid or electric car, what factors have had the most influence on your decision to buy—or not to buy so far? Join the conversation below.

I think it makes perfect sense that you use your electric car during the week. To sit in traffic on the 405 freeway in bumper to bumper, in something that gets 7 to 9 miles a gallon, really doesn’t make a lot of sense. I used to have a Jaguar; it had a big V-8 engine that was supercharged, and that was $125 a week in gas. And I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere. I switched to the Tesla, and now it costs about the same as a cooking a turkey.

I think the electric car will be the great savior of the classic-car industry and gasoline cars. Remember, in the early 1900s, 500 tons of horse manure were dumped into the streets of New York City every day. Suddenly, the car comes along, and a puff of blue smoke in your face wasn’t so bad. Horses became something people loved, and used for show and racing.

That’s what will happen with the gas car. Sitting in L.A. traffic with a Ferrari going 8 miles an hour is nobody’s idea of fun. So you use an electric car during the week, and on the weekend you drive up in the mountains and use the Ferrari for what it was made for. Or maybe you have a ’65 Mustang. Now it is something to be restored and treasured.

Hydrogen fuel is a sleeper

I love reading future stuff. You look at the year 1900, and they said by the year 1950, women would be sitting in bars, smoking and drinking just like men. It showed women in hoop skirts with one leg in the air and they’re smoking cigarettes and they have a bottle of whiskey in the hand. They never even foresaw women having voting rights, women becoming senators, women having equality with men. They only saw it as they would pick up the bad habits of men.

Nobody ever thinks that far ahead.

Everybody predicted flying cars. But that never happened.

Nobody predicted when I was a kid that we’d be carrying a phone. When I was in the fifth grade, a guy from a Bell phone company came to our classroom, and he said by the time we were grown up, no American would be further than one mile from a phone, no matter where they were in the United States. And we just thought that was unbelievable. The idea of carrying a phone with you never ever occurred to anybody. A Star Trek communicator? That was hundreds of years in the future. But it has happened already.

The other great one for cars is hydrogen. Hydrogen can be a real player in the future and I would not rule it out.

I like hydrogen because the more alternatives you have, the better. During World War II, when there was a gasoline shortage, a lot of people pulled out their old Stanley Steamer cars. And people converted their cars. There used to be a thing called a gasifier. They would put it so it looks like a big stove in the back seat of the car and they would burn wood or coal, they would run a tube to the carburetor and the car would run on the methane from the burning of the wood or coal just like with gas. It was inconvenient, yes. It was messy, it was dirty, but it did provide transportation when gasoline was not available.

In case of some sort of natural disaster where, oh, our lines of fuel are shut off, we have electricity, we have hydrogen, we even have steam if necessary.

I demonstrated a hydrogen car back onstage in 2001. I said, “Give me a glass.” So I took a glass and I started up the hydrogen car on the stage, and I put the glass under the tailpipe and I went back to the talk. The byproduct of hydrogen is water. After 20 minutes, the glass filled up with water, and I drank it and people were astounded. It wasn’t the best-tasting water, but there was nothing harmful about it. Hydrogen is a viable fuel because the only byproduct is water. I think hydrogen is a sleeper.

Mr. Leno bought a Tesla Model S Plaid last year to replace his old Tesla, which he had owned for seven years. ’I never went to the Tesla shop for anything other than a flat tire,’ he says. PHOTO: JAMIE KINGHAM FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Bullish on Tesla

Last year, I sold my old Tesla and bought a new one, the Tesla Plaid. That’s the latest version, and at least as of this date, it’s the fastest-accelerating car you could buy with the exception of the $2.5 million Rimac. If you’re looking for performance at a reasonable price, it’s a pretty good deal. My other Tesla was seven years old. I got $95,000 for it. It held its value. The battery dropped maybe 3% to 5%. As a first-generation Tesla, you got about 228 miles on a charge. When I sold it, it was 223, maybe. I never went to the Tesla shop for anything other than a flat tire.

Space travel

I realized I am not an out-of-the-box thinker. I remember talking to Elon Musk years ago about his high-speed train. And I asked, “You’re building this high-speed train to go like 200 mph.” He said, “Oh no, 800.” How can it be? He told me something like 800 mph, because it’s not a train, it’s a vacuum tube. And I realized he’s thinking on a level I’m not.

I have no interest in going into space. I see why he’s fascinated with it. But there’s nothing there. Imagine, you’re now on Mars. Todd? Susan? Anybody here? I don’t get it. I have no desire to perform in an empty auditorium. I gravitate toward cities. I don’t go to a mountain for three weeks by myself.

The recent accident

Eight days later, I had a brand new face. And it’s better than what was there before.

But really, it was an accident, that’s all. Anybody who works with their hands on a regular basis is going to have an accident at some point. If you play football, you get a concussion or a broken leg. Anything you do, there’s a risk factor.

You have to joke about it. There’s nothing worse than whiny celebrities. If you joke about it, people laugh along with you.
 
Knowing what burns look like after a month, I can say with certainty that they heavily bondoed him over for this appearance.


 
"Remember, in the early 1900s, 500 tons of horse manure were dumped into the streets of New York City every day. Suddenly, the car comes along, and a puff of blue smoke in your face wasn’t so bad."

:rofl:
 
"Remember, in the early 1900s, 500 tons of horse manure were dumped into the streets of New York City every day. Suddenly, the car comes along, and a puff of blue smoke in your face wasn’t so bad."

:rofl:
:rofl: :rofl:
 
"Remember, in the early 1900s, 500 tons of horse manure were dumped into the streets of New York City every day. Suddenly, the car comes along, and a puff of blue smoke in your face wasn’t so bad."

:rofl:
Almost nobody thinks of that. Ah yes and dried manure dust storms.
 
I believe that electric cars have their place and would be great commuter cars for city use,the problem is that the libs have no intention of letting our classic cars coexist with their electric cars.
 
I agree with you - they are the commuter and run around car of the future. But first they need to fix the exploding battery issue and I really would like if somehow they could be made a little more environmentally friendly because right now they are an absolute environmental nightmare. Not sure when the green idiots will wake up to this fact.

Glad Jay did so well. Looks like a horrific experience. How the heck did his hair not burn off?
 
Gas cars will be like horses. Only the rich will be able to afford them if this current bullshit continues. All you have to do is look at all the 911 Porsches on BAT that could have been bought for 3x’s less just 3 years ago. People with the cash don’t seem to mind 300% inflation in 3 years.
 
As a Wisconsinite, EV is an absolute nightmare come to life and being forced down my throat.
I don't live in an area people anywhere would consider "a commute". It's rural. It's all little 1-5k population towns 20 miles apart where basically places opened for people to work to serve the surrounding farm communities, along with some towns that developed manufacturing. An EV would let me go to the local gorcery, and a walmart. ANYTHING beyond that is at least 40 miles one way on a 2 lane highway. Family is scattered around the state, it would require an overnight to go visit because current EV would be out of juice. One relative I am not even sure I could go visit in the winter as running a heater in the car dramatically reduces range.
The current gen EV's cost more then the home I bought 20 years ago. national prices NEVER fly in rural midwest, but that has never mattered here people just bought a 3 year old car instead. Problem with EV, you can;t really overhaul them either it costs $25,000 to replace the battery packs at a dealer. Buying a used EV is like buying a half empty bottle of propane but paying 3/4 of new or more. The economics of it are just impossible for working folks.
But that fits the agenda, as a certain german elite likes to tell us, we will own nothing and be happy. When people can;t get to work they will embrace self driving google pod services wont they?
So it's nice someone with throw away levels of money thinks EV is cool. He can park it next to the rest of his museum when he wants to. There are states with laws on the books forcing it on all of us regardless of if we think it is cool or can even afford it.
 
I believe that electric cars have their place and would be great commuter cars for city use,the problem is that the libs have no intention of letting our classic cars coexist with their electric cars.
Bingo - Tim Allen.gif
 
Leno makes some valid points,
I don't agree with all of it or the financial aspects either
I don't have endless $$$ to spend either

in rural settings, the EV is a joke
in the inner-shitty, it may be just fine


Much like my old electric golf cart was on the golf course,
or in/around a gated community
once you started to drive it around the community
or up or down hills, off the beaten paths
like my Yamaha gas powered cart, could do
without losing a step for hrs on end
the Electric Cart was a joke too
it is very limited on where you could go, better plan it out
or you have to charge it when you got there
& then when you got back home

(yes I know battery tech has come a long ways too,
not far enough IMHFO
sorry Jay, I'm not getting paid to drive them on TV
or great deals/discounts, or 1 offs specials on the purchases
for a very expensive technology,
like you do, for your endorsements either
)

people will have range anxiety, big time

the Hybrids vs the EV, I could see the Hybrids being more excepting,
by the general public, in the city
but still not rurally
 
One of the issues I have with ev is fuel cost. People who drive ev to work...good for them. Plug in at work...fine. But. Where's my gas card? These people are mooching off their employer...where's MINE? And government-constructed charging stations? All the gas stations I've ever seen were private-business-built....
 
I've been a subscriber of Jay's YouTube channel for over a decade now - I like the guy and how he presents
the cars he does, albeit coming from a position of "I can have anything I want".

From the story of his recent accident, apparently his shop guy (George, I think?) actually saved his ***, though.
Actually grabbed Jay and smothered the flames against his own body, incurring some injury himself in the process.
I'd like to see Jay acknowledge that brave act a little more in public; it's certainly worthy of praise.
 
There's nothing in space but money, money, and more money; in the form of mineral deposits and zero gravity manufacturing. Also, the ability to manufacture without concern for the environment. Then there's the military need to "control the high ground." We're going, unless there's already someone there and they don't want us there.
 
Here is a mental hack I came up with for dealing with seemingly impossible situations -

"If I had to make a living selling (insert problem here), I'd soon run out of it."

Now you can see that the problem is finite and you can get through it.
 
Leno makes some valid points,
I don't agree with all of it or the financial aspects either
I don't have endless $$$ to spend either

in rural settings, the EV is a joke
in the inner-shitty, it may be just fine


Much like my old electric golf cart was on the golf course,
or in/around a gated community
once you started to drive it around the community
or up or down hills, off the beaten paths
like my Yamaha gas powered cart, could do
without losing a step for hrs on end
the Electric Cart was a joke too
it is very limited on where you could go, better plan it out
or you have to charge it when you got there
& then when you got back home

(yes I know battery tech has come a long ways too,
not far enough IMHFO
sorry Jay, I'm not getting paid to drive them on TV
or great deals/discounts, or 1 offs specials on the purchases
for a very expensive technology,
like you do, for your endorsements either
)

people will have range anxiety, big time

the Hybrids vs the EV, I could see the Hybrids being more excepting,
by the general public, in the city
but still not rurally
Urban is where EV will have the most promising impact. Most light rail today in urban setting is electric. Thus there is already better support to EV. CIty driving is where EV efficiency increases vs internal combustion. Not to mention less owner maintenance and better city air quality. With 86% of US population living in what is considered "Urban" (City and suburbs) its only logical to target thoughs areas.
 
Gas cars will be like horses. Only the rich will be able to afford them if this current bullshit continues. All you have to do is look at all the 911 Porsches on BAT that could have been bought for 3x’s less just 3 years ago. People with the cash don’t seem to mind 300% inflation in 3 years.
Boy… I sounded angry back then! Still am. :) But I ain’t ready to give up my big block Mopars yet.:thumbsup:
 
What they want is to move people on to mass transit. Don't think the idea is practical, educated idiots.
 
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