By Laurel Busby
In 2011, David Eagle nabbed the seventh Nissan Leaf sold in the United States.
“I picked it up [at the Nissan in Santa Monica] and just fell in love with it,” he said. Eagle even purchased a solar power system for his home to address naysayers who told him, “So you think you’re going to save the world having an electric car—someone is burning something to make that electricity.” Not so for Eagle, who now uses solar to power both his home and his vehicles.
Since then, the Leaf has become the world’s best-selling, highway-capable, electric vehicle with more than 250,000 sold, including more than 103,000 in the United States.
Eagle has also now changed careers from a filmmaker to an electric vehicle broker. He and John Coulter started Current EV, an auto brokerage, to sell various electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in part because so many people kept asking Eagle where they could buy one like his Leaf. At the time, he had nowhere nearby to refer them, because the Santa Monica Nissan dealership closed about six months after he leased his car.
“You couldn’t get a Chevy Volt or a Nissan Leaf anywhere on the Westside,” said Eagle, noting that the Chevrolet dealership closed a couple of months after Nissan. Then “I came up with the idea of an all-electric dealership.”
At first the Emmy-winning producer/director hit roadblocks with the endeavor. Eagle, who also was a founder of New West Charter School, approached Nissan and other companies about opening a com- bined electric dealership, but they weren’t interested in their cars being on a lot next to electric vehicles made by other companies.
He told them, “What difference does it make? This is going to sell more cars for you,” but they insisted that it was against their corporate policy. Then someone suggested that he contact Los Angeles dealerships directly to see whether they could help. He discovered that if he acted as a broker, they were happy to work with him. The dealerships would provide fleet or near-fleet prices to Eagle’s clients, who consequently got a deal on their cars without seeing an added cost when the dealership paid him a broker’s fee.
“I realized I’m not going to be competing with the dealers,” said Eagle, a New Jersey native who moved to Pacific Palisades in 1992. “I’m going to help them sell and lease these cars.”
Current EV opened an office at 11322 Idaho Ave., Suite 108, to make it easier for the many environmentally conscious Westside residents to lease or purchase an electric vehicle as well as install home chargers and solar power if desired. The business has also become part of the L.A. Cleantech Incubator, an organization funded by the city, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and other groups to help nurture green companies. Current EV eventually plans to offer its services across the country.
“We’re just at the verge of starting to get investors,” said Eagle, who notes that Current EV opened its doors a little over a year ago and now leases 10-20 new cars each month. The goal is to scale up and eventually lease 10,000 cars per month nationwide. When potential clients contact them, Eagle tries to insure the best match with an electric vehicle by asking various questions to fully understand how the car will be used. He also supports the client through the entire process of buying the car, including taking a test drive, applying for a lease or loan, obtaining a charger, applying for incentives and installing solar power if desired. Palisadian Gregory Alper, one of his clients, said, “David Eagle is extremely knowledgable, patient, easy to talk to and work with. . . . He educated us, provided perspective and comparisons between all features and makes of different electric and hybrid cars, set up test drives and was a persistent and effective negotiator to get us the best deal possible.”
Eagle steers most people towards a lease, in part because technology is changing so rapidly that the battery range available is bound to be further at the end of the lease, making a purchase less desirable, Eagle said. Generally, people who purchase their electric vehicles do so because they will exceed a lease’s mileage specifications, which can be expensive.
On the low end, electric vehicles can be leased for as cheap as the two-person Fiat 500e, which costs about $89 per month, Eagle noted. A regular outlet will charge the cars, although a home charger reduces the length of time required for a full charge. Maintenance is cheap, since the cars require neither oil changes nor much of the other servicing needed by a traditional car. The vehicles can also use the carpool lane with an HOV sticker and park for free at parking meters in Santa Monica and some other cities.
Eagle’s wife, Nancy, an executive at NBC/Universal, now drives an electric car, the Mercedes B250E, and Eagle has moved onto a newer electric vehicle, the BMW i3 REX, while their children, Ali, 27, and Jesse, 23, drive a Toyota Prius, which they affectionately call “the gas guzzler,” and the electric Audi A3 Etron. Eagle has found great satisfaction in shifting both his personal life and his career to an endeavor that benefits the environment.
“To be honest with you, as much as I did a lot of issue-oriented programming for kids and adults [as a producer/director] because those are things that were important to me, I find putting more electric cars on the road to be as much or even more fulfilling,” Eagle said.
For more information, visit currentev.com or (310) 477-2233.