The time of hybrid and electric cars “clogging up” the fast moving lanes on the freeways are over. Just looking at some of the vehicles on display at the Electric Auto Association’s 40th annual EV Rally and Show could draw out anyone’s inner crotchety-senior-citizen to shout, “Slow down!”
Held at De Anza College Sep. 23, the rally has historically been a time for EV owners to educate the public on the benefits of non-gas automobiles and what to expect as a potential EV owner. At the centerpiece of the rally is education-through-experience as EV owners are encouraged to give rides in their silent cars and show off their home conversions of formerly petrol-locomotion carriages.
This year however, the fair is less about a converted VW bug or 70's Porsche and more about the sleek, sexy and new.
“Some years it had the feel of the ‘Maker Faire’ where all odd electric powered transportation was shown,” said Tom Sidle, President of the Silicon Valley Electric Auto Association. “The current year is much more about the new manufactured cars that can be bought today.”
Throughout the show the glossy topcoat of just-off-the-line cars was hard to miss. Between the sparkling blue of a Ford Focus EV and the aggressive smile of the Fisker Karma to the retractable door handles of the Tesla Model S, factory built electric vehicles were the main attraction—aside from the electric wheelbarrow.
Lightning Motorcycle showed off its new sport bike, just back from winning the FIME-Power Championship. The San Carlos-based company is one of three Bay Area electric motorcycle companies. According to Dorian Vargas-Reighley, one of the aspiring technicians in the company, their champion is only half a bike heavier than a comparable gas-powered motorcycle but the power is unmatched.
For every converted WV bus or bug (to be fair there were three) there were two brand-new cars for attendees to play with. Some fit the stereotype of an electric vehicle, the TH!NK with its crank windows and hammock seats to keep the weight down and maintain that 110 mile range; others were modern stand-bys, the Toyota Prius Plug In and Chevy Volt; while some where generally unexpected, such as the BMW ActiveE when it dialed the HQ in Germany for some reason.
The name rally was a bit of a misnomer as the only driving was EV owners shuttling attendees around in their torquey cars. The name carries over from the first events held where EV cars were given a full charge and put through their courses.
“Today the name ‘rally’ continues for historical reasons but the term is just loosely used to mean offering rides over fixed course to the public,” said Sidle. “We still give out awards for best in class but not for competitive timed travel.”
In addition to attendees getting driven around the side streets and freeways of Cupertino by Tesla owners, and one lucky Tesla S owner, representatives from Ford gave rides in the Focus EV as well as owners of both manufactured EVs and home-kits conversions.
Not everyone at the rally was hawking EV cars or basking in the fame associated with owning a Fisker. Some were offering electric-bicycle rides and, in the case of Solar Cookers international, raising awareness about the benefits of solar cooking both at home and in the developing world.