AltCar Expo 2
By Bill Moore
It's not often that I get pick up at LAX or any airport, for that matter, in an electric car, but shortly after I collected by bags, Zan Scott pulled up outside United Airline's domestic terminal at Lost Angeles International Airport. Paul and Zan -- short of Alexandra -- had graciously volunteered to pick me up and take me over to Santa Monica's considerably smaller airport where the 2nd Annual AltCar Expo was just getting underway.
The Scott's own one of the precious few Toyota RAV4 EVs in the greater LA area and Zan uses it to run her small, but growing "green" public relations business. She is helping get the word out on Renewable LA's First Annual Solar Open House & Green Holiday Gift Fest taking place in Van Nuys on December 8th. As we rolled north towards Santa Monica on Lincoln Blvd, powered by electricity created from the Scott's solar panels, Zan filled me in on her preparations and the interesting people she wanted to introduce me to.
Before we knew it, we were driving up the hill to the airport with its single runway (3/21) pointing towards the ocean and the prevailing winds. At just under 5000 feet in length, it services mainly general aviation and corporate jets. Once upon a time, I would have been more interested in the aircraft than the collection of alternative fueled cars parked inside the expansive, but dimly-lit Barker Hangar, but not today.
The second year the event has been held, the organizers moved up the schedule some six weeks from its 2006 inaugural date. From the number of exhibitors and attendees, it would be my guess that as interest in "greener" transportation technologies and options continues to spread in the Los Angeles area, the days of the Expo being held at this out-of-the-way venue are numbered, though it is convenient for companies like Miles EV, which moved to a building just across the street, and for the Scotts who live maybe a mile or two away. Undoubtedly, part of the reason for locating here is because of Santa Monica's support and the fact -- I suspect -- that hiring the facility is probably fairly reasonable compared to other alternatives in the area.
The Expo again attracted an an eclectic mix of car dealers, grassroots environmental advocate groups, government agencies and EV entrepreneurs struggling to ride the early tsunami waves created by their own disruptive technological earthquakes. With plug-in hybrids increasingly in vogue, both CalCars and HyMotion had displays in the hangar while Kim Alderman of Plug-In Conversions parked his prototype car outside where it was hard to miss [see photos in slideshow below]. Kim would take me for a ride and we'd tape a video interview, which we'll have up on EV World in the near future.
Actor, environmentalist, and EV driver (as well as bicyclist) Ed Begley, Jr. was on hand for autographs and to promote iZip products, including the new Express [photo below, video interview to follow].
Vectrix brought their road show and maybe a dozen scooters -- or so it seemed -- for people to see and if they owned a motorcycle operator license, to drive. [Video to follow].
Of course, my old friend and colleague, Graham Hill was on hand to talk up his all-American (except for the electric motor) Volta electric scooter. See video interview here.
Steve Titus again made the trip down from Montana, this year bringing a just-finished fiberglass shell for his Solar Bug, which while still a bit rough and reeking of epoxy, more closely reflects his vision for an all-weather, electric-powered ATV that can be used as a medium speed runabout. Like Titus, Greg and Diane Lane continue to work hard to keep their Electrum sports car program moving forward in the wake of a plethora of other electric two seaters that have sprung up in the last eighteen months, with Tesla garnering most of the publicity.
You can read my more immediate observations and impressions, which I wrote on my way to Japan the following day, in my EV World Insider column dated October 23, 2007.
As the first day of the Expo closed down, I found myself on the fringes of a circle of manufacturers and dealers discussing how to get California to follow Washington state and Montana in passing a Medium Speed EV law that would enable vehicles currently restricted to 25 mph under federal regulations to go 35 mph. In Montana, with a much smaller population, it was relatively easy to get the legislature and governor to adapt the rule. California is a whole other animal as the discussion revealed.
Needing a ride over to the Scott's where my luggage was still in the back of their RAV4 EV, I ran into Ron Gompertz and Wiley Davis, both also from Montana. Ron runs Eco Auto, the only EV dealer in the state, and Wiley publishes Practical Pedal, a quarterly tabloid for cyclists. Ron's greater claim to fame, however, is his Chrismukkah books and blog, which garnered him national publicity two years ago.
Ron generously offered to drive me over to the Scotts, whose address I finally tracked down using Ron's cellphone to call my wife back in Omaha. Since the Scott's where throwing a small party for "30-40 people" to which I'd been invited, I took it upon myself to invite Ron and Wiley in, where we smoozed, drank beer and ate pizza. We also talked about the possibility of creating a similar tabloid quarterly that would complement EV World.com; it's a suggestion Victor Juarez also made to me earlier this year.
To be honest, I could have used another day at the Expo to get more photos and tape more interviews, but I had a plane to catch the next day to Japan. Fortunately, both Ron and Wiley were staying at the same hotel next to LAX, so we rode back together, but not before stopping for a stroll around downtown Santa Monica and a cold, creamy cup of gelato.
It's amazing the interesting people you meet in our EV World. Enjoy the slideshow.
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