Friday, December 8, 2006

Santa Monica AltFuel Expo Sets up

Spent the day at the press event and setup for the Santa Monica AltFuel Expo, being held in conjunction with the LA Auto Show. One can be quite encouraged by the 30 odd alternative fuel cars of all shapes and sizes. I should feel heartened that battery electrics predominated, if you include NEVs and bikes.

I drove the AC Propulsion eBox (thank you, Tom), my first time behind the wheel of the ACP system. No real opportunity to let it rip in our pokey NEV-dominated parade on city streets, but as impressive as everyone says. A real car, by any measure. Phoenix Motors AltairNano powered SUV was the other full BEV. I hope to find out more tomorrow.

The production of Neighborhood Electric Vehicles and electric bicycles is picking up. ZENNs and Miles Motors and scaled down pickups and jeeps from companies I'd never heard of. But this is unlikely to have a large impact on the availability of full BEVs.

A few bio-cars were there. Honda with the remaining CNG vehicle from a major and two hydrogen fuel cell cars. Daimler Chrysler's FCV made an appearance.

And everyone was well behaved, as requested by the organizers. No internecine altfuel warfare. Ed Begley is representing Phoenix's BEV, but spoke optimistically of a clean hydrogen future. An actress was introduced and praised for her altfuel vehicle, which she said was a Lexus Hybrid SUV. Grumbling about her gasoline-powered altfuel car remained unspoken.

It remains to be seen how such fuel ecumenicism actually advances alt fuels into the real world marketplace. Lots of good words about fighting global warming and ending petroleum dependence. Yet each makes its most minimal contribution as all are essentially relegated to the future (or past) equally.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Marc, you swing a mean pen! I like your stuff.

However, my frustration is growing. The AltCar show in Santa Monica was fantastic. I was thrilled to see so many people attending. The test rides were very popular and the deals offered by Santa Monica Toyota on their new Priuses were interesting (the friends who accompanied me were ready to buy on the spot but couldn't find a sales person).

The root of my frustration is this: All of our organizations (EAA, PIA, EVA, etc.) are doing a great job of convincing the American public of the need to end our dependence on imported oil but once they are convinced, then what? What do we have to offer? Has this happened to you? It has me. A friend says, "OK, I'm convinced. Where do I go to buy my new electric car?" How do you answer that? There is nothing out there but a $100,000 2-seat sports cat that won't begin delivery until July '07 and a few $50,000 RAV4 EVs that occasionally come on the market.

I have some people totally convinced that they can use a small commuter car for the majority of the miles they drive each day, using their ICE cars only when necessary. I also tell them to NOT buy a NEV. I have one and I think they are dangerous. We need an electric that will keep up with urban traffic, something with a top speed of 45 or so. None of ZAP's vehicles measure up, although I believe a 3-wheeler can be a good way to go (ask Rick Doran or Robert Q. Riley who have had great success with cars having only a single rear wheel). The ZENN and the Miles are well done but still dangerous NEVs.

My frustration is further heightened when I see how much money was raised to promote things like Prop 87 ----- tens of millions of dollars, someone said. If a fraction of that money found its way into a start up electric car company, we would be miles ahead of where we stand now.

I believe we can beat the yoyos in DC and Sacto while still playing by their rules. I say, quit waiting for the magic battery and build with what we now possess. Even the guys at SCE in Pomona said that the future of electric cars lies with lead acid. Instead of procrastinating, hoping for a 300 mile range energy cube that recharges in 10 minutes, we should be putting something on the road, now. We have gobs of talent within our ranks, and more exists outside our ranks. The missing ingredient is money.

A team of engineering, technical, marketing and manufacturing people could be quickly mobilized for the purpose of launching a new domestically built electric “Model T.“ An affordable every-man’s electric car. I know of several such people who are ready to leap at the opportunity. From the research I've done, I'm convinced that the car can be priced competitively, even with those coming out of China. The target vehicle would be a 2-seat commuter designed for the urban transit market, ideal for the folks who drive less than 25 non-freeway miles a day (or 25 non-freeway miles each way to work or school).

Sometimes when I'm sitting at the EVA meetings at AQMD, my frustration rises almost to the point of making me get up and leave. We talk and we talk and nothing gets produced. We seem only to be waiting for someone to bring something worthwhile out of China. Where is our American ingenuity?

Thanks for hearing me out. If you have any thoughts on this topic, I would love to hear them.

Bill Provence, Pasadena, CA