Electric Vehicle Rally Showcases Power of a Muscle-Car Variety

Since 1967 the Electric Auto Association has held an Electric Vehicle Rally in Silicon Valley. Usually held in the parking lot of Palo Alto High School, construction at the school redirected the rally to De Anza College.

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.

Indeed, 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 Cupertino streets 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.”

Between the Tesla owners giving kids an inexpensive rollercoaster ride in the college parking lot, here are the non-photo graphic highlights:

Clipper Creek, the makers of EV charging stations, donated an in-house charger as a raffle prize and provided information on their home and business charging solutions. Something De Anza College could probably look into as their barren EV parking spots were noticeably lacking in EV chargers.

Speaking of De Anza, the Green Transportation Team of Silicon Valley, working with ETDC, Clean Cities and Breathe California, showed off their work training De Anza’s auto department on EV maintenance and support.

Lightning Motorcycle showed off their 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. 

The Utah-based VIA Motors showed off their pick-up truck hybrid conversion. Their lines of fleet-use vehicles are entirely hybrid gas/electric but a more “pure” form as the engine charges the battery only unlike in the Toyota Prius. The trucks’ efficiency ranges between 115 miles per gallon at short distances and more than 24 miles per gallon at ranges of more than 200 miles.

While 24 mpg might not seem like much, indeed many sports cars have better stats than that, the truck maintains 24 mpg while delivering 405 horsepower, serving as a mobile Wi-Fi hot-spot and a mobile charging station. According to the company’s founder Kent Williams, VIA has gotten rave reviews from PG&E, where their converted GMC trucks and vans have been integrated into the power and gas company’s service fleets.

Toyota offered test drives for the new Rav4EV the day before the SUV went on sale. The company also had a demonstration booth to showcase electric power using bicycles connected toy electric race-cars. Anyone who signed up for a test drive in the new Rav4 was given a solar powered cell phone charger.

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.

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