I’m headed south in April for the second North American race in the all-electric series put on by everyone’s friends at the FIA. Now that the inaugural season is about halfway through, I’m really curious to talk to teams and fans to find out how they think it’s going and what the future might hold for electric racing.
I’ve got a couple of new articles on HowStuffWorks.com (which is owned by Discovery), both of which have to do with hybrid vehicles. First, I did a Toyota Prius comparison of the second-generation Prius, the Prius Touring edition, and the new third-gen Prius. I also wrote up a piece on regenerative braking and kinetic energy, but I can’t seem to find it on the site. It’s there somewhere.
My latest article for the New York Times, this time on the Brammo Enertia electric motorcycle, made print yesterday. It came out just in time for the Enertia’s world debut in New York on Tuesday — though the bike is made in Ashland, Oregon.
I went to the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association’s monthly meeting on Thursday (after an absence of many months — for shame) and met a couple of great guys. The first was Wade Patterson, who has a Zero X electric dirt bike that he demos around the Northwest. I’m going to interview him for an upcoming NY Times story, if I can ever pin him down.
At the same time, I met Bob Simpson, an electrical engineer and EV enthusiast who’s working to convert a 2003 BMW 325i to lithium-ion power — and beat John Wayland and White Zombie. A key supplier for the conversion reneged on a deal, so the project has stalled. Simpson won’t be able to take on White Zombie at this summer’s Wayland Invitational, but he’ll be there to watch the other Teslas, bikes, and conversions attempt to set records at Portland International Raceway July 24-25.
I was out of the home office yesterday (yay!) for a Ford Fusion event in downtown Portland. I have never been so glad to see a carafe of coffee in my life. Nancy Gioia from Ford gave a great presentation about the Fusion hybrid and Ford’s green plans for the future, but I had spent the entire morning without liquid fuel. Four cups later, I felt much better.
We got to take the Fusion hybrid for short test drives, and the LCD instrument panel is super geeky hi-tech. Apparently, the engineers’ first attempt was too much like a video game, and drivers in the simulation watched the gas-saving graphics more than the road. Much to the team’s dismay, that version was scrapped for the cool-but-not-too-cool production version.
Ms. Gioia also gave me an interview after lunch (sandwiches and cupcakes) for an article for HowStuffWorks.com on whether owners can recoup the hybrid premium. The article will be up on the site two weeks from tomorrow, I think. Her answer matches my math — you can definitely maybe make up that cash in incentives and hypermiling. But probably not. But maybe.
I went to the press day for the Portland Auto Show yesterday — lunch courtesy of Ford, dinner courtesy of GM, and a talk in the middle from Chrysler’s rep and all-around good guy Scott Brown.
I didn’t learn anything at the Portland show that wasn’t said at the Detroit show less than a month ago, but I was surprised at what’s missing from the Portland floor. Toyota didn’t bring the latest Prius, Honda didn’t bring its resurrected Insight, Chrysler didn’t bring its ENVI cars or its GEM electric vehicles, and GM didn’t bring the Volt.
Some of these cars are at the big auto show in D.C. right now, putting on their best razzle-dazzle dance for the guys who hold the money, and several of those cars are one-of-a-kind concepts. But Prius and Honda aren’t getting any money from the U.S. government, and those two hybrid cars go on sale in a couple of months. Surely there’s more than one Prius and one Insight in existence. And surely they recognize the eco-minded auto market we have in the Pacific Northwest, right? Right?
I went to my first Detroit Auto Show this year; from what I understand, this was a real downer of a show. I wouldn’t know, have nothing to compare it to and no time to think about it while I was there. I’ve put images of the latest eco-friendly-ish cars on Flickr and created image galleries on About.com for the supercars.
Check out these links to the pieces I’ve written so far:
- Images from my first day, second day, and third day
- Guided tour of the Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR Stirling Moss
- Blog posts about Bentley, Audi, and Fisker press conferences
- The new Honda Insight vs. the new Toyota Prius
- Tesla’s deal with Daimler
- A test-drive of the Mitsubishi iMiev on the track in the basement
I headed all the way out to the Washington County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro yesterday to visit the Alternative Energy Show. It was small, but the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association had a presence, with an AC-powered 914, a converted Honda Insight, and a factory electric Chevy pickup. They even had a trailer of pop-up solar panels to use for charging, thanks to Oregon State University.
I spoke with OEVA members about the Chevy Volt’s chances of survival, and Ford’s lack of leadership in the alternative-fuel market. The show was small, but the vendors and information was useful. Zenn had a display as well, and there was a LNG-powered car, too, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to the woman manning that booth.
I’ve been given a new blog all my own, though it’s still part of the RiverWired.com universe. Check it out at GoodGreenCars.com. There aren’t many posts yet — I heard about it Monday and it went live yesterday — but I’ll be posting more often here than I did on RiverWired.com.
The new blog is all cars and alternative energy, plus tips on saving gas. We’ll see how it goes in the next couple of months.
I went to Pioneer Courthouse Square Saturday morning to check out EV Awareness Day, held by the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association. There were about a dozen cars and trucks there, from a squared-off Citicar from the early 1970s to a Prius converted to plug-in hybrid technology.
I overheard a woman tell her husband, “He’ll let me take a picture in it!” She led him away, so I followed. She was giddy at the idea of sitting in the driver’s seat of a little, green Fiat 500 that had been converted to run on DC power. They took pictures with the door open, with the door closed, with her leaning out, with her holding the steering wheel … she was really excited.
Shorepower was there, too. These are the guys making the charging stations that Portland General Electric will start installing around town soon. They had a charger/meter on display, which they explained to all comers, including a woman who works for the nearby city of Gresham who wanted to know how to get them in the budget and on the streets.
Even at 11 am on a Saturday morning after a late-night Jazz Fest on the waterfront, there were quite a few people checking out the cars from every angle and talking to their owners. Spectators ranged from guys in shorts and tucked-in polo shirts who crouched on the bricks to better see under the cars to skate punks with facial tattoos asking questions of the engineers who converted their Porsches 911s and Honda Insights to all-electric power.