Those Pesky Battery-Powered Cars
Exhibitors at the Alt Car Expo ran the gamut from cutting edge to low tech sustainable transportation. The Tango, one of the electric cars available for test drives is pictured above. The Tango claims to be suitable for lanesplitting, but I wouldn’t want to squeeze that box between the lanes of SUV’s that populate LA freeways! The maneuverability of motorcycles is critical for safe lanesplitting.
Cutting edge technology included NuTech’s portable drive-thru battery swap stations. It’s better than Better Place because gas stations who want to also service electric vehicles can just rent one to try it out. I think it looks very promising. Battery swapping seems to make so much more sense than charging stations. This business of setting up charging stations along Highway 101 doesn’t really appeal to me. As someone who frequently rides or drives between SF and LA, the last thing I want to do is be forced to stop and hang out for a few hours along the way. Even worse, to be relegated to one freeway! But if stopping for juice were as quick & easy as stopping for gas, I’d run out and buy an electric motorcycle tomorrow!
Speaking of Electric Motorcycles
As an avid sport rider and wannabe racer, heaven on earth for me is Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway. I’ve only done five track days there, partly due to the Universe conspiring against me, but primarily due to all the golfers and landed gentry who chose to live within earshot of one of the oldest racetracks in the country. Laguna Seca has a 92 dB sound restriction, which some motorcycles can’t meet even with the mufflers required by the State of California. So I stand ready to test ride a track-worthy electric motorcycle as soon as I can possibly arrange it. In fact, I think there should be special track days for electric vehicles at Laguna Seca, simply because. And the neighborhood council members who complained the most could foot the bill, to show their gratitude for the silent racers.
Therefore, at the Alt Car Expo, I spent the majority of my time chatting with Brammo’s Service Manager, Dave Harvey. As you can see, they brought their sensible commuter bike, not their podium-finishing race bike. I’m glad Dave was there, as he was able to explain to me how their service department will work. Because they’re being sold through Best Buy, and Best Buy technicians are not exactly motorcycle mechanics, Dave will travel to make repairs that Best Buy can’t do. I have some trepidation about this, as I wouldn’t expect Dave to come to my house just to change my tires or adjust my chain, but I certainly wouldn’t trust anyone other than my favorite bike shop to do these basic yet critical regular maintenance tasks. I’d probably still take it to my favorite shop for everything not involving electronics.
The Lowest Carbon Footprint Vehicle is Self-Propelled
There were also some electric bicycles on display, but as a motorcyclist whose worst crashes occurred on scooters, I don’t understand e-bikes. Why would anyone want to risk their life riding something with so little power they can’t get out of a sticky situation? Clearly there’s a market for them, and they make sense in cities smaller than Los Angeles, but if I want to ride a bicycle, I’ll ride a bicycle and get the cardio bonus. To that end, there was an entire room devoted to cycling. There were representatives from a broad range of cycling groups, including LA Greensters, who encourage everyone to "ride loaded!" by using trailers for bicycles. They prove how much can actually be schlepped on these bad boys, by crewing a film entirely on bicycles. Only bicycles were used to do everything from carrying the camera and lighting equipment, to delivering lunch.
All in all, the show did an excellent job of presenting sustainable transport solutions to the interested public. It was free, and fairly well attended. I hope to see a strong turnout of clean vehicles at the LA Car Show, where more than just the converted will be in attendance!