Generating interest, Annual event showcases "Electrical Vehicles"

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  1. tigerhonaker

    tigerhonaker Platinum Contributor

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    Sunday Oct 1

    Kosta Goumenidis / Daily News

    People gather around to look at a 2007 Tesla Motors Roadster on display at the Electric Auto Association of Silicon Valley's annual electric vehicle show Saturday at Palo Alto High School.

    Generating interest

    Annual event showcases
    electrical vehicles

    By Jason Green

    If the electric car is dead it didn't show Saturday as dozens of whisper-quiet battery-powered autos surfaced together in Palo Alto.

    For the 34th year running, the Electric Auto Association of Silicon Valley hosted its "electric vehicle event" at Palo Alto High School to prove the technology is very much alive.

    "Our point," said association chapter president Jerry Pohorsky, "is to show the public electric vehicles exist. And you can use them to do regular things like pick up groceries."

    Electric vehicles, once written off as a failed technology, are making a resurgence thanks to the film "Who Killed the Electric Car?" along with high gasoline prices and the advent of some of the most exciting cars to break cover.

    Tesla Motors of San Carlos brought its sleek Roadster, which quickly became the main attraction of the six-hour event. But it was the claimed performance figures that captivated "gas-powered freak" Mike Tidd of Saratoga.

    The sports car can sprint from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in about four seconds, all without a drop of gasoline. And on a full charge, the roadster has a range of about 250 miles.

    "I like the way these guys are going," said 47-year-old Tidd, the owner of six classic Ford Mustangs.

    But the racy Tesla isn't the kind of electric car San Jose resident Darlene Wallach wants to park in her driveway one day.

    "That's a fun car to have," she said. "But it's not very practical."

    The same admonishment was applied to Woodside resident Ian Wright's open-bodied prototype X1. Parked next to the Tesla, it also drew hungry stares. Wright plans to sell a more conventional version once he's raised the necessary capital.

    But "practical" versions made up the bulk of the cars in attendance, from electric-powered Toyota RAV4s to Prius hybrids. Commuter Cars Corp. president Rick Woodbury's diminutive Tango fell into that category.

    Half the width and length of a traditional sedan, the Tango slices through traffic like a Ginsu knife and is a breeze to park, said Woodbury. To boot, its acceleration is reportedly on par with the Roadster and X-1.

    "People expect a motorcycle to do that," Woodbury said of the Tango's off-the-line performance. "When people see a car do it, they get blown away - in a good way. You get thumbs up and the cell phones come out."

    Although just 8-feet 5-inches long and 39 inches wide, the Tango boasts a roll cage built to withstand 200-mile-per-hour crashes. In other words, "it's safer than a Ford Excursion," insisted Woodbury.

    Portola Valley resident Dave Howes, who biked to the event, was smitten with the tiny car, which starts at $108,000 - about $23,000 more than the base Tesla's asking price.

    "I ride my bike whenever I can - that's my contribution," the 58-year-old retired firefighter said. "I'd love to have one of these things if I could talk my wife into it."

    The Tango is now available and the Tesla Roadster is slated to go on sale next summer. Wright aims to put his car on the market in the near future. The starting prices are expected to drop as the cars gain traction in the marketplace.

    In the meantime, finding an electric car takes some work, Pohorsky said. Major automakers built electric cars to meet California's Zero Emission Mandate in the 1990s, but only a few were ever offered for sale.

    Pohorsky found his used electric RAV4 through a Web forum. He expects others could do the same, but "it takes work." As electric automakers respark interest in the technology, he encourages consumers to pressure the major automakers to build and offer electric vehicles by putting off new car purchases.

    There's an intrinsic reward that comes with owning an electric vehicle. Pohorsky calls it the "electric vehicle grin." It's the expression drivers get when sailing by a gas station.

    "You hear about Spare the Air days," he said. "Well, every day is spare the air in my RAV4."

    E-mail Jason Green at

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