AltCar Expo 2011 | More Players in the Game

It was nice to see so many manufacturers on hand, some with a variety of models to choose from. BMW and Fisker faced off inside, flanking the main entry with the BMW ActiveE and the Fisker Karma (warning, even the Karma brochure is sexier). This may have been a poor choice for BMW, as any car just looks stodgy next to the Karma. Cars bore me to tears, but I could not stop looking at and lusting after the Fisker, even in white, the least sexy color there is. Here she is about to get loaded into the transporter later that evening. We’ve been following this promising California startup for some time now. More here.

I tore myself away from the Fisker long enough to sit in some of the panels, which were quite a treat. The AltCar Tech Debate was moderated by LA Times journalist Susan Carpenter, and featured panelists from BMW, Ford, GM and Honda. Ford’s representative Debra Hotaling told us about how Ford has partnered with Sunpower to sell home solar panels to EV customers, so they can have a truly zero-emissions car. Which, of course, you already read about here.

Later, Chris Paine, “Revenge of the Electric Car” director, talked about the process of making the film, and was joined by Alexandra Paul from PlugIn America. She told us they’re planning an EV Parade for Plug In Day on October 16th. So if you’ve got an EV and can get it to Los Angeles, please join us! Also, I will be at the film’s screening here in LA on October 21st. More screenings listed here.

The last panel of the day consisted of Charge director Mark Neale discussing the film, and showing some teaser clips. He invited me to join him up front and help answer questions from the audience. You didn’t miss much, especially if you already saw our exclusive video interview with Mark Neale here.

The altcar expo seemed to have a lot more cars available for test drives this year. People patiently lined up for an opportunity to test drive one or more of the  28 different models available from Chevy, Ford, GM, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen and more in the AltCar Ride & Drive Area. The crowd sizes at the Nissan and Chevy booths were relatively comparable to the sales numbers we’ve been seeing for these competitors, as reported here.

Inside, there were cars on display, as well as some electric bicycles (but sadly, no motorcycles this year) and a great display from Southern California Edison with lots of information about preparing your home for an EV.

I saw these teens rockin’ out in the Coda, clearly having fun. So I asked them which car would be their dream car. I was surprised to find out it’s the BMW, but then, the BMW is pure electric while the Fisker is “just” a hybrid.

BMW was also promoting their smartphone app, BMW EVolve. It’s an app that will monitor your virtual battery life based on your actual driving. I downloaded it immediately and used it for the 16 mile ride back to downtown LA. I only used about 14% of the battery for that trip, but what’s really cool is the map- not only does it show your route, it also has massive icons for every charging station in the area. It gives driving tips as well, but they are not specific to your drive.

I love Toyota, and think they’re a great company. But this was too funny not to photograph. A Honda gas generator charging three Priuses. Granted, it’s the most efficient gas generator on the market. The Toyota rep explained to me that Santa Monica Civic Center would not allow them to run an extension cord out from the building to the parking lot, and that this was the most efficient generator on the market. I think the folks at the Intelligent Energy booth inside would beg to differ. Perhaps next year we’ll get to see some of their hydrogen generators in use, charging up electric cars.

Another cool thing was this new window sticker, which makes it crystal clear just how clean the car you’re considering really is. It’s put out by the California EPA. Their website makes a great shopping guide as well.

 

Susanna Schick

Susanna is passionate about anything fast and electric. As long as it's only got two wheels. She covers electric motorcycle racing events, test rides electric motorcycles, and interviews industry leaders. Occasionally she deigns to cover automobile events in Los Angeles for us as well. However, she dreams of a day when Los Angeles' streets resemble the two-wheeled paradise she discovered living in Barcelona and will not rest until she's converted the masses to two-wheeled bliss.