AltCar Expo Defies Carmaggedon!

Toyota set up a bicycle-powered slot car racing game which was a popular spot.

The Annual AltCar Expo was a huge success, considering it was held on Carmaggedon II weekend, when all of Los Angeles was warned to “Stay Inside!!! Don’t Go ANYWHERE!!!”. Also shocking was how empty the bike valet was. I was going to pedal there, but was running late, and well, the motorcycle is always faster than the bicycle for trips longer than 4 miles. The traffic wasn’t as light as during Carmeggedon I, but it was still pretty light. Loads of Angelenos took to their bicycles and pedaled across the city. I would’ve been one of them, but didn’t want to disappoint my readers by missing out on the AltCar Expo. The first year I covered the event, there was a fairly strong bicycle presence. The second year and this year, there was little to no bicycle advocacy. I’m not sure why the LACBC didn’t have a booth, but hey, there was a skateboard booth! Sigh.

The Toyota Slot Car race was a big draw for attendees waiting patiently to take one of the many electric cars out for a spin. As industry representatives often say- “It’s all about getting butts into seats.” Essentially, the manufacturers know that the best way to help people overcome the sticker shock of electric cars is to show them not only how fun they are to drive, but also how cheap they are to own. This is especially true in California and other states with high gas prices and subsidies for EV owners. The Ride & Drive part of the expo was the most popular, as always. Inside, a number of automakers had booths, as well as NGO’s like Plug-In America. One that I found interesting was betterworldclub. Not to be confused with Better Place, this is the AAA for the environmentally conscious. They also have bicycle insurance & roadside assistance!

Here’s the full list of vehicles present. Most were also available for test drives. Sadly, I didn’t see the Via truck or I’d have begged them to let me take it for a spin. All in good time…  In the gallery you can see photos from around the expo. The California Fuel Cell Partnership also had a large booth with a Hyundai motor on display.

Photo Courtesy of Ryan Oliver/GM News Bureau

The Annual AltCar Tech Debate was moderated by Los Angeles Times Senior Correspondent Susan Carpenter. Her questions were excellent and certainly kept the panelists on their toes. I was surprised to hear Honda’s Steve Ellis defend fracking so vehemently. He later explained to me that it’s a few bad apples ruining the reputation for the whole industry. According to him, most of the companies engaged in fracking are doing so without tainting the surrounding water supplies. But then, he also was quick to point out the environmental benefits of CNG. I’d still rather drive their Hydrogen fuel cell car, (as I wrote after testing it here) but am now curious as to what the total picture of the fracking industry is, and not just the operations that grab headlines.

Carpenter’s questions included:

  • What are you doing to make these vehicles more attractive to the mass consumer, since the sticker prices are higher?
  • Are any of you working on developing enclosed motorcycles, which can help alleviate traffic while being safer than motorcycles?
  • Do any of you want to place bets on the futures of Tesla and Fisker?

Panelist were (from left to right): General Motor’s Dave Barthmuss, CODA’s Matt Sloustcher, Nissan’s David Peterson, Mercedes’ Rosario Beretta, and Honda’s Steve Ellis. Here are some photos from the event:

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.