Eat my voltage.

So today I went out and talked to people about why they can't buy an electric car in America. We were hoping to raise awareness of the issues and maybe get a few people to go watch the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car?". It's a documentary about why auto manufacturers no longer produce the EV1 and other mass-produced electric cars. GM actually refused to extend the leases or allow owners to purchase the cars, repossessed them all, and crushed every last one.

Luckily, Toyota was a little more understanding about the RAV4 EV. We even had one on site to show off!

Charles and his RAV4 EV

Charles drove from South Florida to Winter Park in two 100-mile legs, stopping overnight and charging. His RAV4 EV made it easy to attract attention. I enjoyed talking to people about it. I especially liked it when the standard conversation got to the "How much does it cost?" question, because of the variety of reactions when I told them, "Oh, you can't have one."

That was also a great segue to the movie. When I explained that Toyota no longer made these 120-mile, reliable, zero-emission cars, the inevitable question was, "Why not?" And the easy response was, "Well, there's this movie playing *right now* in *this theater*..."

Here's Hugh!
Hugh was the guy who set it all up. He was a tireless advocate for electric vehicles, but he recognized the prevailing fears of his audience, too. By the end of the night, we were all on the same page, and the discussions were all winding up with a reminder about Toyota's recent announcement of the plug-in Prius. It'll go 30 miles on a charge before the gas engine kicks in -- enough for 90% of all American's daily driving. I'm hoping that, as drivers realize that they're doing most of their trips on batteries alone, they'll decide to replace the gas parts with extra batteries and do all their driving that way.

Of course, I'm just cynical enough to realize that it's unlikely. Instead, I'm hoping they'll buy the plug-in Prius for their own reasons, and eventually the battery pack will be cheap and available. Then I can replace my own batteries the NiMH, and increase my range while I reduce my weight!

Although I don't have a picture of him, Larry was there talking about his solar car. This thing goes 40mph while the sun is shining (welcome to Florida!) and stores energy in the batteries to keep going, even in the dark. In fact, a one-hour charge lets it go 200miles at 60mph. Larry didn't bring the car; he said it was too hot. And I believe him; the RAV4's temperature gauges were registering 100 degrees Farenheight!

Peter and his Smart Car
By far, the biggest draw was Peter and his Mercedes-Benz Smart Car. Everyone thought it was cute, there was always a crowd around it. Girls posed with it (sorry I couldn't get any pictures of that). There are 750,000 of these in Europe; you even saw one in The DaVinci Code. Mercedes isn't importing the electric version, so Peter imports all the pieces and converts them on his own. 40 miles on a charge with 120 volts of Optima YellowTops. And it turns out he lives just down the street from me! I thought I was the only EV in Central Florida, but Peter has made a better car than mine. Nathan says there's nothing for it but to kill him.

Film students at large2160x1440

For standing around and talking, it was a lot of fun. Hugh has some experience at protesting, and he said we were doing a great job. The sun is a power to be reckoned with in Florida, and we paid the price. But these stormtroopers must have had it worse than we did. The costumes were quite nice; they even included speakers, leading to a realistic sound for conversation. No, they're not really pointing those blasters at us.

Cheese it, the fuzz!

This policeman did make me nervous, though. Yesterday he had confronted the film students, because they were asking for donations. Luckily, we weren't doing anything of th sort, and we had the full permission of the theater owner. So maybe he just wanted to know more about the Smart Car.

The only dark spot to my day -- besides the heat, dehydration, and aching feet -- was the one aggressive guy. I knew, theoretically, that there were people like this, but I hadn't really prepared myself for this. He came up with a look in his eye that let me know he was going to be trouble. He waited a second, then bust in on my conversation with: "You know, gas cars are pretty damn efficient. If you put 7 pounds of fuel in a gas car, it'll actually take you pretty far, but if you put 7 pounds of batteries in one of these, it won't even get you out the door."

As unprepared as I was, I didn't use the obvious rejoinders, like pointing out that the gas car burns its fuel, but the batteries stick around; so the batteries aren't the fuel, just the tank. I didn't mention that those same 7 pounds of fuel, burned at the plant to create electricity, would power an electric car about 3 times as far as the same fuel in a gas car. No, I just tried to deflect his attack: "I'm not even going to try to argue range, but when you look beyond that, you start to see the other advantages of an electric car." I started to elaborate, but he wasn't really interested in hearing: he interrupted and then walked off.

Ah, well. I'll be ready next time.

All in all, an excellent experience. I'd be willing to do it again.

In about a year or so, I think.