back to school
The main reason for me getting into the field of alternative transportation was to help show the largely unaware public that there are other solutions to our driving "needs." No longer must we rely on literally burning through natural resources just for our economy to function. In addition to being a substance of unparalleled versatility and value, I find oil to be finite, filthy and largely foreign. If it's so precious and vital for basically the entire world of manufacturing, why burn it up in our cars and trucks?
Well this is the time of year when my calendar shows a steady parade of car shows and green energy events and festivals. I really enjoy just parking the car and letting the questions roll in. People seem to be anxious for more choices in the energy economy and ready to cut loose the petroleum ball-and-chain.
In the past couple weeks, I took the 75-mile, 100 mph lithium-powered Miata LiFe to three alternative transportation events, the most recent of which was at Penn State. Historically known as the "Tour de Sol," the "21st Century Automotive Challenge" (45-sec trailer) is in its fourth year under this name. The three-day competition is open to all forms of transportation. Focusing on alternatives is the point but it'd be nice to have a traditional gas vehicle there for scientific comparison. Generally the field consists of EV, hybrid and biodiesel conversions, with a quickly-growing number of OEM (production) electric cars. Over a long weekend, day one is devoted to range testing on highway and/or test track, day two is city-driving efficiency and day three focuses on performance featuring an autocross event. In the end, after all the data is crunched, the drivers get presented with their various efficiency and performance evaluations.
In the wake of my first conversion, the 1968 SAAB, my folks became deeply interested in this area and asked me to build them a car, too. The Miata LiFe was finished a few days too late for last year's event but this year, after a year and 7000 miles of my test-driving, the car and parents were ready. I can't imagine more supportive parents and it was a great and memorable pleasure to compete along side them this year at Penn State. My mom, a bit reluctant, drove the first run in the autocross, after which I took over and we actually won! I did not build that vehicle for speed but wow, it handled wonderfully and can deliver speed when needed. The hand-wound AC50 motor from Hi Performance Electric Vehicles of California is truly elegant and powerful and a winner in my book. Loved it since day one.
Below is a very short account of the last day's event. Good times.