PLUG OK license plate
San Jose Mercury News: Car Rally Crackles
Sep 25, 2005 (From the CalCars-News archive)
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See a few additional comments at the end of the report.­mld/­mercurynews/­news/­local/­12737754.htm
Sun, Sep. 25, 2005
By HongDao Nguyen
Mercury News

When people spot Jerrold Karmin around town on his peculiar electric tricycle -- with a conspicuous solar panel on top -- he gets friendly waves and ``thumbs-up'' signs from passersby.

And as gas prices continue to soar, Karmin's choice is both environmentally and economically appropriate.

``If I don't have to burn the gas, especially now with the price of gas . . . it pays for itself,'' the Mountain View man said of his battery-powered creation.

Karmin's trike was one of more than two dozen vehicles on display at the 33rd annual Electric Vehicle Rally at Palo Alto High School on Saturday. More than 100 people stopped by and many marveled at a plug-in Toyota Prius prototype and an elite tzero sportster -- which can go from zero to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds.

The crowd was as eclectic as the cars. It included environmentalists, people who wanted to dodge gas prices and a self-described electric car ``purist'' who thumbed his nose at a hybrid and wore a T-shirt that read, ``It's not electric if you can't plug it in.''

Ron Freund, the purist and national chairman of the Electric Auto Association, estimated that 4,500 people drive electric cars in California and about 200,000 to 300,000 residents sport hybrids.

Saturday, Freund said he hoped electric cars would be the future of the auto industry. People plug in their cell phones, toothbrushes and curling irons -- why not their cars?

Doug Brentlinger of Newark didn't need to be convinced.

He showed off a 1982 Dodge Rampage he converted to electric two years ago. Brentlinger wanted to use his truck for short trips while respecting the environment, so he cut a hole in the truck bed and added 11 batteries to the back of the bed and four under the hood. On Saturday, a friend who's considering converting a Dodge minivan inspected Brentlinger's handiwork.

``I think the average good mechanic can do this,'' said Brentlinger, who has worked in computers and machining.

Toward mid-afternoon, a crowd gathered around a Toyota Prius plug-in, which can run on electric power for longer distances than a normal hybrid. It was converted by CalCars, a non-profit group which advocates for plug-in hybrids and technology development.

Since automakers have moved away from making electric-only cars, ``purists'' say if the plug-in hybrids cause enough buzz, maybe purely electric cars will make a comeback, said Felix Kramer, the founder of CalCars.

As a kid, Kramer said he hated the fuel inefficiency of idling cars and as an adult he's become more concerned about the environment. Re-configuring how cars work could make an impact on both, he said.

``Cars are a fundamental lever where you can have the most impact on global warming,'' he said. Contact HongDao Nguyen at hnguyen@... or (650) 688-7581.

My comments: Ron Freund, far from being anti-hybrid, was instrumental in organizing support by the Electric Auto Association for the CalCars PRIUS+ Conversion project. In a conversation with me today, he said, "we need to distance ourselves from perception fostered by the auto industry that electric vehicles failed. And hybrids are good step in the right direction."

He estimated attendance at around 750-1000 over the course of the day -- twice as many as last year. The Sunday conversion workshop drew about 200 people -- again, a doubling over last year.

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