CIVIC CENTER — Those who missed out on the federal “Cash for Clunkers” program have another opportunity to get their hands on vehicles that get good gas mileage at the fourth annual AltCar Expo at the Civic Auditorium Friday and Saturday.
Visitors to the free event will be exposed to the latest technology on the market, and some products that have yet to hit showrooms. There will be electric, hydrogen, bio-diesel, natural gas, propane, plug-in hybrids and ethanol-powered autos and motorcycles on hand to test drive and purchase.
And you don’t have to have a car to get there. A complimentary bike valet will be provided by the city of Santa Monica, the expo’s sponsor. There will also be an emphasis on other forms of transportation, such as taking public transit.
“Our goal is to show that alternative fuels work and they are here now and we can start using them today,” said Rick Sikes of City Hall’s Fleet Management Division. “And whatever you use to reduce your use of petroleum, whether it be walking, biking, plug-in hybrid or taking public transit; there’s something everyone can do.”
Sikes said 86 percent of Santa Monica’s municipal fleet, which does not include fire engines and police cars, runs on alternative fuels or are electric, demonstrating City Hall’s commitment to sustainability.
The expo features major manufacturers like Honda, Toyota, General Motors and Ford (BMW is unveiling the E-mini, with City Hall leasing eight as part of a demonstration project), as well as companies just starting to get their fleets on the ground like Santa Monica-based Coda, which is planning to release its all-electric sedan in California next year.
“The goal [of the expo] is to let consumers know what we are about and where we are coming from,” said Kara Saltness, marketing and communications director for Coda. “It’s really showing off what we have and explaining the technology.”
The four-door Coda sedan can be charged by simply plugging into a 220 volt outlet used for a washer and dryer. It has a range of 120 miles in the city and 100 miles on the highway, Saltness said. It takes about six hours to fully charge the vehicle.
With federal tax credits, the goal for Coda is to get the cost of their sedan down to the mid to lower 30s. Those interested can pre-order at the expo.
“Santa Monica is a great place for us to be located because the city is already predisposed to (electric vehicles) and because of the city’s stance on the environment and different technologies,” Saltness said.
Brammo, from Oregon, is another company looking to make a name for itself at the expo. The company produces an all-electric motorcycle that resembles a Motocross dirt bike. Josh Tuski, a lead service technician for Brammo, said the motorcycles will be sold soon in the Los Angeles area at Best Buy.
“It changes your whole riding experience,” Tuski said of the Brammo bike. “Since it is electric, it runs really quiet. You get one of your senses back when riding. You can hear what is going on around you, other vehicles, even talk to people riding next to you. It will create a new experience while riding. The whole purpose of riding a motorcycle is to get connected to what’s around you.
“The silence helps.”
Other exhibitors include Santa Monica Honda launching its debut as a natural gas Civic dealer and Ford’s Fiesta, with its fuel efficiency delivering 40-plus miles per gallon. Plus the NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) 1930 Roadster will be on display.
There will also be panel discussions both days, with industry experts focusing on city fleets, how and where to charge electric cars and the feasibility of renewable energy technologies, both short- and long-term.
For Paul Pearson, a Santa Monica resident and electric car enthusiast, the expo is not only an opportunity to show off his latest creation — a truck owned by City Hall that is now electric instead of running on gas — it is a time to mingle with other “nuts” like himself who bring some flair to the expo with their zany rides.
Pearson, who was cited by city officials for operating his conversion business without a proper license (the charges were eventually dropped) and is now ironically working with City Hall, said the expo has changed dramatically over the years.
“In the beginning, there were all these wackos here,” Pearson said with a smile, referring to electric vehicle pioneers and their strange creations. “Now you have major car companies. I’m one of the few wackos left. So it’s changed a bit.”
On Saturday morning, the Santa Monica NEV Club will have a tailgate party for members and those who are new to the arena. Refreshments are being donated by Whole Foods.
“It you are curious about electric, come on down, let’s have some coffee and talk, meet others who drive electric cars every day and ask them questions,” said Tom Beaulieu, who helped create the club with his wife after purchasing his own NEV.
Parking for the expo at the Civic Center is $8 for the day. For a complete schedule of speakers, exhibitions and energy panels visit www.altcarexpo.com or call (310) 390-2930.