On July 18, the 20th edition of ElectraFest, the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association’s annual get-together, took place in the Concord Pacific parking lot just off Expo Boulevard.
With at least a dozen manufacturers exhibiting their wares and free test drives/rides available throughout the day, it was the largest turnout ever for ElectraFest. Scattered among the offerings from manufacturers such as Nissan, Kia, Mitsubishi, BMW, Mercedes, and Tesla were a couple of new kids on the block.
First up, VeloMetro—a company based in Vancouver that’s developing a human-powered, fully enclosed urban vehicle with a top speed in the neighbourhood of 30 kilometres per hour. In the company’s own words, it’s building “a sophisticated, enclosed, electric-assist, smartphone-connected vehicle, ideal for personal transportation in urban and suburban areas.”
Known as VeloCars, these little rigs will protect their occupants from the elements, with a modicum of cargo space for small bits and pieces. Adds the company, “VeloCars replace automobiles, not bicycles, but they overcome the shortcomings of bicycles with all-weather use, lockable cargo space, and anti-theft provisions.” You can’t buy a VeloCar just yet, but the company says it won’t be long. For more, go to www.velometro.com/.
Along the same lines but fully battery-powered is the Sparrow, a single-occupant urban runabout that looks like a giant human nose on wheels. Designed by motorcycle-seat entrepreneur Mike Corbin, the Sparrow is being stick-handled in B.C. by Henry Reisner and Jerry Kroll, both familiar names in the local automotive community. For more info, see electrameccanica.com/.
Based in California, Corbin Motors built a few Sparrows before it ceased production in the late 1990s. Reisner and Kroll have picked up the gauntlet in Canada and have described the Sparrow as “the Beetle for the 21st Century”. It’s powered by a lithium-ion battery pack and has a range of up to 140 kilometres, according to Kroll. Apparently, bureaucratic hurdles have been cleared and the Sparrow is ready for the market. It will be priced in the $20,000 range.
If you’re not ready to take the electric-vehicle plunge but still need transport, there’s a new car-share in town. Known as Evo Car Share, this service is similar in concept to Zipcar, Modo, and Car2Go and is operated by BCAA, but it’s available to members and non-members alike—for a fee, of course. All vehicles in the Evo fleet are Toyota Priuses, and they can be reserved 30 minutes in advance via an app or the Evo website. Evo operates in a “home zone” bounded by Camosun Street, Nanaimo Street, 41st Avenue, and Burrard Inlet, as well as the Park ’n’ Fly facility at YVR, but users can take the cars out of the home zone, as long as they’re returned to it. For more info, visit www.evo.ca/.
And no visit to ElectraFest would be complete without taking a spin along the seawall on an electric bicycle.
This time around, I hopped aboard a Motorino CTi, also known as a “Lady’s Classic” and styled after the traditional Dutch Omafiets, which were specifically designed for female riders. That doesn’t apply to me, but it was the only bike available at the time and is one of the company’s top sellers. With a lithium-ion battery, the retro-themed CTi will go up to 40 kilometres on a single charge, depending on how much pedalling is done; it can reach a top speed of just under 30 kilometres per hour on pure battery power.
Like most bikes of this ilk, the CTi features a power-assist setup that engages the electric motor when the rider pedals, with several settings as well as a twist throttle for pure battery power. The twist grip is much like that found on a conventional motorcycle, and this is the bike’s biggest drawback, in my opinion. No problem with torque or available power, but the twist grip is awkward and imprecise. I can see it being irritating over the long haul, and all things considered, a snowmobile-type thumb throttle would be better.