Some might call it a travesty: stripping a highly collectible Porsche 912 of its classic “flat four” running gear and replacing it with a battery pack and an electric motor.
But that’s what owner Ian Corlett did, no regrets. With a lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor mated to the original five-speed transaxle, it’s now, he claims, faster than ever, with no appreciable loss in handling or braking. Taking the body shell down to bare metal, rebuilding everything, and installing a brand-new leather interior hasn’t hurt, and in just about every way, this 1966 912 may be as desirable as ever.
It was also one of 44 electric cars on display at the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association’s 2014 ElectraFest show and shine, which took place at the Concord Pacific site on July 26.
“Today’s event is to get people to drive different electric cars and talk to owners,” explained VEVA president Bruce Stout. “Things are not the same in Vancouver as they were a few years ago, and range anxiety, for example, is becoming a thing of the past. More charging stations are being added throughout the Lower Mainland all the time.” Some of the cars available for test drives included the Nissan Leaf, the Smart electric car, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and the Tesla.
Stout walks the walk. He drives a fully electric Nissan Leaf that has so far delivered more than 40,000 trouble-free kilometres. “All I’ve done is rotate the tires,” he said.
As to the Leaf’s high price tag (just under $32,000 to start), look at it this way: “If you’re paying, let’s say, $500 a month in car payments, that’s not your only expense—you’re also likely spending around $300 on gas. With an electric car, you can say goodbye to that.” So yes, he maintains, the Leaf is kind of pricey at the beginning, but it pays for itself. Not to mention being 100 percent clean-running.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the City of Vancouver took an interest in the day’s proceedings. Councillors Raymond Louie and Andrea Reimer were on hand to cut some ribbon and test-drive some cars. “Vancouver city council is strongly in support of this event,” Louie asserted. “We’ve now got, what, 93 charging stations throughout the city, with more to come. We’re also talking with developers, and some condos will now come with a recharging option when you move in.”
What about the contention that Vancouver is becoming anticar? “Absolutely not,” Louie said. “We’re antipollution and anti excessive carbon-fuel consumption. Wouldn’t you rather see a clean electric car on the street than some diesel-belching truck spewing junk into the atmosphere?” The city now has 17 Mitsubishi i-MiEVs in its fleet, with more to come.
As well as the usual lineup of passenger cars, there were plenty of two-wheeled electric hybrids on hand, including models from Motorino, eProdigy, and Ohm. While the first markets a line of fully electric scooters, the latter two have a variety of bicycle hybrids that allow you to pedal along in the usual way or tap into battery power for a leg up. With the seawall just a stone’s throw away, what better time or place to take the Ohm XU700 LS out for a spin?
With a purported top speed of 32 kilometres per hour (more if you make a few adjustments), this commuter bike allows the rider to choose from four levels of battery assist, with a slick little “go fast” button that gives instant electric power. A built-in control unit manages the amount of battery input, and like virtually all hybrids of this type, the XU700 features regenerative power: when you brake, the electric motor “runs backwards” and the battery is recharged on the fly. “You can get up to about three hours on pure battery power,” said Ohm Cycles’ Michael DeVisser.
In the saddle, the XU700 initially offers a little more in the way of pedal resistance, but the electric assist cuts in seamlessly and the power boost is instantly noticeable. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t find an easier way to ride a bike, and it’ll go up to 80 kilometres on a single charge. Downside: it’ll run you around $3,700.
If nothing else, events like ElectraFest demonstrate that electric cars are here to stay—they’ve actually been around for over a century—and battery power can be adapted to a wide range of applications. Models like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla predominated at ElectraFest, but besides Corlett’s Porsche 912, there was another electric Porsche—a Boxster—on display, as well as a converted 1979 Austin Mini, a BMW i3, a Navistar delivery truck being used by Canada Post (one of four in Vancouver), and, of all things, a 21-foot cabin cruiser—fully electric.
Once the transport of choice for geeks and science nerds, electric-powered vehicles are clearly more than a fad. At the time of writing, the price of gas was hovering around $1.50 a litre—what else is there to say?