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The Curious Case of Paul Pearson:

City unreal.  Looking back over 2009, no Santa Monica saga is stranger than the curious case of Paul Pearson.  Pearson is a 56 year old electro-mechanical genius of sorts who some years ago converted a open wheel race car to his street-legal emission free plug-in electric daily driver.  Next up, he rented a garage in a commercial building on Pico to convert his wife’s car to plug-in electric as well.  Seems another tenant in the building took umbrage and notified City Hall of Mr. Pearson’s activities.

The city’s investigators sharpened their pencils.  They notified the DMV that someone was actually building electric cars in supposed violation of some murky state laws.  In a more creative moment, the DMV actually sent an undercover investigator (perhaps disguised in a “Watts Happening” t-shirt?) who begged Mr. Pearson to build him an electric car, and to do so for profit!

The trapped worked:  And in one of the more extraordinary law enforcement episodes in city history, on December 8, 2008, a contingent of FIVE SM police officers, FIVE SM firefighters, FOUR building inspectors and two of Governor Schwarzenegger’s DMV investigators busted Paul Pearson at his garage on Pico.  Never before in the course of human history have so many pounced upon so few!

Interestingly, Pearson’s plight became a tale of two cities.  First is the ornery Santa Monica prosecutor’­­s office road blocking Paul Pearson’s affair with Mr. Kilowatt – the worst of times, a veritable sequel to Who Killed the Electric Car with our burg by the bay playing the role of GM.  But it also became the best of times.   Another Santa Monica – the one most of us “greenies” know and love – opened a second dialog with Paul Pearson to see if he might build a prototype plug-in electric vehicle for city use.  The latter initiative (with especially enthusiastic support from Councilman Kevin McKeown according to Pearson) has resulted in the delivery this month of a plug-in Ford Ranger light pickup that is emission free.

Note that Mr. Pearson agreed to buy a city business license and all other charges were dropped.  There is more to the curious case of Paul Pearson.  Depending upon how our city’s prototype fares, if Mr. Pearson and his team can sign up another ten small cities in Southern California, the AQMD will fund the construction and placement of ten additional zero emission small trucks for demonstration purposes.  If all goes swimmingly, a few years hence the AQMD could fund the placement of 1,000 plug-in electric trucks for its fleet in the four county region.  You can learn more at Mr. Pearson’s website, www.gastoelectricconversions.com.

Happily over the course of 2009 Mr. Pearson has gone from goat to guru.  One lesson from this whole caper is clear.  It’s a good thing our city’s prosecutors were not standing guard in Dayton OH in 1901 when the Wright brothers built an experimental wind tunnel in the garage behind their bicycle shop, or we might still be taking the train east to see our relatives over the holidays!  And if it took 16 highly paid government employees to bust one Mr. Pearson, one assumes they would have sent 32 to bust the Wilbur and Oroville duo?


Contact Dave Quick


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