Alternative vehicle test-drives, on-site purchase options, information booths, and expert panel discussions offered the public cutting-edge information on available options for cutting gasoline consumption and reducing carbon footprints at the fifth annual AltCar Expo and Conference at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium last Friday and Saturday, October 1 and 2.
New this year was the increased availability of affordably-priced, 100-percent electric cars for test drives and purchase. Nissan chose the Expo to kick off its countrywide drive electric tour for its Nissan LEAF. This compact hatchback can seat up to five people and will be available starting in December 2010 in Los Angeles. San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Phoenix, Tucson, and Tennessee. This car is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack that is capable of giving the vehicle a 100-mile range with a single charge. The LEAF has a $32,780 Manufactured Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) before tax incentives and 20,000 people have already ordered it on-line for 2010.
Also part of the 100 percent electric car market is Santa Monica based CODA’s five-passenger sedan. This vehicle has a 90 – 120 mile range with a single charge. The range depends on the driver’s driving habits and the road conditions. One of this car’s unusual features is an active thermal management system to help minimize climate effects on the car’s battery performance. There will be limited delivery of this car in 2010. The CODA has a MSRP of $44,900 before tax incentives.
Some of the other electric cars that were part of the Expo were the Chevy Volt and the Toyota Electric Prius. Also on display were electric trucks and motorcycles and vehicles that run on natural gas.
Federal tax credits for electric drive vehicles range from $2,500 to $7,500 depending on the size of the vehicle’s battery. More information on federal tax credits can be found at www.fueleconomy.gov. California rebates of up to $5,000 are also available for Californians who lease or purchase electric, plug-in hybrid electric and fuel cell vehicles. More information on these rebates can be found at www.cvrp.energycenter.org.
Attendees also had the opportunity to test drive hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Many believe that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be the domestically powered, zero emission fuel cars of tomorrow.
Mass transit options were also part of the Expo. Participating mass transit agencies included Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus (BBB) and Metro. All BBB buses use alternative fuels such as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Metro is currently working on building the Expo Light Rail Phase II project that will link Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles. They also are working on the Westside Subway Extension that will have several stops along Santa Monica’s portion of Wilshire Boulevard.
AltExpo also included panel discussions on electric vehicles, mass transit, hydrogen fuel vehicles, a tech review and debate moderated by State Senator Fran Pavley, and a behind the scenes look at the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize. Shares of this $10 million prize are being awarded in order to inspire the next generation of fuel efficient vehicles.