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The Malibu EV Rally of the EV1 Club

[Note added 31 May 2015: This is where I met William Korthof, who at slightly over half my age had the technical chops to set up the octopus of chargers and cables in the fourth photo down this page. He's not in that photo, but he is standing in front of the tzero (wearing a blue short-sleeve shirt and light blue pants) in the first photo below, and is about third from the right in the second photo. He was a true leader among electric vehicle advocates over the subsequent fifteen years, and he will be greatly missed.]

The EV1 Club has held a few road rallies since its formation, including "Charge Across the Desert" between Los Angeles and Blythe on the Arizona border and a scenic drive up in the San Francisco area; several individual members have also undertaken longer expeditions with fewer participants, most notably Kris Trexler's Charge Across America. You can read about all of these on the club website; that is where I found out about the Malibu EV Rally held on 5 September 1999. Not having an electric vehicle, I wasn't planning on going, but a couple of days before the event Joseph Borges, Jr., of EV Rental Cars at the Los Angeles airport called me with an invitation to rent an EV1 and join the rally. I'm glad I accepted; it was a lot of fun!

The Malibu EV Rally began up the coast at the Port Hueneme Naval Construction Battalion (Seabee) Center, then took us down Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Monica, and thence on a loop through Hollywood and along Mulholland Drive back to Santa Monica. Most of the participants went up the coast the previous night to stay in hotels; I linked up with CE Raum, Bob Seldon, and Bob Hadden at the Santa Monica City Hall recharging station on the morning of the event, and we then drove up to the starting point together. Bob Seldon in particular, who lives in Santa Monica, arranged recharging locations for all the vehicles there so we could load on enough juice for the second leg of the trip. This was a pretty monstrous job; there were 35 (!) electric vehicles on the first leg of the trip, and while Santa Monica is very well stocked with recharging stations, that is still a heck of a lot of simultaneous users.

Recharging at Port Hueneme

Port Hueneme also has a heck of a lot of chargers; the base has made an enormous commitment to alternative fuels, including the largest number of electric S-10 pickups I've ever seen in one place, and quite a few natural-gas vehicles too. The photo above doesn't show half the charging stations (of various kinds, including some straight 220-volt outlets like the one charging up the yellow tzero hotrod from AC Propulsion) at this location, and there was another one nearby that was almost as large. One common (non-user!) complaint about electric vehicles is they take one to three hours (or more in some cases) to recharge the battery pack most of the way; of course, this isn't a problem if you let it happen overnight in your garage while you sleep, and at a rally like this it gave club members and guests (including some of the folks who make and lease the EV1) a chance to shoot the breeze.

Getting directions for the first leg

Here are most of the participants and a fraction of the vehicles as we obtained final instructions for the first leg of the journey from Greg Hanssen, who did a great job of organizing the event. Thanks also to him for helping me get involved at the last minute, and for putting me in contact with Bob Seldon and the others with whom I arrived!

Along Pacific Coast Highway

Not long after we turned onto Pacific Coast Highway, we stopped to get some photos of the whole group and to allow anybody who had become separated from the main group to catch up. You can see in this photo three of the Toyota RAV4-EVs that were rented from EV Rental Cars,where I had obtained my EV1 for the day; here or on the second leg of the rally (starting in Santa Monica), there were also at least two Honda EV Pluses, three Nissan Altras (on loan from Nissan, as they are not available to the general public, except for a very few utility fleets, yet), an AC Propulsion conversion of a Volkswagen Golf, and a Dodge EPIC minivan. For the second leg, we were also joined by a couple of conversions of older cars, and by a Honda Civic GX powered by natural gas, which was rented from EV Rentals instead of an electric car because I had taken the last one!

Santa Monica bus garage

On arrival in Santa Monica, we regrouped at the City Hall recharging station where I had started with the others early in the morning; we were hoping to attract some press attention, but nobody showed up. (A couple of people from the base newspaper talked to us in Port Hueneme, and Greg Hanssen somehow found a TV crew to buttonhole on the Santa Monica Pier.) We then dispersed to various locations to recharge for the second leg; most vehicles went to the Santa Monica bus garage, where we plugged into a bunch of "portable-ized" chargers that belonged either to the club or to individual members. All these cars plugged in and sucking a few kilowatts each drew quite a lot of current; Bill Korthof had gone there before the rally to wire the necessary distribution boxes, and stayed there almost all the way through lunch to troubleshoot and ensure that nobody would run short of juice on the second leg.

Ken Stewart addressing the club

Ken Stewart, the new brand manager for the EV1, was among the GM and Saturn folks who participated with the club and other guests in this event. Over lunch at Rusty's Surf Ranch on the Santa Monica Pier while we let our cars recharge, he addressed the club for the first time, discussing some advancements to be unveiled at the Tokyo and Detroit auto shows over the next few months, and reiterating GM's continuing commitment to the EV1 platform. In particular, some of the GM folks drove the rally route in a 1997 EV1 that had been retrofitted with Panasonic (rather than the original Delphi) lead-acid batteries; this is a configuration that will become available to customers in the next couple of years, as the first cars come off their three-year leases (starting in December 1999) and are refurbished. I'm really hoping that they will sell them rather than just lease them, and that they will start accepting the rebate bucks I've been piling up for years with my GM MasterCard; I'll have my van paid off by then...

Heading out on the second leg

Here we are heading out of the Santa Monica bus garage on the second leg of the rally. You can see in this photo some of the variety of electric vehicles that accompanied all the EV1's (I was driving the silver-blue EV1 in the foreground): the Dodge EPIC minivan, two Nissan Altra station wagons, one of the RAV4-EVs, and the AC Propulsion tzero.

Along Mulholland Drive

Around ten more vehicles joined us for the second leg; when we got to the top of Mulholland Drive, we pulled off to the side to park three abreast in a turnout and shoot some more group photos. We then went on to Hollywood, where we stopped at a parking garage to put a little charge into a couple of the cars that were getting low, and then back to Santa Monica for dinner and one last recharge before dispersing. All in all it was a very well organized and enjoyable event; I'd like to thank Joseph Borges for suggesting that I go along, and the EV1 Club for making me welcome! I very much hope that, before too many more years pass, I'll be able to go on these EV1 Club outings as a full-fledged member and EV1 owner.

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new 6 September 1999, updated 31 May 2015