Time for a test drive
Mainstream electric vehicle adoption is still a few years away, but onlookers caught a glimpse of the future on Sunday as a constant stream of all-electric cars — including the Tesla Model S, BMW I3 and Chevy Bolt — zipped up and down Iron Mountain Boulevard.
The vehicles were driven by Lake Oswego residents on a series of test drives as part of Sunday's Electric Vehicle Fair, which was organized by the City's Sustainability Advisory Board and the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network.
The overall goal, according to LOSN co-founder Duke Castle, was to help spur the adoption of electric vehicles — and the best way to do that, he said, is to get people behind the wheel for a test drive. Castle said LOSN views Lake Oswego as an ideal place for early adopters.
"Lake Oswego citizens have the money to do this, and they have the foresight and can be on the leading edge," he told The Review earlier this month. "This is the way Lake Oswego can make a difference."
LOSN and the SAB kicked things off with an opening event last Thursday, in which a number of local electric car owners volunteered to answer questions about EV ownership. That event drew more than 100 guests, according to LOSN planners, but it was outdone by Sunday's fair, which also gave the local owners a chance to show off their cars in person.
More than a dozen different EVs lined the parking lot at the Oswego Heritage House on Sunday afternoon, and their owners wore signs to identify the model of each car. Some of the cars were fully electric, while others were plug-in hybrids that switch to a conventional gas engine for long trips.
LOSN reached out to both car dealers and local owners for the event, Castle said, resulting in a roughly 50-50 split between corporate representatives and local EV drivers lined up to tell residents about electric cars.
Car dealers KuniBMW, Emmert and Beaverton Honda/Kia all brought vehicles for the lineup, and test drives were coordinated by co-sponsor Forth, a nonprofit that specializes in events to promote electric vehicles. Several of the Tesla cars were brought by the Tesla Club, a group of Portland-area owners.
Lake Oswego resident Kathy Kramer gave visitors a look at her 2018 Chevy Bolt, which she purchased in April of this year. Kramer said she had originally been on the waiting list for a Tesla Model 3, but decided to skip the wait by going for the Bolt, which advertises a comparable 240-mile cruising range at a similar price.
"I'm really glad I did," she said. "I've wanted an electric car for 20 years."
Kramer said the fully electric car has made her driving experience much more enjoyable thanks to its snappy acceleration and "one pedal" driving mode, in which the car automatically uses the motor to slow down and recharge the battery whenever the gas pedal is lifted.
In the plug-in hybrid lineup, resident Ginny Haines answered questions about her Kia Nero, which she purchased in January. She said the car's electric range tends to be sufficient to cover about 90 percent of her driving — in fact, she said, she's only filled up the gas tank four times, all of which were during major road trips.
And to top it off, she said, her house is equipped with solar panels to generate power that she sells back to PGE during the day to offset the cost of recharging the SUV each night. In other words, "any driving I do on electric is literally free to me," she said.
The lineup wasn't just limited to cars. In one corner of the parking lot, resident Mike Pesham showed visitors his fully electric motorcycle. He said he prefers to use it for local commuting, although it can also reach freeway speeds. Under optimal conditions, he said, it can reach 100-150 miles on a charge, which he said is comparable to the range of gas-powered motorcycles he's owned.
Representatives from Lime were also on hand to show off the company's Lime-S electric rental scooters, which recently hit the streets in Portland, and another display tent gave visitors a look at a range of e-bikes from Cynergy.
Second Gear supplied a set of two display motorcycles, and representatives from Portland General Electric and a local company called SparkEsolar were also on hand to talk about charging systems.
Even the Willamette Shore Trolley had a booth, where trolley maintenance superintendent Dave Rowe told visitors about the volunteer operator group's plan to equip their two trolleys with modular rechargeable batteries.
The trolley line lacks an overhead power cable, so the trolleys currently operate by towing a cart equipped with a diesel generator. Switching to batteries would create a more authentic experience for riders, Rowe said.
At the other end of the parking lot, visitors lined up for their turn to take one of the test-drive vehicles on a short run down Iron Mountain Boulevard to the roundabout next to the Oswego Hunt Club.
A half-dozen cars made the circuit dozens of times throughout the afternoon, returning to the Heritage House parking lot and working their way back through the crowds of visitors to the test drive area — a task made only slightly more difficult by the fact that most of the EVs made no noise.
Residents Don and Eileen Dutton took turns driving along the route in a Chevy Bolt, which they said was their third tested car of the afternoon. According to Don Dutton, the pair already have a bigger car for long road trips, but are looking for an electric vehicle with a decent range for local driving.
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