EVS-14, October 1997
by Remy Chevalier
Looking into poor people's backyards is not my idea of a good time. I survived the boredom of the train ride down to Florida by reading a book. Not just any book mind you. This one jumped at me when I left the Westport library that morning. "Inside The Mouse" was written two years ago by four intellectuals who decided to experience Disney world and lived to tell about it. They interviewed hundreds of Disney employees who spilled the beans. Cast members, as they are called, refer to the park as "The Property". But they have other names for it like "The Rat" or "Mauschwitz"! I can relate. My most vivid memory of Disney world is from the late 70's when they were first starting to build "Experimental Polyester Clothes of Tomorrow", or EPCOT! I hitchhiked there from California in hope of getting a job. As a kid I'd seen old man Walt on French TV describing his plans for a crystal city and I guess, somewhere deep in my psychedelic mind, I was Dorothy on her way to OZ. A cast member picked me up and told me I could spend the night in the 24 hour game room backstage at the Magic Kingdom until the personnel office opened the next day. I fell asleep on the couch oblivious to the sounds of pinball machines and pool tables. I'm rudely awakened by a security guard kicking my feet. The guy who gave me the ride vehemently denied laying eyes on me before. Promptly hauled away like a vagrant, I was unceremoniously dumped one mile outside the Kingdom gates. In those days it was still swamp land and at 3AM in winter, Sunshine State or not, it was freezing! I had to walk ten miles avoiding alligators before finding an open diner to unthaw my frozen fingers around a hot cup of coffee. Needless to say my naive dreams were shattered and I never went back. I went south instead.
In the mid-70's you could rent electric cars in Palm Beach. They were all the rage with the wealthy locals. A company was trying to sell the rich on the Silver volt which looked like a station wagon version of the DeLorean. They had plans to set up a charging station next to Peter Dinkel's, the trendy bar of the moment. But technology wasn't quite there yet, at least not officially. The car was too heavy and slow. So EVs in Florida went hibernating for another generation. Twenty years later South Beach in Miami has "Electro wave", an electric bus transit system modeled after Chattanooga. The big difference? Models and drag queens, as well as the rest of us regular folks, get to ride the neon lit buses for free. That kind of PR can't be bought, and it's contagious. Every Latin country from Mexico to Rio will soon want their own.
It's a great opportunity for EVS-14, the International Electric Vehicle Symposium, to be held in Orlando this year at the fabulous Dolphin Hotel, the crown jewel of Disney resorts. If I play my cards right I'll make all the necessary contacts to finally rip the electric car industry away from the old paradigm players. It's no big secret EVS-14 is the like the fox guarding the hen house. The biggest sponsors are the same US car monopolies who have been hampering the progress of the EV industry for decades. It's like the oil companies sitting on photovoltaic. The way they deal with their electric car division is like you deal with a rebellious son. You pat him on the back, give him an allowance, just enough to get by, but not enough to go off on his own and cause trouble.
During keynote presentations in the large auditorium, a video was shown to introduce Chrysler's EPIC minivan. Some tight neck actor played a pompous executive hosting a press conference. It looked real enough until some hippy Muppet dressed in a vest, (I was wearing a vest), sporting sloppy long hair, (I have sloppy long hair), asked about a conspiracy between big oil and the big three to keep electric cars off the road. The Chrysler guy, stiffer than the Muppet, dismissed such nonsense by introducing the EPIC! I don't know about the rest of the media in the room, but I was made to feel the fool! I don't get offended often. People who get offended offend me! But in this case, I'll make an exception. This piece of manipulative propaganda aimed at defusing real political concerns hit below the belt. I wonder if the audience appreciated the irony of a Chrysler zombie spokesman being depicted as more wooden than the puppet it was supposed to ridicule. Knowing how cynical most Madison Avenue commercial producers can be, I wonder if they didn't pull the wool over the eyes of Chrysler executives by letting this video be shown to industry professionals. It backfired big time. Joe Blow on the street might have swallowed the sinker, but if you've been fighting to get EVs on those same streets as long as all the people in that room, this silly piece of videotape was embarrassing.
As the escalator took you down to the exhibit floor we were greeted with giant GM and Ford displays flanking each side of the aisle. But just one day after the show ended these same companies tried to make a deal with New England states so they wouldn't have to sell electric cars in the Northeast. How would you feel if you were a GM or Ford engineer, proud of what you had just been showing off, and your boss told you all the work you had done was just a corporate tactic to quiet down those pesky green fanatics?
Before we could move into the Dolphin we had to book a room at the Comfort Inn, the cheapest motel I could find in the AAA guide that was still walking distance from Downtown Disney. The giant Lego dragon across the artificial lagoon from the Rainforest Cafe stucco volcano is worth the trip. I love his eyes lit at night and that silly grin, as if the entire universe was a cosmic goof. Downtown Disney is a place where Planet Hollywood gets to parody the Hard Rock Cafe by slamming a UFO against the side of their building instead of an old Cadillac. I spent hours browsing in the new Virgin Megastore in my pink running shorts. They have this frightening balcony outside the coffee shop with the flimsiest of glass railing. It comes down as a stage elevator when musicians perform live. If anybody tempts fate they'll go crashing through splat on the sidewalk. If you like aerial stunts, Cirque Du Soleil opens next door this summer.
First thing on the agenda was getting to EPCOT early enough to witness the electric car parade set up at the Chinese pavilion where a collection of jade and gold dragons are on loan from the Forbidden City. Bruce Meland, our commander in chief, and the rest of the ET crew got in late, so I took off without them. I ended up nearly getting struck by lighting at the Moroccan Pavilion under torrential rains! The bolt flashed 30 feet away from my face against the phony mosque. I would have looked pretty stupid burned to a crisp with my plastic yellow Mickey poncho melted against my skin! Nobody dies at Disney. That's what the book says. They just carry you off "The Property" and write the death certificate somewhere else. After I stopped shaking I calmed down with the worse cup of instant chocolate I ever had at the French Pavilion. But the French people were so nice it made up for it. Perhaps they weren't real after all!
Obviously the parade had been cancelled. Another thing I learned in the book; no outdoor event is ever held in the rain at Disney. Now I know why. All the hidden steel frames holding up the buildings make it an even worse lightning field than Harp! So I walked over the phony "Pont Neuf" and took a real boat to the Dolphin. They are not on a track like "Pirates of the Caribbean" (which I'm told had to remove the bawdy wenches to please the Christian Right). The boats are small scale versions of "Bateau Mouche" that go up and down the river Seine in Paris. They're diesel and they stink. Just one more source of pollution spewing in these manmade lakes. The warning signs on the trucked-in sand beaches urge swimmers not to stick their head in the water! Yeah, but what about the rest of your body? They don't tell you about the gallons of pesticides washing off after the mysterious DC-10 midnight fly by. These stagnant ponds are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. A few deadly cases of encephalitis earlier in the season prompted massive spraying. Cast members say the stuff eats away at car paint! But we're assured it's perfectly safe for the occasional tourist. I got bit once because I like to sleep with the window open. Being cooped up in a synthetic environment for a week breathing stale air makes your nose bleed. But somebody always forgot to close the curtain. I would spend my paranoid time hunting down buzzing noises.
The Dolphin was built to be seen at night in the mist. It's science fiction as the fog settles lit up by roof top fountains. One evening I snuck up there and couldn't understand why the hotel didn't let people enjoy the view. The Dolphin is the high-test building in an otherwise flat landscape. There's a sky bar on the 12th floor but it's not high enough to see the Magic Kingdom. The view is obstructed. They should do away with the north facing center room on the 20th floor, put in green tinted bay windows and charge admission.
When I got to the Dolphin that first morning Toyota was already giving the VIP treatment to an entire contingent of journalists. After realizing EVS-14 organizers weren't going out of their way to invite more press, let alone the general public, Toyota decided to swing for all expense paid media junkets. Dozens of real professionals were there taking joy rides in Toyota's latest EV models; the RAV4, the Prius and the Ecom. Toyota means business as far as electric cars are concerned. They've already got nickel metal hydride packs built by Panasonic inside their cars while GM Ovonics is way behind in production, wasting its time instead on suing Panasonic over patent rights infringements. GM Ovonics won! A sad day if it means more delay towards the development of the technology. Design wise, packs made by GM Ovonics look barbaric in comparison. I would love to see Optima batteries try their hand at nickel metal hydride but they didn't exhibit at EVS-14.
Last year Toyota won the Monaco electric car rally with a two- door RAV4. They are building their first factory in France, a country which had up until now resisted the onslaught of the Japanese invasion. Has Japan finally realized the Americans are jerking off as far as zero-emission vehicles are concerned? Are they seeking new strategic partners to develop them elsewhere? France is big on EVs but its car export market has plummeted. Renault, the largest French automobile maker, has an important EV program but recently laid off nearly half its workforce. Peugeot/Citroen has designed stylish prototypes (See the Tulip, Electrifying Times, Vol5 No.1) and sold over 3500 electric fleet vehicles. Paris has already built an infrastructure with hundreds of chargers at gas stations in and around the city. Unfortunately, much like Minutely jumped the gun on the Internet but failed to follow through on its promise, France needs the advanced technology Toyota could provide them to forge ahead. The French built Mercedes Swatch mobile has been delayed again. The Japanese seem to be the only ones strong enough to stand up to the oil companies. We went to war in the Gulf to protect Japan's oil supply, not ours. But now that the utilities have been deregulated and the future of EVs depends on clean electricity, the Japanese know they can get around oil cartels without upsetting the Trilateral balance of power.
Perhaps that's why, unconsciously or not, a little Japanese prototype pocket-rocket had a booth right under Avere's sign at the show. AVERE is the European equivalent of the EVAA and the organizers of next year's event in Brussels. The Japanese team who built this gem gave it a French name: La Luciole, meaning firefly. Was it to court the land of wine and cheese? (Check www.teleport.com/~etimes for John Wayland's ecstatic ride-and- drive report) Everybody fell in love with the Luciole. Then again, maybe not "everyone". My bag containing all the information I'd collected from their booth, the many extra brochures and technical papers I was going to use to spread the Luciole gospel, was stolen from the media room.
Even though I was glad to get out from under the weather, members of the media were asked to pile in the South Beach buses to go witness the EV parade. I was off to EPCOT again. I was looking forward riding Electro wave, so I didn't mind. It took us twenty minutes to get back to where I'd just come from. The trip had only taken five minutes by boat! We were ushered inside the corridors of the GM EPCOT building under renovation for the inauguration of their Test Track ride. According to something hinted by the Orlando Weekly, a couple of freakish accidents have postponed its opening. The view from the office was terrific and my first taste of free food during this week long conference made it all worthwhile. As we were treated to miniature tuna sandwiches, I finally got a chance to network with some fellow journalists and scratch the surface of the real EV1 agenda. Once the parade had been officially cancelled, and some of us finally realized this long trip had just been a pretext to show off Miami's new public transport system, we were driven back. Ten minutes later the sun came out!
But the best was yet to come that afternoon for those of us who knew where the action was. Back on the bus again, but to Universal Studios this time, to an empty lot. (Read all about it from Bill Dube on www.teleport.com/~etimes). I'm still amazed at how quickly Defense has embraced their environmental mission. Just as Desert Shield was being deployed to protect Kuwait's oil supply to Japan, I participated in the first meeting between environmental organizations and military brass. The Defense & The Environment Initiative didn't make headlines in 1990, overshadowed by the looming Gulf War, but for the first time professional soldiers and environmental activists realized they had something in common, they shared the same sense of mission. Since then progress with each branches of the military has been swifter than anywhere else in the Federal Government. A few days before EVS-14 at the National Marketplace for the Environment conference in Washington DC green companies and procurement officials from the Pentagon hammered out what are probably the largest orders any of these small companies ever got!
There's even talk of a major hemp comeback in the armed forces. It's been sorely missed since the ban in 1937. Banana Republic made its name on all the hemp British military surplus clothing they found forgotten in India. After ten years when all the warehouses were empty and Banana Republic couldn't duplicate the quality customers had grown accustomed to, the owners sold the company to the Gap! The US military understands the importance of hemp and wants it back! It also wants the best technology money can buy for the troops. It wants to make sure our boys are safe. But lately Washington has been playing around with the health and safety of soldiers in the field, and it's not going down well with veterans. So this hybrid Humvee which so successfully showed off all the EV nay Sayers is another green bee in their bonnet! Entire bases have switched over to electric transport. For the last four years The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization has been releasing technology transfer reports that are a techno fix wet dream for eco isolationists, short of a total zero-point energy fess up. Their new report takes a close look at transmutation of nuclear waste, a subject the NRC has avoided for years favoring burial. Four star generals said it would come to this at a Congressional hearing years ago. They said: "The environment has become a matter of national security, it's a job for Defense!" All we need now is for the Humvee team to be wearing hemp shirts and we'll finally have the makings of the "Moral equivalent of War" Carter talked about before Reagan cancelled plans for the Army's "First Earth Battalion".
After the awesome Humvee demonstration we were all treated to another round of free food. I stocked up on protein by downing as many chicken breasts as I could. The Dolphin had a few gyms to chose from, so I was taking advantage of all the free weights and dumb bells. Stuffed to the gills I was still able to ask a few questions about the electric vehicle program at Universal Studios only to find out their famous trolleys were in fact still internal combustion engines! The market for EVs at theme parks is wide open and so far few EV companies have taken advantage of the situation. On closing day of EVS-14 GM announced that Disney world would buy a fleet of S-10 pick-ups. Better late than never I say! Chevrolet won't advertise the S-10 in trade publications like Electrifying Times, even after I offered them a free ad! Their advertising agency argued that it would take them a year to analyze our readership (?). Why are American automakers always on the defensive? What are they trying to protect? If it's their share of the market then common sense would dictate they take the offensive by taking a chance on an aggressive team like ours, just like Toyota did. Instead they keep losing ground to foreign innovation, even though they may have had the jump start on the situation. Maybe they feel the S-10 isn't ready? But I don't think that's it. The same advertising agencies handling the EV accounts are handling all the other campaigns for all the other regular models. These agents probably resent being put in that position and instinctively work against it. So because the "old guard" is still in charge of promoting the "new kid on the block", by nature, if not by malice, they want it to fail. Once EV divisions at major automakers realize this, they'll free themselves from sabotage within their own ranks. Purveyors of cool can't be found among reactionaries and they need to hire hip new firms. Meanwhile I wonder what other sales departments are doing at other theme parks around the country! I wouldn't be surprised if Ford rushed in to strike a deal with Universal! That seems to be the American way; Coke vs. Pepsi, Democrats vs. Republicans, etc... leaving little room for the million of Snapple drinkers among us.
A wet and soggy, but well fed, media procession ran through the rain one more time to the Terminator attraction. It's really Titanic James Cameron's Terminator 3 movie except the only theater in the world where you can see it is there. It was the one thing I didn't want to miss while in Orlando and they gave it to us as a treat! The 3D is so good you forget it's a trick and find yourself ducking like a sucker when things start flying. I won't give away the rest, I'd be spoiling the experience. I was reminded that Alvin Marks, the man who invented the polarized plastic lenses used in the 3D glasses has since developed a photovoltaic plastic called Luminoid which would be dirt cheap to mass produce and much more efficient at transforming sunlight into electricity than the best silicon wafer! But guess what? It's been in the laboratory stages for the last ten years! Like we haven't heard that before. My guess is they're waiting for Energy Conversion Devices to recoup their amorphous investment before unleashing the next generation of PV technology.
The next morning we all piled back into Marshall Houston's rented Mustang convertible which had less leg room than the smallest EV at the show. We kept getting lost back and forth from the two hotels because in the fog, without a visual on the Dolphin, there's nothing left in the sky to let you know where you are. Global positioning would have saved our bacon. Road signs at Disney world are a joke, designed to send you off on the wrong direction so you can discover more of the park and burn massive quantities of fuel! The ten minutes trip always took an hour, so we missed most of the media breakfast. By the time we got there all the briefings had taken place. But not all was lost. There were plenty of croissants, muffins and melon slices left. I spent most of the morning riding one EV after another, trying to ask intelligent questions. When I finally got around to the EV1 which I'd never driven before I was surprised at how shabby the plastic interior was compared to Japanese workmanship, as if little or no attention had been paid to the way components felt in your hands. Whatever happened to the nobility of Bakelite? Remember when plastic had substance?
I like to drive with the window opened. I never use air- conditioning. I rather sweat and have a breeze coming over my forehead. That's why I miss the little side windows old cars used to have. They made driving with the windows down much more fun by breaking the wind. I also don't trust electric windows because without manual handles you can't get out if you drive into a body of water! All this unnecessary electric stuff like not having a key for the ignition annoyed me. But worse of all, I couldn't stick my elbow out the window because the door was too high. There's only one position you can sit in the EV1 and it's OK I guess if you're in the cockpit of a jet plane, but not to cruise around.
Which brought me to my next question. I had a long conversation with one of the engineers who was in on the EV1 from the start. He told me that not once had the thought of making an EV1 convertible ever been brought up! So what's the point of having an EV1 in California if you can't pop down the hood and stick your elbow out the window to impress the babes on Melrose and Rodeo Drive? You tell me? In my opinion the design of the EV1 only reinforces the misconception that electric cars are futuristic, a 1950's kind of future which has come and gone but never happened, like the one Disney tried to freeze frame in Tomorrow land. At the Detroit auto show GM announced a motor half the size and twice as powerful for the EV1. I hope it will also inspire a more down to earth approach to EVs, one people can be comfortable with. After all if GM can invite top fashion designers to advise them on their regular cars, why can't they do the same for the electric models?
To me an electric car geared towards a mass market aimed at the general public has to target Generation X. It should be a two door convertible, with great speakers you can fully enjoy because the engine makes no noise! In Europe right now the latest craze with young car enthusiasts is "tuning", the customizing of micro- minis with monster sound systems. I expect EVS-15 will take advantage of this new trend and produce some great EVs for the "tuning" audience. That's what EVs need. Its own car "Kulture". It is starting to happen. We stopped by the Tokyo R&D booth. They had these great pictures on the wall of bikini clad "Manga" models twirling umbrellas next to an EV even Speed Racer would have been proud of. They promised to send copies we could print in Electrifying Times. The Japanese understand the value of gadget girls.
Hopefully the hybrid Humvee will end up in the next James Bond movie because all BMW could muster for EVS-14 was a sluggish racing yellow EV. A stiff Teutonic fashion model in her business skirt was hard pressed to make it interesting. I think she resented being the only live poster girl at the show. Then she tried to sell me on propane. It made me lose respect for what is otherwise a great road car. This show was the one time EV makers could have captured the media's imagination by spending some time on photo opportunities. EVs got lost in the shuffle at the Los Angeles and Detroit car shows, only mentioned briefly on CNN. Except for Bombardier nobody else at EVS-14 bothered with aesthetics. Bombardier introduced its golf cart for "gated communities" like Hilton Head or Palm Springs in great Hollywood fanfare. Sadly they were the only exhibitor to take out a full page ad in the Orlando Sentinel.
On general public day a few high school students were there as part of some event organized by the Southern Coalition For Advanced Transportation who also helped sponsor the hybrid Humvee. Otherwise there were no civilians. I saw very few people without badges who had simply paid five bucks to visit the exhibit hall for the day. There was a good reason for this. It seems Electrifying Times was the only one letting the general public know about the show. The Orlando Sentinel ran a story just one day prior leaving no time for people to plan ahead. There was an "alternative" media black out. I ran into a dozen people who saw my badge and thanked me for either faxing or mailing them the announcement I made up at the last minute letting people know about the EV parade.
A couple of weeks before the symposium I called the Orlando Weekly to find out what they were planning to do for the show. Nobody on staff had heard about it! You're talking about the largest circulation periodical in the Orlando area, the one paper everybody picks up to find out what's going on at the movies, in clubs, etc... How could EVS-14 forget to notify them in time for a listing in their events section? Jim Motavalli, editor of E magazine, who came down as a guest of Toyota, ended up writing an article about the show for them after the fact. It's just like when Eco-Expo had its first show in New York and forgot to tell the Village Voice! Eco-Expo also co-sponsored the National Marketplace for the Environment in DC and forgot to tell City Paper who happened to run a cover story on the EPA that week!!! Why is it PR agencies hired by these shows, in theory aimed at green consumers, refuse to do business with publications whose readership targets the market most likely to be interested by the topic? I'm crying foul!
That afternoon when I was walking the Boardwalk to find the best restaurant we could all go to that evening, a cast member gave me a copy of the daily newsletter published every morning by Disney for employees to read. It was the Saturday issue, the day EVS-14 was open to the general public. Half a dozen major corporations were hosting events around Disney world that day including USA Today and Harcourt Brace Javanovich, a major New York City publisher. Disney encourages cast members to participate by being aware of private functions around the park on any given day. Ideas are shared and, on paper at least, credit is given where credit is due for any suggestions put in practice. It creates synergy. There's even a director of Synergy at Disney whose job it is to network everything together, finding common links between seemingly unrelated happenings, forming stronger bonds between different operations. But guess what? There wasn't a single mention of EVS-14 in that newsletter. Not one. After that I spent the rest of the symposium telling cast members about what was going on in the exhibit hall.
A week before the show I had found a club organizer in Orlando who specializes in promoting events at the last minute who could have gotten dozens of volunteers to hand out flyers all over Orlando. There was still plenty of time to do something by reaching out to universities and public radio stations. But he claims the EVS-14 office put him on hold indefinitely. I also tried to get EVS-14 to advertise in the Orlando Weekly. I'd secured them a quarter page ad for $300 just before deadline. A steal! They turned it down saying they didn't have the budget.
I'm a big fan of conspiracy theories, and this one tells me EVS- 14, founded by the same companies who are bringing EVs to market kicking and screaming, should no longer be trusted to do their own publicity! I gave the EVAA members a list of independent progressive PR firms, the kind of agencies who promote events like Lolapalooza and place ads on MTV. I'm already on the case with EVS-15 so next time in Europe the counterculture, which has now become mainstream anyway, won't be left out again. If the general public doesn't see these cars, then what's the point of rolling them out at all? Companies pay in excess of $9000 a booth for the privilege of exhibiting at this show. After I told of my observations to a Ford executive, he thanked me by saying he would use my argument to negotiate a break in his fee. EVS has been a "honey pot" event for too long. Lee Iaccoca said so in so many words on C-SPAN 2 to a classroom full of high school students. He said he was trying to redeem himself by going into the EV business. Will he be able to break free from his past allegiances? I hope so for all our sakes.
On my arrival at the Orlando train station I had to take a cab to the Comfort Inn because Amtrak said there would be a bus and they lied! The cab driver asked me about my trip and I told him about EVS-14. I did fax my press release to all the cab companies listed in the Orlando Film Commission Production Guide. But nobody told him about it. He turned out to be a big fan of electric cars and knew everything about them. He had a copy of the Orlando Weekly on the front seat. He took the latest Electrifying Times as a tip on his $27 fare, that's how excited he was. All I'm trying to say is that if I had a fraction of the budget ASG Renaissance had to promote this show and a year to do the job, it would have been standing room only on Saturday!
That evening we pulled three tables together to the dismay of the waiters and waitresses at Spoodles, a make-believe Mediterranean restaurant on the Boardwalk. The staff of Electrifying Times and EV News gathered around the table to a feast, burying the competitive hatchet to smoke the peace pipe and talk shop all night. I flipped for the braised tuna but the portions were so small they left me wanting. Thank God for the Japanese at the show, the next day during the official opening reception the Dolphin served sushi in the exhibit hall. Tuna is one of the few fishes left you can still eat raw without fear of getting some kind of stomach virus. The bigger the fish, the least susceptible it is to that kind of infection. I won't even get into the mercury levels. I'm told they are not as high as they once were, I guess because civilized human beings have stopped dumping heavy metals into the ocean.
Although EV News doesn't publicly flaunt its belief in repressed technologies like we do, they are as convinced of their reality as we are. Perhaps the day will soon come when we can really confront the industry with their unwillingness to give some of these ostracized free energy inventors a chance to show their stuff. I'm one who firmly believes that there's only baby steps between fuel cell technology and cold fusion. Hopefully our concern for the environment will soon override the greed of preserving the oil infrastructure. Utilities don't care where electricity comes from as long as they can keep selling it to us. That's the plot of the 10th Insight by the author of the Celestine Prophecy. If the Utilities can figure out a way to sell us nothing for something, they'll do it. That's what "conservation" has been for them all these years. They can't let the public produce its own energy. They have to own those solar panels on your roof which is why you don't see ads for home energy systems in mainstream magazines like George or Vogue. Recently the Internet has made long distance rates a thing of the past for those who know how. Hopefully, small energy producers, who call themselves co-generators, will take advantage of this crack in the armor. But the energy cartels have been around a lot longer than the information superhighway. Dethroning their reign has been fleeting.
Our first day at the Dolphin I'd scoped a place to have breakfast called Coral Cafe. The night before the menu quoted $2.95 for eggs, coffee and pancakes. Good deal! We all met there at 6AM and sat down only to realize the menus had been switched for the conference and now it was an all-you-can-eat buffet for $13!!! So we took real advantage of the situation. They even had salmon!!! But the best part was the Mickey face waffles I could mush and slice my heart's content! It's so much fun torturing the mouse. In my book I read cast members can't embarrass a guest, no matter how obnoxious one might get. They have to let things slide and if one gets really out of hand, their only recourse is to call security. So scenes can go on for a long time before being rudely interrupted. It's a shame people aren't aware of that little known fact, because Disney world would become a lot more spontaneous and surprising. Instead people pretty much behave as if in a library. Cast members have developed this secret code to insult guests which only other cast members can decipher. So you get these weird sentence structures coming out of their mouth and these strange glances shooting back and forth. It's quite entertaining once you're tuned in to the charade. Bottom line is you can pretty much get away with anything you want at Disney, but I'm too old now to entice all out mayhem.
I did almost take a swing at someone while I was there. I'm in essence a peaceful man. I've learned to roll with the punches and always walk away from violent situations. I like my nose where it is. But something else happened in the media room which nearly got me going! This national automobile trade publication was responsible for publishing the daily newsletters which were handed out each morning at the Symposium. They had sent an editor to do the job. I formally introduced myself to him as assistant editor of Electrifying Times when the guy started chuckling and turned away from me. So I called him back to attention. That's when I could read in his eyes he didn't care a thing for EVs and thought me a complete asshole. To him this assignment was worse than Siberia. He treated everyone around him like they were subservient. I stayed cordial as my blood curled. The only guise of apology I got for such rude behavior was from one of his copy editors who said: "Hey, I got to work with the guy!" Why give the job of editing the EVS-14 daily to someone who so overtly despises EV enthusiasm unless it's to make sure nothing of importance ever graces those pages? I should have made more of it than I did on the spot, but I wanted to wait until I absorbed the situation to put it into proper perspective. After that incident the media room became a virtual ghost town, the most under utilized resource of the show. It was always empty except for this frustrated tyrant and his terrified staff.
Bruce had himself an Electrifying Times cap made in Oregon. I was jealous and I wanted one too. We had arrived as the official national electric car magazine, staffed with independently minded reporters who believe in and support the industry. We had grown from being a little zone a few years ago to becoming a real magazine with major advertisers, a killer web site, and half a dozen great writers sneaking their nose in everything. It was worth celebrating! I found an outdoor vendor on the boardwalk who made these personalized hats on the spot. So I blew another $27 of my shoe string budget on a camouflage cap with Electrifying Times embroidered in bright golden yellow thread to match our logo. I thought it would impress the Humvee team.
The rain finally let up on the last day. I went back outside to drive the pick-ups. The Ford Ranger is the better pick-up but the S-10 is the better EV. What took me by surprise was the reverse gear on the Ranger. The slightest pressure on the accelerator and the truck went flying backwards! It needs work.
I learned the difference between inductive and conductive chargers. Inductive means it won't zap you when wet! Besides there's something quite kinky about GM's paddle. I can't help but giggle at the fetish and bondage innuendoes. It's a winner in my book. It preserves the erotic appeal of a gas pump nozzle and plays very well visually. My money's on it as the industry standard. Without one we will take forever to set up charging stations all along Route 66. Hollywood seems to have taken a liking for it as well. Andrew Niccol who wrote and directed "Gattaca", a recent sci-fi movie from Columbia Pictures, had Ethan Hawke use the GM paddle in his film. The story takes place in an uncertain future where all cars are classic automobiles restored as EVs.
The revelation for me at the show was algorithmic chargers who can fill batteries full of electrons faster than pumping gas in a tank, without the smell and brain cells killing MTBE! Originally that's why electric cars were popular at the turn of the century because women hated the stench of petrol on their clothes. Now that range can exceed 100 miles with metal hydride and chargers can give you a refill in just a few minutes, there's nothing stopping EVs anymore from conquering the American landscape except corporate inertia.
Robert Kennedy Jr. closed the symposium with his eco spiritual pep talk, lest we forget he was sent up the Hudson River to recover from a heroin addiction! There he met the river keeper and found his calling. He's become a familiar figure on the speaker circuit, barely tailoring his speech from one audience to the next. It's a living. My only personal recollection of him was being disused at the International Design Center in Queens when we inaugurated a green office showroom together. I don't understand his link to the EV industry except that his grandfather is one of the major reason we're in this mess to begin with. Maybe he feels quite guilty and wants to make up for his grandfather's ecological blindness.
When I gave an issue of Electrifying Times to Kenneth Baker, VP at GM, he looked at the cover and said: "Yeah, that's right, there's no reason EVs can't be fun!" Then I asked him for an ad and he passed the buck to someone at Saturn. I hope we get EV1 as an advertiser. It needs to be out there vulnerable to criticism and at the mercy of EV hobbyists. Only this way can it grow and benefit from the feedback. GM needs to show the EV community that it is serious about EVs, not just reluctantly paying lip service to environmental regulations.
Electric cars have been around forever. I used to play with them when I was a kid. My dad had bought me a Selectric set for Christmas. He spent all night hooking the tracks as I was hiding on the staircase wondering why Santa wasn't doing that! I became so good at it I'd win all the races on vacation in the South of France at this local fair run by "vertically challenged" carnies who hated my guts because winners kept playing for free. Finally one day one of them beat me and made me feel really bad, so I lost interest. Now electric toy cars are radio controlled and Radio Shack sells them by the millions. They can do anything, go anywhere, Mars even. They can roll over and stand back up, twirl around in the air, do loop-de-loops! The spirit of the hybrid Humvee team made me think of what could happen if the EV industry started hiring some of these toy makers to build real cars! One just need look at the cyberpunk success of Robot Wars where miniature electric gladiators fight to the death like at cock fights. We'd be having a lot more fun, that's for sure.
The day after EVS-14 closed down Walt Disney's widow died. I thought that was a befitting omen. She had convinced Walt to change the name of his mouse from Mortimer to Mickey and changed the course of history.
© Remy Chevalier
Mirrored from the Electrifying Times website.