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Energy Savers in the Community: Green Transportation Rally

September 22, 2009 - 12:31pm


This year marks the seventh year that I'm organizing a Green Transportation Rally in my city's Labor Day parade. I think it's a great way to educate the public, plus it's a lot of fun. I started out organizing a group of local residents who own hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs). Each year my grandchildren and I lead the group on foot carrying a banner proclaiming "Green Transportation." I produce signs that we tape to the windows or attach to the doors and hoods with magnets. One neighbor produces her own huge cardboard sign that she attaches to the roof, proudly proclaiming that she achieves more than 50 mpg in her hybrid—averaged over nearly 100,000 miles according to her last sign.

After this worked successfully for a couple of years, I also began recruiting members of the Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington, D.C. (EVADC) where I'm a member. Unlike me, a lot of my fellow members have converted gasoline cars to all battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). A couple members own some of the rare BEVs that the major automakers once produced in limited quantities. Each year over the past several years, one, two, or three BEVs joined the parade rally.

EVADC also acquired the Aztec solar racer, a three-wheel solar racing car that MIT students built and raced more than a decade and a half ago. Or rather, EVADC acquired boxes of parts that had once been the Aztec, and a number of dedicated EVADC members spent many long weekends over the course of about a year and a half putting it back together. The original Aztec won top honors in the 1993 American Tour de Sol race. Several years ago the Aztec joined more than a half dozen hybrids and a couple of BEVs in the parade rally (parade speed, no racing), and we won second prize in the automotive category!

Last year, in addition to the standard HEVs and BEVs, we had a plug-in hybrid that one of my fellow members had converted, and two fuel-efficient gasoline Smart cars. We won first prize in the automotive category! The $100 prize is funding local energy efficiency initiatives.

Each year, I always strive to make the Green Transportation Rally better, which is getting increasingly difficult to do. But I think we outdid ourselves again this year. The solar Aztec racer led the group, followed by an electric bike and two electric Vectrix scooters—highway-powerful scooters with a top speed of 62 mph. We also had a battery-electric Toyota RAV4 (which its owner keeps charged from a huge solar array that adorns his home's rooftop), a BUG-E three-wheel electric vehicle, and a plug-in Prius covered with flexible solar panels and towing a trailer sporting six additional rigid solar-electric panels to keep its battery charged. These vehicles were accompanied by several traditional hybrids.

The real (non-vehicle) star of the show was my 4-year old granddaughter, Katelyn. She, her two sisters, and their friend marched in front of the Aztec solar racer carrying the "Green Transportation" banner. When I first told Katelyn to wave at the crowd as we walked, she saw everyone waving back, and she enthusiastically waved, alternating waving at the crowd on the left to the crowd on the right, the entire length of the parade route. Hopefully when Katelyn grows up and gets her license, she'll demand high efficiency, clean vehicles.

So, how did we fare this year? We won first prize in the automotive category!!! And I know just the community energy efficiency measure I’m going to implement with the $100 prize money!