Charlie MacArthur, EV Activist: 1928 – 2015


The EV world lost a powerful activist and ally this past weekend.  Charles MacArthur, AKA “altenergyinventor” of Sangerville, Maine died in the company of his family on Saturday, at age 87.

Charles – “Charlie” – was a lifelong advocate of renewable energy, electric vehicles and alternatives to fossil-fuel transportation.  He was born in Lewiston, Maine, a graduate of Bates College and for a short time an English teacher at Edward Little High School in Auburn.  In the early ’70s he moved to Connecticut and began work on several hot-air balloons of his own design (and construction), and when he learned of the release of Mike Corbin’s first production electric motorcycle in 1974, negotiated a trade – a balloon for a bike.  Thus began a lifelong friendship between the two, leading to Charlie’s purchase of one of the earliest models of Corbin’s Sparrow in the mid-’90s.

MacArthur no sooner bought the Corbin bike, than he made the summit attempt of Mount Washington with it.  Washington is the tallest peak in New England, and has one of the earliest-dating auto roads to the summit – it also claims the “World’s Worst Weather”.  Charlie MacArthur was the first person to climb the mountain with an electric motorcycle – in fact, likely the first to climb it on any sort of electric-powered vehicle.

Charlie at the 2013 Mt Washington ALT Energy Summit

Charlie (in yellow) at the 2013 Mt Washington ALT Energy Summit

In 1975, Charlie and Mike Corbin (the second to climb the mountain on an electric motorcycle) got together and started the “Alternate Energy Regatta”, an event to foster invention, creativity and dedication to finding renewable energy transportation solutions.  This year, as the ALT Energy Summit, the Auto Road is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Charlie and Mike’s vision.

Charles MacArthur at the summit of Mt Washington on the Corbin Electric Motorcycle

Charles MacArthur at the summit of Mt Washington on the Corbin Electric Motorcycle

Charlie had a long, colorful list of accomplishments in renewable energy – he had a remarkable collection of over 60 “microcars” – many electric, one of which (a Reliant Robin) he piloted cross-country in 2003.  He authored a “The Arrangement”, a novel set in a post-fossil-fuel New York, and reconditioned a small hydro-electric plant (part of a small mill) in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, where he supplied the town with much of it’s power and “kept nuclear power out of this small community”.

In the last few years, and after decades of sometimes frustrating efforts, Charlie started to see the results of his commitment to electric vehicle development.  He drove the Mt Washington Auto Road’s electric Smart Car to the summit in 2013, fairly raved about the regen ability of the car, and the recovery of all but 10% of the energy in the descent, as well as appreciating the local hydro-powered charging station that the Auto Road installed at the base.  This past year he installed his own 100% solar array on his land, experimented with various bio-diesel projects harvested from plants he grew on his own land, and had logged over 200,000 miles on his Toyota Prius, one of the first sold in Maine. For the first time in his life, renewable energy transportation was becoming a reality.

This year’s Mt Washington Auto Road ALT Energy Summit is to be held in honor and memory of Charlie MacArthur: the “Alt-Energy Inventor”.

Charlie inspects 2015 technology

Charlie inspects 2015 technology, and the third electric bike to make the summit

The video “Sea to Sea” gives you a remarkable chance to get to know Charlie, during his cross-country 3-wheeled journey in 2003:

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7 Comments on "Charlie MacArthur, EV Activist: 1928 – 2015"

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Thanks for the article. Charlie will be greatly missed by the EV Community that knew him.

The best guy in a lifetime .
Charlie made us all better .
I cannot find the words to express how happy I am to have Charlie in my life .
A true early weaver of ideas and people that have made wonderful contributions to our solar revolution .
I will honor Charlie’s friendship with relentless efforts to move electrics forward !
We haven’t lost him because he let us know what we should be doing .

I’m glad to see EV pioneers honored. As the EV world multiplies before our eyes, it’s easy to forget the relentless persistence and true social valor of our technological forebears.
Congratulations on a life well lived!

R.I.P. we need more people like you ! Thank you for being a pioneer!

Be this kind of spirit live forever.
Nice work Charles!
Keep on going.

I’m glad that he got to see the return of electric vehicles during his lifetime. 🙂 RIP good sir!

Carol MacArthur Ansel

Thanks, Ted. This is a lovely write-up.
Carol (Charlie’s youngest daughter)