The Wife and I attended the Ford Focus Test Drive Event in Richmond VA on Thursday April 26th. I like to bring her to such things because she's so easy on the eyes and smart that she helps to temper my EV nuttiness, making me seem almost normal.
It is a bit surprising that the Old Dominion would warrant so much attention so soon in the Ford Focus Electric launch sequence, but the Focus Electric is going to be the pace car for NASCAR's Richmond International Raceway 400 (AKA the Kyle Busch 400) on Saturday the 28th. Ford has put out a lot of car buying statistics about NASCAR fans, which basically condense down to the fact that if people watch a car go around in a circle for 400 laps or so they a very likely to buy that car.
If you haven't been to a NASCAR race you really should do it at least once. It is a mind boggling display of speed, power and cunning, and that's just to find a good parking spot. Also do not be surprised if those you attend the race with do not actually bother to go into the track. The action on the track is surpassed only by the action in the parking lot. Ford was quite cunning in selecting that particular track. There is certain to be lots of "pace car time."
We arrived in Richmond well ahead of the scheduled 3pm time for the "test drive event ." This is the kind of thing you do when you have an electric car, even one with a backup gas generator like the Volt. You go early and find an excuse to go to places that just happen to have charging stations. We popped into the nearby Science Museum of Virginia (SMV), and as luck would have it, installed prominently and conveniently right in front of the museum was a charging station. They are ChargePoint stations. I have a ChargePoint card which I had previously activated. One swipe of the car, one rewarding beep sound from the station, and we were in business.
All of this was witnessed by a whole gaggle of school kids who were lined up and piling onto a bus. The stared at us rather like we were stepping off of a UFO. For half a second as I plugged it in, I thought about acting like I was being shocked, but knew the wife wouldn't approve so I nixed the idea. Pondering the wife's reaction has kept me from doing a lot of dumb things. In hindsight, I probably should have offered to let one of the kids plug the car in.
The Science Museum of VA. That's the Director of Wonder's Volt parked at the charging station. Free charging and prime parking spot right in front, how sweet it is. For those of you who like to crack vanity plate messages, this Volt has the plate" XBA 5000" What do you make of that?
The SMV is way cool. It is set in a historic train station, complete with steam locomotive and tender. Also, there is a passenger car and aluminum submarine to see. There is much to do and explore, certianly much more than the two hours we had. We managed to attend the "Lab Rats" demo. Expected it to be a snoozer, but found it informative and funny. The SMV is in a network of 300+ "science" museums in Virginia and elsewhere. Joining any one of those museums potentially gets you into all of the others, but the rules vary by museum so check ahead.
As luck would have it, the SMV was hosting Senior Project Day for Virginia Commonwealth University. And as we exited, 5 guys were guiding a beat up 4 door sedan off of a rollback onto the entrance of the museum. These guys had converted it to electric for their Senior Project. Well sort of. The car was not nearly done, even after 3 years of work. I pointed out to them that they were 5 and I was one, and my EV conversion had taken 3 months. They pointed out to me that they had spent most of their time actually building and programming from scratch the electronic controller unit. That shut me up. Couldn't do that if I had 30 years. Wiring up batteries and the components would be child's play compared to that, so hopefully their prof will be willing to look past the fact that this car is at the moment motivated by a Flintstone powertrain.
Leaving the SMV and heading to Richmond Ford Lincoln we sighted this:
Demo Volt at Royal Chevrolet in Richmond VA
It has been interesting to watch how various dealers handle EVs. On the extreme negative we had Rep. Mike Kelly (R, PA) who also is a Chevrolet dealer. He reportedly fired an employee who placed an order for the Volt. Kelly apparently wanted nothing to do with the Volt. Would it surprise you to know that Mike Kelly has oil interests? On the other end we have dealers who are fully embracing EVs and even installing solar powered canopies with charging stations.
Some will no doubt think the message on the Volt above is overstated. For me the message on this Volt is exactly right. 18 of the 21 hijackers on 9/11 were from one country. That same country was the 3rd largest importer of oil to America last year. Go ahead America, keep giving money to people who hate your stinking guts, see how that works out for you.
Continuing up W. Broad we arrived at Richmond Ford Lincoln. Front and center was the 18 wheeler being used to haul the Focus Electric test drive vehicles around, join us tomorrow when we actually talk about driving the Focus Electric!
Focus Electric and Test Drive Event Tractor Trailer at Richmond Ford Lincoln