2017 Santa Monica Alt fuel Expo
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Sunday September 17, 2017 – 2017 Santa Monica Alt Fuel Expo – Yesterday I attended the Santa Monica Alt Fuel Expo held each year at the Santa Monica Civic Center. I got there early to try and beat the crowds and I think I managed that quite well.
Knowing that there would be no available chargers at the Civic Center, I stopped at Santa Monica place. Surprisingly all 6 chargers were available so I was able to plug-in for the charge I would need to get me back home. From Santa Monica Place it is a short walk to the Civic Center.
The Expo itself also seemed smaller. I was told that they were doing some work in the auditorium so there was nothing being held in there, everything was set out in the parking lot. This year there were no EV start-ups unless you count Karma, and only one company showing conversions. I was told that Tesla had been there on Friday but the space they occupied was empty on Saturday morning.
The first place I hit was the Nissan stand. They had the next generation Nissan Leaf on display. It looked to me like it was quite a bit larger than the old leaf but that shows how sometimes static displays with doors, hood, and trunk open can make the car look bigger than it actually is. It wasn't until I noticed one of the City of Santa Monica current generation Leafs parked nearby that I could compare and realize they are pretty much the same size. The new leaf does look quite good though and I am sure it is going to sell well. Of course they only had a static display and were not offering test drive so after checking out the cars I moved on.
The one car that had a large queue for test drives was the Chevy Bolt so I bypassed that car for the time being and went over to Kia where one of the ladies there told me I would be the first person to take a test drive that day. They had a Soul EV, Kia Optima PHEV, and a nice looking crossover that turned out to be the Niro PHEV. Since I have already driven the Soul EV, and the Niro was not yet on the market, I decided to give it a whirl. It really was a nice car to drive and quite comfortable. The lady from Kia told me that the car would go about 35 miles on a charge and will be available for sale in November.
I walked around a little bit and noticed a sign saying Karma. Parked next to the sign was what looked like a Fisker Karma but I assume that this is the new Karma that is now being built here in California. I didn't see anyone around to talk to so I went back to the Chevrolet stand. The line for the Bolt had thinned a little so I decided to bite the bullet and get in line. I turned out I didn't need to wait too long as they had 3 bolts giving test drives.
The first thing I noticed when getting into the Bolt was the bolster at the side of the seat was very hard making getting into or out of the seat quite uncomfortable. The seats themselves were also uncomfortable. I'm sure they would be OK for a short commute but I wouldn't like to sit in them for a 100 miles drive. The guy from Chevrolet told me that they had heard this a lot and were passing the message up to Detroit. Some people seem to be OK with the seats while others have used cushions to add comfort.
Apart from the seats the car does drive really well. It is a fun drive with lots of power if you stomp on the go pedal and it seems to handle pretty well, although on the short test dive in busy traffic handling is always difficult to evaluate properly. There are also several levels of regen and it can be set to a point where it will bring the car to a complete stop allowing one foot driving.
After checking out the Bolt I moved on to Honda which had all three of their Clarity vehicles on display including the PHEV that will not be available until the end of this year. While the Clarity FCEV and the Clarity Electric are both lease only the PHEV will actually go on sale. Yesterday Honda were only offering rides in the Clarity Electric.
The Clarity Electric is a pretty good EV for commuting with around 88 miles or range per charge. In this case Honda had gone for building a larger more luxury EV rather than going for a high range econo-box. The car is a big bigger than most EVs outside of Tesla and it does have lots of nice functions such as blind spot warning and a camera that lets you look at the curb when you do a right turn. My biggest issue with the car though was not the range but, though not quite as bad as the Bolt, the seating felt uncomfortable.
The Clarity EV is actually quite spritely when you run it in sport mode with plenty of kick from the accelerator. Hit the button to put it into eco mode and the acceleration is notably less but it doesn't get sluggish like some cars I've driven. The car offers four levels of regen controlled by a pair of paddles on the steering column. The paddles are marked + and - but their use is counterintuitive. If you want to increate regen you pull up on the - paddle and if you want to reduce it you pull up on the + paddle. I tried all 4 levels during my test drive but compromised on using level 2 for most of the course.
While I was exiting the car I got an alert on my phone saying my car was fully charged. Not wanting to hog the charger, and having already driven most of the other cars available for test drives, I decided to head back to the car and get some lunch on the way home.
I have been attending the Santa Monica Alt Fuel Expo since it was just the clean car show held on 3rd Street Promenade where they first introduced cars like the Nissan Altra, Gizmo, and T-Zero to the public. This year was the quietest that I have ever seen the event. Lately this event has become part of National Drive Electric Week and I think that this has given potential attendees other options but lower crowds meant shorter lines for test drives so all in all it was a pretty enjoyable event.
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