Individuals get jump on electric cars

July 2, 2009 6:45:04 PM PDT
So if you're beginning to see charging stations, you might wonder where all the electric cars are. The answer might surprise you -- they're everywhere and more of them come from backyard builders rather than Detroit.

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This year, the Marin County Fair has plenty of conventional rides. Something different though is the carousel that runs on solar power and the fair is featuring many electric cars.

"We built something that GM refused to build," says San Anselmo resident Raul Atkinson.

Atkinson loves to show off his home-built, all-electric replica of a 1965 Daytona.

"How about President Obama, instead of giving $100 billion to a few failing companies, put $50 million into 20,000 new companies?" saus Atkinson.

Most of these cars electric cars evolved from home-built projects. Pat Mackey, from San Francisco, commutes in an electrified Miata.

"It's like a blender. It just works," says Mackey.

Peter Oliver used to own a computer company. Then, he electrified retro.

"Well, I needed something to attract attention," says Oliver.

It worked. He is one of many entrepreneurs who wants to be ready for a changing market. Oliver believes in electric cars so much that he's turned an old Ford dealership in Sebastopol into a factory, and the parking lot, into a test track.

So much for electric cars looking geeky.

"It should look graceful and elegant, and represent the speed and grace you get," says Oliver.

It's not just one business in Oliver's building building, but seven, from cars, to motorcycles, to all the stuff that goes into them.

Thomas Cook, for instance, has developed an energy management system for batteries.

"I might as well try. I have time and interest and motivation," says Cook.

So if you've wondered, lately, why hardly anyone makes electric cars yet, you're looking in the wrong places. The idea is to think big, stay small, and move fast.

"We're taking orders at this point, but you would be the first," says Oliver.

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