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No VROOM for gasoline

June 01, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN - Mark Hanson grabbed his helmet and slid behind the wheel of his 1974 Porsche 914.

Pulling out onto a rain-soaked track, the car slid just a whisper as he threw it into a hairpin turn and snaked it around a slalom of orange traffic cones.

Hanson alternated accelerator and brake as he focused to keep the Porsche under control.

But as he revved his engine, there was no thundering roar, no cloud of exhaust smoke - and no gasoline.

Hanson drives a vehicle powered by electricity.

An advocate of energy-efficient living, Hanson is president of Solectrol Electronics, a Virginia company that supplies electronic controls for wind and solar heating, as well as electric cars.

Hanson said he completely restored his red Porsche, including the conversion to electric power, at a cost of about $10,000.

On Saturday, he joined other electric vehicle owners for an AutoCross at the South End Shopping Center.

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The event was part of the eighth annual Power of DC, two days of electric vehicle racing that ends today with a drag race at the Mason-Dixon Dragway.

Activities have been organized by the Electric Vehicle Association of Washington, D.C., and are sanctioned by the National Electric Drag Racing Association.

About two dozen electric vehicle owners from across the country are attending the event, said Chip Gribben of Laurel, Md., Power of DC race organizer.

This is the second year the event has been in Hagerstown.

"Electric vehicle racing is becoming more and more popular," Gribben said. "It's all the fun of racing without using gasoline."

Gribben said the Electric Vehicle Association (EVA) is a nonprofit organization of EV owners, hobbyists, educators and enthusiasts who are dedicated to promoting electronic vehicles as an environmental and energy alternative.

Founded in the 1980s, Gribben said the group offers meetings, car shows and "tech sessions" to exchange information.

"Our membership continues to grow," he said, with meetings averaging about 40 people.

Gribben said the chapter attracts individuals from all walks of life, male and female. Some are electric vehicle owners, while others are interested in learning more about the technology.

"They're looking for alternatives to the high cost of gasoline, but they're also concerned about the environmental aspects," he said.

Among Saturday's racers was John Mogelnicki of Ferndale, Mich., who was debuting his newly built ElectroLite Roadster.

Constructed from a kit, Mogelnicki said the racer is run by 24 Optima D750S batteries, has a system voltage of 288 and can go from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.

"I've been working on this for the past six months and just finished it yesterday," he said. "I still have to make some small changes, but I'm ready to see how it handles."

Mogelnicki said he loved radio-controlled cars as a child.

"With the trend toward electric, I decided, as an adult, it was time to build a car of my own," he said. "Today's kits make it very doable."

Building or converting an electric vehicle can be a rewarding experience, Gribben said.

There are Web sites that guide you step by step, as well as offer resources for parts, supplies and helpful information, he said.

Gribben said today's drag race is open to the public, and also will feature a challenge for electric motorcycles. The event also will include a display of electric vehicles, and trophies and prizes will be awarded.

A recent press release stated that the Travel Channel and Planet Green from the Discovery Channel are expected to attend the drag race.




If you go

What: Eighth annual Power of DC electric vehicle drag race

When: Today, noon to 4:30 p.m.

Where: Mason-Dixon Dragway, 21003 National Pike (U.S. 40), one-half mile east of the intersection with Md. 66

Cost: $10 for spectators older than 12

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