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USA: ?Sacramento’s electric-car club

For Tom Dowling, embracing new-fangled gadgets is something that runs in the family.

“My father was an early adopter, and we had the first TV set on the block,” said Dowling, who today is vice president of the Greater Sacramento Electric Auto Association, and owner of two electric cars. That’s right, he’s also an early adopter to the latest auto technology.

Now retired and settled in Folsom, Dowling joined a local chapter of the national Electric Auto Association and spends a lot of his time sharing expertise on things such as electric chargers with other electric-vehicle owners.

There are 85 members in the GSEAA, which is run like an auto club for alternative-vehicle enthusiasts. But a club “for geeks,” according to member David Link, a retired math teacher and owner of a 1998 Honda Civic GX natural-gas car, which is charged by a gas compressor.

Link said the club has been around since the ’70s and has had two incarnations. Its original members were experimenters: They would take ordinary gasoline cars, strip the vehicles of its gas tank, gasoline engine and all parts that were strictly gasoline operated, because there was no EV industry prior to the ’90s.

“There are cars you see driving around that are missing their tailpipe,” said Guy Hall, GSEAA president, who listed old Porsches as vehicles that are popular to convert to electric. “There is still a little bit of that [conversion] going on in the club, it’s mostly [made up of] people who have bought commercial EVs.”

The manufacturing of commercial EVs and their batteries is a direct result of President Barack Obama’s $800 billion economic-stimulus package in 2009. More than $2 billion in federal grants, combined with another $2 billion in private investment for EV manufacturing and its infrastructure has made EVs a higher-profile industry.

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, at the end of 2011 there were 99,917 registered electric vehicles and 395,483 registered hybrid vehicles in California.

Those are small numbers compared to the nearly 32 million gasoline-fueled vehicles in the state, but it is an industry in its infancy after many false starts.
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