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Silicon Valley electric car show leaves the hobbyists behind

40th Annual Silicon Valley Electric Vehicle (EV) Rally & Show
Columnist Joe Rodriguez test drives A&B electric bike of ELV Motors at the 40th Annual Silicon Valley Electric Vehicle (EV) Rally & Show at De Anza College Parking Lot A in Cupertino, Calif., on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. (Josie Lepe/Staff)

On National Plug In Day, the newest in electric vehicles were on display Sunday at De Anza College in Cupertino. What used to be a gathering of geeks who built eccentric vehicles in their garages has become more like a regular, commercial car show.
“I don’t know where all the hobbyists went,” said Frank Bletsch, who sat quietly behind his hand-built “Electric Urban Micro Hauler,” a tall, three-wheeled contraption with a short cargo bed. “It’s become more commercial.”
Most visitors to the 40th show put on by the Silicon Valley chapter of the Electric Auto Association gravitated to commercially manufactured or customized electric cars, motorcycles or bicycles that could get them to work and back on the same day, or to Lake Tahoe with speed and style.
People lined up for free rides in electric Toyotas and Tesla’s roadster.
“I’m here for the fast ride,” said Gopal Shan, who commutes to work in a Toyota Prius hybrid. He jumped into a Tesla roadster owned and driven by Steve Casner, who gave Shan a spin on the wild side of the oh-so-responsibly green business.
Casner calmly maneuvered the roadster out of the parking lot, moved quietly over to the onramp to Highway 85, and then floored it. The roadster bolted ever so briefly before taking the next exit, but long enough to give passengers a sense of the car’s powerful acceleration.
A software engineer, Casner volunteered to give free rides to promote electric personal
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transportation. Although he’s owned a few electric cars since 1998, he and his wife have a gasoline-powered car for their long hauls. He insists that’s no contradiction.
“You can commute in an electric every day and then drive the gasoline car to the mountains, or you can rent one,” argues Casner. “That’s the practical way to go.”

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