The New England

Alternative Energy Transportation

Festival 2007

I had been planning for this show for months. I came across it while web-surfing for information about hybrids. It seemed the proper place for the Zhang Heng, and I wanted to be able to see what the other alternative fuel technologies were being developed. It was also held in the center of Boston, which promised to bring many spectators, and it would allow me to visit my daughter Irene, now in her third year at Emerson College. I tried to find a car dealer who would sponsor me and help pay the substantial entry fee, but found no takers.

I got some conversation going on PriusChat, the most active chat board of Prius owners, and made contact with some character named Hobbit who had been to previous years of the show, and had some contact with the organizers. Eventually we agreed not only to show our vehicles together, but to include several others as the "Hybrid Owners Experience Group" (My suggestion of the Hybrid Owner's Society [The HO'S] was declined for some reason). Each of us had a hybrid that we had done something unique with, and we would use the exhibit to share our enthusiasm, do some education, and have some fun. Hobbit (May the hair on his feet grow ever longer!) went though considerable hassle to secure us a site, and negotiate with the site contractors to keep the price affordable for us lowly users, take care of insurance matters, and other miscellaneous bureaucrap.

At my end, I turned the trip into a weeklong vacation to visit relatives and old friends of boarding school, college, and later days. I left the day after the second Kingston carshow, and made a trip though New England that took me through Northampton, Boston, Portland, Rockland, Freeport, Peak's Island, Portsmouth, and back to Boston for the show. It was a wonderful week with highlights including sailing on Penobscot Bay, A tapas dinner outdoor on Newbury Street, attending a Blue Man Group performance, and being hustled at chess ("I play a little") by my boarding school buddy Barnabas Johnson.

All the driving gave me time to become familiar with the Prius' electronic features including the GPS and the Bluetooth phone connection. Thursday evening, just before arriving in Boston, I stopped and washed the car at a car wash. There was not quite as much to do this time, mainly removing dead insects and road grime accumulated from a week's driving. I beamed down to the site of the show an hour early (Hobbit said get there at 6, I fixed 5 AM in my head as a time to get up to get there, then in the course of a week moved it somewhere in my head to 5 AM to get there). The arrival appears to have been a bit bumpy,

but I had the place to my self for an hour.

Hobbit and the others showed up and we set up the canopies and arranged the vehicles for maximum effect.

Our group consisted of Hobbit, who has turned his Prius into a rolling research vehicle and educational exhibit ,

Mike Dabrowski, Honda Insight guru, who modified his Honda Insight to run in all-electric mode (a case of "Prius envy" he calls it),

No mean feat, since the vehicle was not designed for this, so he added batteries, another electric motor, and another wheel to get the job done.

 (This photo from Mike's Web Page)

Doug Hartley, who turned his Prius into a plug-in hybrid. With an extra battery pack, he can get 100 MPG

 

Jesse Rudavsky with his 2002 Prius that he now has 322,000 miles on, with the original battery pack still going strong.

This car has been around.

Also present were Denise ("Neicy"), an owner who spent much of both days with us, sharing chores and answering questions, though she was not showing her car. Daniel Pare, a friend of Doug's from Quebec was also there most of the time.

Our location was right near the exit from the Metro, so there was plenty of traffic all the time.

On Friday morning during rush hour there was an enormous amount of traffic, but we were barely noticed. People on their way to work are focussed on that alone. We would not have been noticed by most of them even if the Pope, Elvis, and Osama bin Laden were standing with us. Nevertheless, we were busy all the time.

All sorts of folks stopped by including the merely curious, prospective hybrid owners, present owners, dedicated enthusiasts wanting information on making plug-in conversions, and of course Trekkers. We spent the day answering all sorts of questions, demonstrating the vehicles, and demonstrating the two setups showing how the transmission of the Prius works. We received many compliments.

 

We each took some time out to see the rest of the show. I got brief looks at biodiesel trucks and cars,

vehicles powered by propane and natural gas,

a fuel cell car,

some home brew vehicles,

human powered vehicles,

some electric vehicles, and some stuff that is hard to describe.

Ford and GM were most unimpressive, showing only cars and trucks that were ready for market, not things like the electric Chevy Volt concept.

GM was regarded as a sort of running joke, beginning with their economy car that got all of 30 MPG, followed by the alarm going off in their hybrid SUV -- "All noise, no substance." There was more at the show that I did not get a chance to see.

Late on Saturday Alison, the founder, stopped by to thank us all. She later sent an additional message after she got to see the pictures that showed the full extent of what we had done. My moment came when a fellow stopped me as he left to say that the Zhang Heng had really contributed to the show. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Another MIT-type said the car was nerdy enough to give me real "street cred."

On the second day, Hobbit and I installed some upgrades to my Prius that I had brought along. Hobbit had spent some sleepless time the previous evening translating the description of what we were doing into Treknobabble. "We are installing and Intermix Preheater, to allow the transefer of energy from the Spacedock reactors directly to the shuttle, to allow the Warp core to acheive full power, and allowing the spacecraft to get toe the Neutral Zone more quickly to intercept a Romulan incursion."

as a gay man came by and asked him what his intention was with the K-Y. This sent Denise and me in to fits of laughter as Hobbit actually turned red.

It was always cool when Star Trek fans came by. I could spot the Trekkers as they walked up. They looked at the Zheng Heng, and froze while their eyeballs and their cerebral cortexes had a little conversation about the reality that appeared to be in front of them. Then a huge smile would take over their face, and sometimes they would start laughing.

Then they would look over every bit of the car. If there was time I would jump inside and demonstrate the sound effects: phasers, photon torpedoes, warp drive, etc. The words I most often heard were "cool,"awesome," and "love." When I heard those words, I gave them one of my flyers.

  

I brought fifty. I gave them all away.

Better than a trophy.