Mr. Green Car: Previewing green cars at the Energy Fair

Ruth showing off a spring outfit with HER Volt. Hubby Allen will talk about her everyday use of this interesting electric vehicle. (Photo by Allen Penticoff)
Ruth showing off a spring outfit with HER Volt. Hubby Allen will talk about her everyday use of this interesting electric vehicle. (Photo by Allen Penticoff)

By Allen Penticoff
Freelance Writer

This weekend, Aug. 23 and 24, will be the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair at the Ogle County Fairgrounds near Oregon, Illinois. I have been attending this event for many years, and have often had a vehicle on display, helped with set-up and take-down, and even had some presentations. For many years, I tabled for a green community organization. This year, I’ll be doing a “Mr. Green Car” presentation at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 23, about “Living With A Volt.”

Regular readers know I own a Chevy Volt and am a strong proponent of electric vehicles. In part, I’ve come to this because of my exposure to alternative-fueled vehicles and seminars I’ve attended at what I call “The Renewable Energy Fair.”

On both days of the fair, there are many interesting seminars presented by very knowledgeable people — I often find I’d like to be in two or three places at once. I could easily spend the entire time of both days in seminars. But sitting in sheds in the heat and dust all day is not so pleasant — so wandering around and checking out the displays or music in the dining shelter are fun things to do as well.

In the past, we had several vehicles to inspect in the area dedicated to alternative-fuel vehicles. There are gasoline-powered cars converted to electric power, biodiesel buses, vegetable oil-powered vehicles — including my own VW Rabbit (not this year — it’s broken). There have been factory-made “golf cart” electric vehicles, and in the last two years, appearances by a Nissan Leaf and a Chevy Volt — the latter was being charged by the Electricians’ Union solar and wind demonstration display. I hope I can get some of that solar power for my Volt, too. Original 100 mpg Honda Insights and alternative recumbent bicycles have been on display or available for short test drives, too.

Since the number of displayed vehicles has somewhat waned in the last couple of years, I’d like to encourage any readers who have an efficient or alternative-fueled vehicle to put it on display and hang out and talk up your ride. You’ll find plenty of interested fairgoers. It does not mean you are locked into standing around in the sun all day. Just lock your doors and go enjoy a seminar of interest or wander about and have an ice cream cone while marveling at the ever-changing and beautiful gardens on the fairgrounds.

For a long time, I was interested in converting a gas-powered car to electric power; or to buy an older Prius and add a bigger battery pack to make it a plug-in hybrid. Both are things you can do — but in the end, the easier and more practical thing is to go buy a factory-made electric car like the Leaf or Volt.

The factory-made cars have much more going for them than any home-built conversion I’ve ever seen — and do-it-yourself conversions are not particularly inexpensive, either. However, don’t let me stop you from doing it if you are so inclined.

My seminar will talk about our real-life experience with the Volt and discuss some of its finer technical points. I’ll be open to discussing other green transportation topics as well — I often learn things from audience members. And that is what the fair is all about. Interaction, networking, education and meeting old friends again. If you’ve been before and skipped it a few years, I invite you to return and enjoy the fine programs and displays at this unique event, brought to us by Bob and Sonia Vogl and the dedicated crew from the Illinois Renewable Energy Association.

All hybrids, electrics, diesels and fuel-efficient vehicles (40 mpg or greater) that attend the fair will receive a special, front-row parking area. So, if you arrive (car pool as much as possible) in one, look for a sign to park in your special area — we’d like to show how many of you have already taken the plunge into environmentally-responsible driving.

From the Aug. 20-26, 2014, issue

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