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Electric Vehicle Symposium Draws Tech-Savvy L.A. Crowds

Willy Nolan |
May 8, 2012 | 7:08 p.m. PDT



Ample International Inc.'s e-quadricycle, one of the electric vehicle models featured at EVS 26. (Willy Nolan/Neon Tommy)
Ample International Inc.'s e-quadricycle, one of the electric vehicle models featured at EVS 26. (Willy Nolan/Neon Tommy)
More than 3,000 people from 47 countries filled the Los Angeles Convention Center earlier this week for EVS 26, the nation’s largest electric vehicle symposium

Beginning on Sunday, the conference allowed electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers, developers and parts suppliers to showcase new products and the latest electric vehicle technology.

Sales of the all-electric Nissan Leaf and plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, the two most popular battery-powered vehicles in the U.S., set records in March but fell significantly in April. But inconsistent sales didn’t seem to bother expo exhibitors who were pleased with the turnout and upbeat about the future. 

“You can really see that the EV industry is growing,” said Luis Giron, an exhibitor from Siemens. “It’s great to see that there are companies that are bringing new technologies to market which will allow us to electrify transportation.”

Attendees also seemed happy with the symposium, particularly the chance to test-drive new EVs as part of the “Ride And Drive” exhibit held in a parking lot outside.

“This is the largest and greatest I have ever seen,” Steve Lough, president of the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association, said. “The Ride And Drive has all the latest automobiles.” 

The annual conference is organized by the World Electric Vehicle Association and visits the U.S. every three years. Next year the symposium heads to Barcelona, Spain.

“When it is in the U.S., we typically hold it somewhere on the West Coast because there are a lot of Asian participants,” said Emory Oney of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, an industry trade organization that helps organize the EVS.

The global presence of the EVS separates it from smaller, more local alternative fuel expositions, such as next weekend’s Natural Gas Vehicle Seminar in Long Beach.

Shida Zheng travelled with his company from China to promote what he calls “the world’s first e-Quadricycle.”

Zheng said the contraption had been a hit at the symposium. “It is a four-wheeled motorcycle, completely powered by electricity,” he explained. “Many people have come by to take pictures.”

Participants from at least one other nation came to publicize something besides products. Representatives from Holland attended EVS 26 to boost their country’s appeal for manufacturers.

“We do not produce any vehicles,” said Monique Vredenburg from Holland’s e-mobility booth. “We are promoting Holland because we feel it is a very good test market. It is small in size but the people are very innovative—they are open to new ideas.”

Though the expo wasn’t organized by region, companies from the United Kingdom occupied an entire corner of the convention center.

Nissan, Toyota and General Motors all had cars on display and increased their visibility by sponsoring the symposium. But American car companies Ford and Chrysler were noticeably absent. 

Registered attendees were able to do more than just see and test the ever-advancing technology. EVS 26 also included presentations, workshops and keynote speakers like EV advocate Chelsea Sexton, former General Motors Co. Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Attendees looking for a swankier experience enjoyed cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and live music at a gala Tuesday night at the California Science Center.

In most demonstration expos, many of the vehicles on display (which included an all-electric motorcycle made by both Orange County Choppers and Siemens, an original EV 1 and a BMW ActiveE) will never be produced, but this wasn’t the case for those showcased at EVS 26.

“They are either on the market, things you can actually buy and drive home, or they soon will be,” Steve Lough said.

For Lough, who has been involved with electric vehicles for 25 years and attended many symposiums, this year’s EVS was still special—a learning experience if nothing else.

“I met a lot of important people,” he said, “and I listened to a lot of interesting discussions every day.”


Reach Contributor Willy Nolan here.



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