Friday, October 21, 2011


A cover story in the Oregonian newspaper today reports that several Oregon forestry companies hired foreign workers for contracts won under the federal stimulus program. The story tells how these companies used loopholes in federal regulations and deceptive practices to avoid hiring local workers and instead obtained temporary visas for foreign workers.

This story is easy pickings for Republican politicians to rail about wasteful Obama administration programs and the stimulus program. But I have a different take: this is yet another story about corporate greed and the widespread lack of corporate responsibility for the condition of our economy and the well being of Americans.

Here's the list of the Oregon companies implicated in this unforgivable episode: Medford Cutting Edge Forestry, Summit Forestry, Ponderosa Reforestations, and G. E. Forestry. All I can say to these companies, if the allegations are true, is shame on you!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


As I walked down Electric Avenue in Portland, Oregon today, I realized that the smile on my face was because I suddenly didn't feel like an oddball. I had driven my Zap electric truck to National Plug-in Day, and I was surrounded by about three dozen electric vehicles (EVs), including two other Zaps. It's always a good feeling to be among people like yourself.

Everyone there is interested in EVs. Many brought their EV to display and talk about. The vehicles ranged from mass-produced Nissan Leafs, Chevy Volts, and Toyota plug-in electric models to home-made conversions (converting a brand name gasoline vehicle to electric) and everything in between. The common denominator is a conviction that the gasoline-centric transportation in the USA is not sustainable, and EVs offer kind of a no-brainer solution.

Here are a few examples of the EVs at the event today.
Of course I'll start with a picture of my Zap Xebra PK truck next to a TWIKE pedal-assist EV (  There was another Zap PK at the event, and a zebra-striped Zap 4-door sedan. The TWIKE brand, now being built in Germany, gets about 40 miles to a charge, configured like this one at 336 volts, compared to the 18 miles I get on the 72 volt Zap PK.

This prototype EV is made by Arcimoto in Eugene, Oregon. It's also a 3-wheeler that the company plans to have in production by next year, and will have 4 different models ( Range will vary from 40 to 80 miles, depending on the type of battery pack, and the cost will be under $20,000. These EVs seat two people in tandem position. Cool machines!

Next up, a late 1990s (1997?) factory-built Chevy EV pickup truck. Yes, GM built these in the late '90s for the California market, as mandated by that state. Only a few of these were sold, the remainder were leased, and all of those were pulled back by GM a few years later, never to be seen again. GM was ahead of the times with these vehicles, and this one is still running strong.

How about a home-built conversion, a Saturn EV? Here it is, converted about three years ago by a young man I chatted with. He packed a bunch of lead acid batteries in the front and back, added electric motor, controller and other components, and has run the car gas-free since.

Something that impressed me at the event was talking with people who are very knowledgeable about EVs and their technoology. I have a lot to learn from these folks!

And if you get the bug for EVs, how about an EV Beetle? There were two conversion companies represented at the event who were showing converted 1970s VeeDubs. These are really sweet. I talked with Ernest from Voltwagen EPC (Electric People Car ) who converted the red one, and found out that it has a decent range (40-100 miles per charge, depending on battery pack), and you can even shift gears if needed. I didn't see the owner of the green Bug, but it's by Green Scene in Milwaukie, Oregon (

It's that time of year when leaves are all over the street, and Electric Avenue was no exception. There were more Nissan Leaf EVs than any other brand. Although I didn't talk to a Leaf owner, these are very nice, "normal" looking cars, and they seem to be selling well in Portland.

 And, OK, who wouldn't be green with envy over this green (in more ways than one) beauty, a MG ragtop conversion. This is a beautiful car, and the conversion looks to me like a marvelous job.

And finally, here's a crowd stopper: an electric monocycle. I only overheard part of a conversation with the owner/builder, but it uses technology similar to the Segway, with the driver's body movements acting as controls. It even sounds like the Portland Police are interested in these for local patrols.

There's a paradigm shift starting to build in this country. More and more people are looking for alternatives to petroleum-fueled vehicles, and electric vehicle technology has made tremendous strides in the past few years. I'm a proponent of small, medium-range EVs for urban use - commuting to work, going shopping, taking the kids to soccer practice, etc. A vehicle with a range of 30-40 mpc (miles per charge) would work for most folks. I'm encouraged by what I saw today. Thanks EV community!