In the midst of the mayhem that is the Democratic National Convention in Denver, 10 electric vehicles can be found zipping along the streets of Denver or idling at the corner of Speer and Champa. Boulder County, Colo. delegate Nate Vanderschaaf brought them to Denver as part of the Electric Vehicle Rolling Showcase — a personal effort to leverage his position as a delegate to bring attention to (and free rides in) electric vehicles at the convention.
The showcase caused a bit of a media storm on Sunday, when Daryl Hannah, actress and alternative transportation aficionado, stopped by the Showcase to check out the electric wheels.
Reuben Brandt took an eBox out for a spin in the name of “research” for Grist, and said, “It was very quiet, low-rumbling. It’s light, but it accelerates like a bullet train, so it feels like driving a wound-up matchbox car. You just press the gas and you go.”
“High torque,” added Jeremy Hayward, who also volunteered for the free ride. “It felt like being in an airplane when it takes off.”
Both Brandt and Hayward attributed the eBox’s single-gear transmission as the main reason for the smooth acceleration. “There’s none of the jerkiness that comes with accelerating with a normal transmission,” said Brandt.
Though easy to mistake for a Toyota Scion, the eBox is actually a retrofitted Scion body with an AC propulsion electric drivetrain. The vehicle carries a 600 pound lithium ion battery that has a charge range of 120-150 miles. The eBox can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in about seven seconds, and it tops out between 95 and 102 mph (13,000 rpm). According to an AC Propulsion engineer at the showcase, the eBox battery was designed with a 50,000 mile usable lifespan, but so far all models register mileage of around 30,000 miles or less and show no battery deterioration.
"The most interesting part is the braking system," said Brandt. "There’s a physical brake, and you can set the eBox to drive like a regular car so that when you take your foot off the accelerator the car coasts. But we set it — and this is how I drove for most of an hour — so when I took my foot off the accelerator, the car would decelerate rapidly like I had just shifted into low gear, and in doing so the car generated charge for the battery. It took some getting used-to, but I only had to brake when I needed to stop really quickly."
The eBox is available through custom order from AC Propulsion and goes for $68,000 to $75,000.
N.B. The founder of AC Propulsion was involved in the development of the EV1 — the famously annihilated subject of Who Killed the Electric Car? And, the company drove their first eBox prototype on June 24, 2006, which was the day the documentary opened.
The Electric Vehicle Rolling Showcase began on Aug. 24 and will run through Aug. 28. Test-drives are available to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the New Energy Station at Champa and Speer in Denver.