Electric Cars at the Solar Car Races

Saturday 16th May 2015

We’ve been doing something different this week with our Electric Cars. We were invited to bring along our Electric Cars to the local Solar Car Races at some of the Middle Schools here in New Jersey. We went to two of the events that were local to us and our friend Alexander was able to join us for one too. He was doing a three day test drive of the BMW i3 and currently drives a Nissan LEAF.

You never know with middle school students how much interest there will be in the cars. But, we didn’t have to worry with these students as was evident by the swarms of them that appeared as soon as we parked up the cars – it was like bumble bees to flowers! It was great to see such a high level of interest and to answer all the really good questions that they had. One of the questions was ‘Why are these electric cars here?’ Well that is because of the similarities between the solar cars you are racing here and the electric car. In particular, linked to the i3 with its narrow tyres and aerodynamic design, just like the solar cars that the children had designed and built. One day was a little cloudy so they were using battery power to race their cars – even more of a link to our electric cars. They wanted to know the range of the cars, how long they took to charge, what they were made of, how much they cost – this seems an important one to 11 – 14 year olds!! It is always amusing to listen to the discussion of “Is that a solar panel?” talking about the roof of the Tesla Roadster. There is often the knowledgable one in the group – “No, it’s carbon fibre”, they’re the ones that get the bonus point! Although a few did want to know if you could get a solar panel for the roof of electric cars.

Many of the children knew about Tesla Motors but didn’t know that Tesla Motors had made a Roadster and that the Roadster was their first production car. Some proclaimed that they had a relative with a Tesla and that it was awesome! Many of them also knew about the BMW i3 and those stickers we put on ours – what a difference they make to the interest factor of the car. But as always, the Tesla Roadster was the one to claim the crowds and was surrounded as usual!

The children were amazed by the Roadster – and for some reason they just can’t stop touching it – it was covered in fingerprints, which was particularly noticeable because of all the pollen in the air that seems to have covered the cars in a fine yellow veil! We had one boy who just couldn’t leave the car, I mean quite literally he couldn’t leave it. He just stood by it, staring at it longingly, then would walk around and would stand by it again and take more pictures. I think he really, really wants one and when I asked if he was going to ask his parents to buy him one for his birthday, his face lit up and he nodded yes. It was most amusing to watch as he just wouldn’t leave and, he even left his team mates to run their solar car in the races, that’s how much he coveted the Roadster. The BMW i3 however, was not for him, even though he gave it a quick look over, that was all it got and then it was straight back to the Roadster.

When his team mates returned we asked them if they would be getting an electric car, all but one said yes. The one that said no, said that he was into muscle cars, so we told him about the ‘Black Zombie 222’ that had been converted to electric and that he could convert a muscle car to electric. He was surprised at first but then thought it was a really good idea that he could have his muscle car and it be electric.

What is always interesting about these events is that you just never know who you will meet – at this event we met an older lady who came over to look at the cars. She was very interested in them and talked to us about electric cars in general and how the Roadster made her heart beat that little bit faster with excitement – just as the Mustang had done back in the 1950’s. It turned out that she was one of the first female engineering students back in the 1950’s and she had had to go to Michigan university as they were the only ones at that time admitting female students into engineering. She was very interested in the cars and hoped that she would be around long enough to see that all vehicles being driven would be electric. She’s 85 now and we all reckoned that she will still be here to see that.

Michigan was the only college that would take women in the 50’s, I was the only girl in the class

It’s great going to this kind of event and seeing the reaction of the children to the Electric Cars and to come away with a positive feeling that the next generation will be driving Electric.


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