The Cars Of Tomorrow Are Here Today.
By Pam Leany
Staff Writer

America's love affair with the automobile is not always a perfect match. Car manufacturers and drivers are constantly finding new ways to upgrade their wheels. Tour de Arizona challenges motorists to "question internal combustion" by proving the reliability and efficiency of electric cars. Nineteen electric car enthusiasts drove a variety of entries in the southwest's inaugural electric car rally. All the cars are street legal and insured for driving on public highways.

Shadow Mountain High School electric vehicle team was top performer for the southwest tour, driving a modified Porsche 914.
The Electric Bull logged 314.65 tour miles on the three-day rally, averaging 147 watt hours per mile. The energy used per mile is equivalent to the power required to run a 150 watt hour light bulb. Palo Verde High School from the Tucson School District drove into second place with a Volkswagen Cabriolet conversion. These two teams will represent the southwest region in the national electric car championship event. Shadow Mountain is returning to defend its title as the top performer in the 1998 national rally, and passed its reserved spot in the tour to the second place team.

NESEA American Tour de Sol takes off May 22 from Waterbury, Conn. The rally ends May 29, with a route going through Hartford, Albany, N.Y. and Lake George.

Winners of these events are determined by maximum power efficiencies.

Electric vehicles travel six or seven miles on one kilowatt hour, said Ted Bohn, Southwest Tour de Arizona coordinator. With fuel expenses of around 1 cent per mile, electric cars operate at one third the energy cost of internal combustion engines with no emissions.

Tour de Arizona kicked off March 25 from Saturn of Tempe at I-10 and Elliot. Drivers made several media stops around the Valley to showcase their vehicles and give the public a close look at this revolution in transportation. On a route designed to demonstrate the reliability and efficiency of electric cars, the rally hit the open road taking Hunt Highway and State Route 79 into Florence. The vehicles recharged overnight at Florence High School, then stopped in Coolidge on Friday morning and continued the route in Casa Grande. Cars were on display at Wal-Mart and got a battery recharge at Casa Grande Junior High School. Southwest Tour de Arizona headed for the finish line in downtown Tempe on Saturday. Production vehicles, purpose-built to run on electricity, drove in the rally to showcase the capabilities of their cars, but were not in competition with the commuter class.

Tom Convey drives a Chevrolet S-10 pickup, purpose-built with a 102 kilowatt motor to run on 312 volts of electricity. He racked up 5,000 miles on his General Motors electric vehicle over the past few months commuting to work and driving around Phoenix.

While some people see electric cars as the transportation of the future, electricity is the power of today for Convey. "It's here now," he said. Low energy consumption is the big plus for Convey. As a daily driver the General Motors electric car is also reliable, quiet, and fun to drive.

Southwest Tour de Arizona is sponsored in association with the Phoenix Chapter of the Electric Auto Association to give the public a close look at some transportation technologies that can cut energy consumption and reduce automobile emissions.

The vehicles of tomorrow are here today.