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REDI: Renewable Energy Development Invitational Willits, CA August 1993

Michael Hackleman

©1993 Michael Hackleman

As those who attended will recall the Solar Energy Exposition & Rally (SEER) in 1992 was a big success for the alternative energy movement. However, it basically fried everyone that headed it, most of whom made no money (or lost some) in the effort. Planning for SEER '94 is underway and it promises to be bigger and better. Unwilling to skip a year, the SEER staff opted this year to put on an event. The result was the Renewable Energy Development Invitational, or REDI. This conference featured speakers and workshops for professionals in the field. With Keith Rutledge and Kathy Maples at the helm, REDI was a solid show.

I've seen the behind-the scenes work the SEER folks have put out for the past two years, so I made an early commitment to attend and help. It seemed a shame to let the year go by without a west coast gathering. REDI seemed like the perfect window — and I obviously wasn't alone in the thought.

First, though, let me help put the past 12 months in perspective. Much has been happening throughout the country. About this time last year, the three-day L.A. Electric Grad Prix moved clean-air vehicles through more than 100 miles of the smoggiest area in the country. Kudos to Peter Hackes and Becky Murray for a first-try winner. The EV Symposium sponsored by NESEA in Boston (Nov '92), under the guidance of Nancy Hazard and Robert Wills, was a superbly executed conference, and there's every reason to expect the same this year. (See Happenings for details.) Ernie and Carol Holden's SERA-run 3rd annual Phoenix Solar & Electric 500 was bigger, better, and safer. The '93 Midwest Renewable Energy Fair, with Julie Weier's team, has become a formidable event. Even in the rain, exhibits and workshops were packed. I missed out on the '93 Tour de Sol U.S.A. , but I heard it was also great.

I also attended a few utility and industry sponsored events, which shall go nameless. Here, everyone seems preoccupied with the idea of showing that "they're doing something". All of the information feels biased towards the status quo, excluding too many good technologies. The information, then, feels outdated, irrelevant, or only politically correct.

Okay, we're back at REDI. The first decision attendees had to make was: energy or transportation. What I saw of the former sessions looked lively and well attended. I chaired a number of transportation meetings, and the same was also true. Altogether, it was invigorating to get updates on many of the emerging technologies, and to hear societal and economic issues discussed along with technological ones.

When it was time for some fresh air, a diverse variety of vehicles and technologies greeted the eye curbside. A surprisingly nimble City-el was put through its paces by many people. It felt safer to drive than it looks. Hmmm. European styles always seem to hide their toughness and crashworthiness. Bill Worf is setting up dealerships to make this 700 pound vehicle available in the U.S. Ruth MacDougall revealed a plan to put a hundred of these well designed vehicles into the hands of SMUD customers in Sacramento. I drove the City-el and liked it a lot. Its silence was uncanny. The City-el is a time-proven design. If you're going electric, check it out.

Other good prototypes and conversions were there to look over. One was Michael Leed's Speedster. Starting life as the Solar Mule, a zesty 3-wheeler that ran well in the Phoenix 500 in 1992, the Speedster is a good example of what happens when you think "light". The 4.5 horsepower Advanced DC motor cranks out 12 hp during acceleration. Applied to 650 pounds of vehicle, it's a smooth launch that surprises onlookers.

John Takes from Burkhardt Turbines showed off a 3-wheel runabout that mixes a MGA (two wheel) front end with a Yamaha 360 cc dirt bike rear end — engine, transmission, cradle and swing arm. It's a no-nonsense, workhorse vehicle that demonstrates the merit of using complete subassemblies from the right vehicles to achieve goals quickly. The series-parallel contactors were a bit jerky for the novice, but I expect things will improve.

Peter Talbert from Ft. Bragg showed off a hybrid electric-HPV. It sports a BlueSky shell (Mark Murphy kit body design) wrapped around a robust frame (built by Jan Hellsund — see ATN, Jun/Aug 91). Peter is offering a production version of the frame. After some more tuning and road time, this will be a neat marriage.

George Buono (Solar George to Willits' folk) brought down his immaculately crafted electric vehicle. Half of its sturdy 1100 pounds is battery pack. With twin Solectria drives at work, it's a sweet vehicle, well engineered and smooth to drive and ride, with regenerative braking. As Phil Jergenson says, "It's a sensible design." A few weeks before REDI, George lost a lifetime's work when his uninsured solar workshop was destroyed by fire. I'm glad he decided to attend REDI.

Steven Heckeroth also showed up with his latest conversion, driving 43 miles over from his homestead. The route includes the Fort Bragg to Willits road, and its significant uphill and downhill grades. Steven is gaining recognition for his solar home designs, and is setting up to do custom EV conversions.

REDI happened and then it was time to leave. I returned with the HP crew to visit the magazine's offices, meet scores of cats, stare at Mt. Shasta in the distance, breathe in stars and — you know, do other business things.

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Michael Hackleman, c/o Home Power, POB 520, Ashland, OR 97520

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