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Crowds line up to try electric vehicles at Bellingham show

Video: Ride-along in all-electric BMW, Tesla at Bellingham show

Owners of the electric BMW i3 and Tesla take people for a spin at the car show Sunday, Sept. 13, in Bellingham, organized by the North Sound Electric Vehicle Association.
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Owners of the electric BMW i3 and Tesla take people for a spin at the car show Sunday, Sept. 13, in Bellingham, organized by the North Sound Electric Vehicle Association.

Vehicles on display at the car show in the Western Solar parking lot on Sunday, Sept. 13, barely touch gasoline or have completely sworn off the stuff. Their sound systems go to “11,” their acceleration feels more like a takeoff, and the only noise they make is from the tires, rolling on the road.

So what’s not to like about plug-in vehicles — other than the sticker price?

Judging by the turnout at the first-ever car show put on by a Bellingham-based group called the North Sound Electric Vehicle Association, plug-ins have a lot of pent-up demand.

More than 300 visited the show, more than the total number of registered electric vehicles in Whatcom County. They lined up for a chance to test drive electric cars across the performance and price spectrum.

Especially popular was the Tesla, which everyone acknowledged was the king of the plug-in vehicles. People also flocked around a BMW i3, even though it looked less like a German luxury car and more like what at least one person described as a jelly bean.

Tesla owner Paul Ingram, a Ferndale City Council member, bought his Model S P85+ 16 months ago. The list price was somewhere north of $80,000 for what was at the time Tesla’s most powerful car, until it was discontinued in favor of an even faster, more expensive model.

“This, until they came up with the dual drive, was the highest-performing car in the world,” Ingram said before taking four passengers for a ride.

Ingram couldn’t pass up the chance to show off his Tesla’s acceleration. His model has been clocked going from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds.

“When you step on a gasoline-drive engine, everything has to get up to speed. Things have to move. Things have to change,” Ingram said. “With electric drive, everything is basically, like a light switch, is pretty much instantaneous.”

That’s when all heads not secured to their seat rests endured a mini-whiplash as Ingram merged onto Interstate 5 at Northwest Avenue.

Steve Coram of Lake Stevens bought his BMW i3 so he could take his family on long trips with less stress. The car has a small engine and a two-gallon gas tank that extends the battery’s roughly 75-mile life to about 150 miles. Coram said he puts a gallon of gas in his car every month.

The $55,000 i3 was a step up from his previous plug-ins.

“Having two Nissan Leafs, you got to experience that EV pioneer way of life,” Coram said. “You’ve got to plan.”

The four-hour drive from Lake Stevens to Portland took seven hours in the Leaf, he said.

The Tesla presented no such hassle, Ingram said. On a trip to a Tesla rally in Custer, S.D., the recharges every 300 miles or so were a breeze.

“You’d plug in at the charger, you’d go to the restaurant next door, you’d order a sandwich and a Coke,” Ingram said. “Just about the time the plate hits the table, the car sends you a text message saying, ‘I’m done. Come get me.’”

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BhamPolitics.

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