Sunday Night after Mother Earth News Fair

by Ben N on June 6, 2011

Today was a good day.

I spent it all at the Mother Earth Fair in Puyallup, Washington.

Now, you may know that I’m big on electric cars – building them, driving them, and talking with other fellow EV’ers.

A grand start to the day was Paul Holmes giving a presentation on the Open ReVolt motor controller project. (You may know him as MPaulHolmes on

Paul’s presentation took the audience through all the steps of building a motor controller, from concept, to soldering. My favorite part of his presentation was the photo of the nerd and the bodybuilder, to illustrate how the control board and power boards work together. (You should have seen the NECK on that bodybuilder!!!!)

At the end of Paul’s presentation, I asked if I could add a few words. I explained to the crowd how TRUELY AMAZING the open source controller project has become! Paul is just so gosh darn modest, somebody had to toot his horn! Afterwards, I was speaking to an electrical engineer who told me how impressed he was in the way that Paul could bring such technical information to the audience in a way they could understand.

I was talking with enough people after that, that I almost burned up the whole lunch hour, and it was almost then time for my presentation – MIND-BLOWING ECO-PROJECTS! Now nobody’s heads actually exploded during the presentation, but I hope I did open a few people’s minds up to the possibilities of being able to do more for themselves, saving money, saving resources, through can-do, DIY, and recycled materials.

The audience was great, and I got plenty of positive feedback! Thank you everyone who showed up!!!

When I was done with the presentation, it was time to head off to the Mother Earth Main Stage, because Ed Begley, Jr. was to be the keynote speaker. Both Paul and I wanted a chance to see him.

Ed’s presentation was great. He’s funny, and passionate about the environment. One thing that I noticed was that he did a fantastic job promoting ecology and conservation, without being the slighted bit political. There wasn’t even a single hint   of a jab at a political party. Nope, he was completely positive the entire time, encourage folks to do what they can right now to work our way towards a better world.

I did videotape a short section of his presentation, where he talked about home energy audits – including the one about HIS house. Expect to see that on my YouTube channel in a few day.

Paul and I also had hoped to be able to meet Ed Begley, Jr. We thought that perhaps as Fair Presenters, we might have some secret advantage over everyone else to get to meet him. Turns out, we didn’t need it. The guy was AMAZINGLY accessible. He was simply over at one of the booths afterwards. There were just a handful of folks in a loose line, politely taking their turns to shake his hand, say hello, or take a photo.

Now, a while back, I got to meet Chelsea Sexton. You might remember her as one of the highlighted individuals in the documentary WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR?. At the time, I explained to her how much I liked the film and how sad I was about what happened to the car. I also told her how I made my own movie about electric cars, but mine was about how anyone can build their own. I got Chelsea to sign a copy of my instructional video for me. ( I was also right there when Chelsea drove a WORKING EV-1. It was the first time she had driven one since the film!)

So, in talking to Ed Begley, Jr. I decided that maybe I didn’t need his signature (He must sign a zillion times at these events!) Instead, I pulled out the cover of a copy of BUILD YOUR OWN ELECTRIC CAR: CHEAP, signed it, and gave it to him!

Paul and I were both grinning and wearing our matching Open ReVolt t-shirts. We explained how we were hard-core, grass-roots, open-source EV builders trying to help others build their own vehicles. He really seemed earnestly pleased to meet us and hear what we were doing.

Ed is an honest and genuine guy – it was an honor to meet him!

Another person I met up with was Mark King. Mark is a young inventor who was at the Fair to show off his electric three-wheeler. He built it in high-school as both a challenge, and a way to save the cost of an outrageously overpriced high-school parking permit! And be eco-friendly while doing it to boot.

His car is built nearly from scratch. The front end is from a 1960’s VW bug, and the back end is of a motorcycle he found and literally DRAGGED out of the woods. All the rest is his own design – welded steel, fiberglass cover, and 48 volts of battery power.

I did a video interview with Mark asking about what motivates him, and the details of his project. You’ll be able to see that as part of the upcoming SECRETS OF THE EV MASTERS instructional DVD. (I’ll also have some snippets of it up as YouTube ids!) Mark also showed me his latest invention it prototype form. It was so cool, I almost offered him cash right there for it… (Not sure I can tell you what it is, trade secret!)

I also met up with Jack, who is the builder/owner/driver of the MAX car, which you may have read about in Mother Earth News. If you don’t know about it, imagine the race-car from Speed Racer, powered by a turbo-diesel engine, and getting 80 miles per gallon! I had met Jack before at the first Mother Earth Fair at the end of last summer. It was great seeing him again!

Special thanks to the Tacoma EAA guys who brought out their electric vehicles. The home-converted riding lawn mower looked fantastic!  Not that the Tesla Roadster looked bad either…   Actually, my favorite thing about the Tesla was that it has a TOWING SETUP! No, the owner doesn’t actually tow with it. Rather, he has one of those cargo trays that slides into the hitch receiver. That’s a great way to add extra cargo space to one of the only electric cars designed to be able to take road trips!

I also saw my first Nissan Leaf at the Fair. Well, before the fair really…. Yesterday, I walked across the street from my motel to the restaurant and heard an odd noise. First thing I thought was “The inverter on that Prius sounds off…”

Then I turned my head, and thought “That Prius looks kind of funny…”

That’s when I realized it was a Nissan Leaf. I had never seen one before in person, so it took a second to realize what it was. Also, it had a gorgeous red paint job – most of the Leaf advertising materials show the car in blue – I’d never seen a Leaf before, let alone a RED one!

Now think about this. The first thing I noticed about this electric car was the fact that I heard it. With all the other gas cars zipping around, my brain locked in on the electric one. Folks often seem to express a concern about blind pedestrians, and the volume of electric cars, yet I heard the Leaf BEFORE I had ever even seen one!

Mitsubishi was a sponsor of the event. (Actually, they sponsored the stage that I presented on. Thanks Mitsubishi!) They had THREE of the “i” electric cars there – one inside on display, and two outside for people to ride in. I took a ride in the little white jellybean of an EV. Overall, it was fun. Surprisingly zippy.

I don’t know how well it will succeed in the American market. It was a perfectly useful car, utilitarian, easy to drive and park, and fun. But for not a lot more money, the Leaf is available. The Leaf is surprising large. The seats are really comfy. It has a brilliant color display. I think that many Americans will want an electric car WITH all the bells and whistles. The Leaf is a NICE car. It’s not odd-looking, and it gets you around with NO COMPROMISES. I really think that the Leaf will be the game-changer for EVs to return to the mainstream.

The Karmann Eclectric is a drag-racer that was also at the event. I believe it was originally owned by John Wayland. Such a nice car. The rear-engine “hood” was open, showing off the oversized electric motor and Zilla controller. It even has a prototype Yellow Top style battery shell that was repurposed into the liquid cooling tank for the controller.

Besides all the electric car fun, I also got to see animals, weaving, a tiny house on wheels built by high school students, Cob Oven demo, broadforks, wooden spoons, recycled glass wind chimes, and an amazing array of presentations.

Thanks to all the organizers of the event who make it happen. I talked to so many interesting people this weekend. It felt great to see so many people coming together for positive change!

Special thanks to Paul at for picking me up at the airport and carting me around! (I still owe you dinner!)

It WAS a GOOD day.

Look forward to upcoming videos from the fair on BUILD YOUR OWN ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLE, OPEN SOURCE EV MOTOR CONTROLLER DESIGN, and a segment from Ed Begley, Jr.’s  LIVING SIMPLY, SO OTHERS CAN SIMPLY LIVE.

(NOTE: Apologies for not having any photos. I am publishing this from a remote location, with intermittent data access. All I can get out right now is text. I’ll add photos to this posting soon!)

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