Electric car enthusiasts drag race at Cape Girardeau airport

Sunday, September 25, 2011
Bill Dennis, left, in his 1993 Geo Metro Convertible, and John Yecker, right, in his 1993 Ford Ranger fly by spectators during a drag race and autocross competition at the Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. (Kristin Eberts)

Electric-powered cars ranging from a Ford Ranger pickup truck to a Porsche and even one custom-built car competed Friday night at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport as part of the first Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention.

"Everyone converts what they like, what they have or what's available," said Kevin Smith of Illuminati Motor Works in Springfield, Ill.

Racers used the east ramp and taxiways at the airport, which remained open to traffic during the event.

Conference participants don't get the opportunity to race or show their cars often. Electric car events like this one are rare, they say, particularly in the Midwest.

Smith had considered attending the "Green Grand Prix" in New York, but determined that trip to be too expensive. He drove his car, which he built from the ground up with gull wing doors and backward-facing rear seats, He made the approximately 200-mile trip on a single charge. The vehicle has a 207 miles-per-gallon-equivalent rating from the EPA and a top speed of 130 miles per hour, he said.

Smith, who works for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, had worked on hybrid and solar powered cars in college, but decided to build his own from scratch as part of the Progressive Automotive XPrize competition. The contest offered $10 million to the person who could engineer a clean, production-capable vehicle that exceed 100 miles per gallon fuel efficiency.

Although Smith didn't win the competition, he blew past his competitors during Friday's drag races.

Sebastien Bourgeois' 1978 Porsche 911 SC, left, pulls ahead of Michel and Denis Bondy's 2001 Subaru Forester during a drag race and autocross competition at the Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. (Kristin Eberts)

About 150 people came to the electric drag racing and auto cross competitions, the first of two free public events associated with the convention. About 50 electric cars were on display Saturday afternoon at Capaha Park followed by a procession of the vehicles down Broadway to Main Street and up William Street.

The Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention had about 145 participants from several countries and across the U.S.

The convention was organized by Cape Girardeau entrepreneur Jack Rickard and former automotive magazine writer and editor Brian Noto, who have been producing an online how-to video and blog series on electric car conversions. They've done more than 100 shows on their website, EVTV.me.

Next year's convention will be Sept. 26 to 30.

mmiller@semissourian.com

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Pertinent address:

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, Cape Girardeau, MO

Capaha Park, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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