Electrify Expo gives Seattleites a taste of electric transportation

Nary a spark plug was used nor a rumbling engine heard at Electrify Expo, where thousands in Seattle got a chance over the weekend to experience firsthand what’s available in electric transportation.

A slew of electric vehicles from dozens of makers and manufacturers were available to drive, ride or sit inside during the event. A carbon-free cacophony could be heard all weekend thanks to the whizzing and whirring of battery-powered bicycles, scooters and hoverboards; the purring hum of an electric car gliding through a test course; and the high-pitched howl of a high-performance motorcycle.

Washington state is committed to halting the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2030 — the most ambitious deadline in the country for increasing EVs — and legally required to eliminate 95% of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

The transportation sector accounts for the largest portion of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing the number of electric vehicles and reducing the number of those powered by gas are both crucial for the state to achieve its climate goals.

And yet, rebates and tax incentives for electric vehicles and charging stations struggled to make their way through the Legislature earlier this year. Meanwhile, fear of climate change is compounded by soaring gas prices and historic inflation.

Expo organizers say the market in Seattle for electric transportation is ripe.

“The data shows that Seattle is a really hot market for e-mobility,” said BJ Birtwell, founder of Electrify Expo, which began last year when it was held in Los Angeles, Miami and Austin, Texas. This year the event was expanded to Seattle and New York. The three shows last year collectively brought 50,000 attendants, but Birtwell said he’s expecting 125,000 people to attend all five shows this year.

“Experience is the biggest thing,” he said. “Once you get behind the wheel or you get on the seat of an electric bike, something changes.”

Prohibitive prices, short range and a dearth of accessible, public charging stations remain barriers for most people interested but hesitant to make the switch away from gasoline. But Birtwell argued the technology has passed a tipping point.

Carmakers now offer multiple options with a greater range in price, functionality and battery capacity, he said. At the expo on Saturday, attendants flocked to EVs made by Volvo, Polestar, Lucid, Kia, Volkswagen, Lexus and BMW, among others.

Dexter Varilla from Seattle attended the expo on Saturday with his wife and two children, Sophia and Sebastian. He’s in the market for an e-bike and an electric car, to be more environmentally friendly and to save the huge sums of money he’s spending on gas, but he’s concerned about the range on the bike is too small and the car won’t be able to tow his trailer. But he knows the market is growing, and it’s a matter of time until he finds what he wants.

“Gas is so expensive right now,” Varilla said as his kids sat in the driver’s seat of an electric Volvo. Sebastian, 4, sat on the lap of his 12-year-old sister. “It’s more economical to use an EV.”

Across the parking lot, Ali Ravanpay and his 9-year-old son, Matine, were testing an electric motorcycle. Matine, sitting on the motorcycle, couldn’t help but grin when his father revved the engine.

“To think it doesn’t use any gas,” Ravanpay said. “It’s a whole new world.”

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