For a dizzying hour, a handful of racers here hummed around a makeshift track in electric go-carts.
The drivers of the homemade contraptions were not competing for speed, but to see who could eke out the most laps from 64 pounds of batteries.
“They’re strange looking beasts aren’t they?” Harold Stephenson said of the metal framed, three-wheeled machines.
Stephenson helped his 15-year-old son, John, build one of the vehicles that balances on bicycle tires and has an ammeter instead of a speedometer.
“Somehow I ended up with some electric motors and we were trying to figure out what to do with them,” Stephenson said. “We saw an electric vehicle a friend built and started doing one of our own.”
The friend was David Sawyer, a Sandpoint city councilman, who has tried to generate interest in alternative energy sources and electric vehicles.
The race opened a two-day fair featuring solar technology and nonpolluting transportation, what Sawyer calls “the Henry Ford issues of the 21st Century.”
Sawyer had his own electric cart entered in the race. He pieced it together mostly from donated parts for about $100.
Some of the other six carts cost up to $500 to build and can reach speeds of 35 mph. But this race was about efficiency not speed.
“A steady pace and don’t do anything too fancy. That’s the key,” said driver Sue McClure. She won an electric vehicle competition in Spokane last month.
“I just think it’s fun and I like the idea of energy conservation,” she said.
Electric vehicle races are still fairly new but are catching on, said Steve Van Ronk, Sandpoint’s local electric vehicle guru. There used to be only about five races across the country; now there are nearly 30.
“These carts run on the same principle as the $1 million solar racing cars, but you can do this for $500. I think that has helped its popularity,” Van Ronk said.
“Besides, they are just a heck of a lot of fun.”
All of Saturday’s racers were members of the Inland Northwest Electrical Vehicle Association.
The club started in Sandpoint about six months ago.
As people saw the unique vehicles around town and at races, membership grew.
Some high school students here and in Spokane have even built cars of their own with help from the club.
“The goals is to get kids interested in the technology that could make a significant difference in their lifetime,” Sawyer said.
“We also want to make the community aware of alternative energy sources.”
Sawyer has been driving around a car that was converted to all electric.
That car, along with a solar powered lawn mower, solar ovens and other wind and water driving power sources will be on display today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at City Beach in Sandpoint.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Continuing Electric and solar technology display continues today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at City Beach in Sandpoint.