Unrest in Egypt stirs interest in electric vehicles

The real world intruded on the 2011 Portland International Auto Show when widespread protests erupted in Egypt just as the annual event opened at the Oregon Convention Center.

The possibility of reduced Mideast oil supplies added urgency to the daylong seminar on increasing the use of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids that was held at the show on Friday.

One speaker, Sam Ori of the Electrification Coalition, said Portlanders already understand the need to reduce American dependence on foreign oil.

“What we need to do is sell EVs in cities other that Portland,” Ori told nearly 200 people at the EV Road Map 3 forum on the third floor of the center.

Proof of Ori’s claim was easily found on the lower two floors of the center, where 35 manufacturers were displaying around 400 new cars and trucks. People swarmed around the higher mileage vehicles, including the two all-electric Nissan Leafs making their first public appearances in Oregon.

Russell Vare, Nissan’s Regional EV Manager, found himself besieged with questions from potential buyers when he agreed to meet a reporter at one of the cars.

“I’m glad to tell people what they want to know, but I’m not a salesman,” said Vare, who was in town to participate in the forum.