Arts and Entertainment

‘Wildman’ has a wild idea

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The Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation has taken another big step toward its ultimate goal of building the world’s first International Electric Vehicle Museum.

 

The organization’s new website, hevf.org, provides a vast amount of information on electric vehicles, including this startling fact: At the beginning of the automotive age, electric power was the standard, with nearly twice as many electric cars registered as gasoline ones.

 

By the turn of the 19th century, there were more than 300 manufacturers of electric vehicles in the United States. Fifty years later they had largely disappeared, victims of the internal combustion engine.

The museum is an idea whose time has come, says Roderick Wilde, a Port Townsend resident who operates two businesses in Sequim.

 

He said their splendid past is prelude: He’s spent the last 20-plus years working to promote electric vehicles, with an end goal of seeing them become a “viable part of our transportation mix.”

 

Wilde has made a splash or two, including a mention on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and appearances on two Discovery Channel shows.

 

Wilde’s hobby extends into his Sequim work life: E.V. Parts sells parts for “EVs,” while Vintage Golf Cart Parts deals in vintage electric vehicles, including the golf carts and other electric “people movers” manufactured once upon a time by Harley-Davidson.

 

Yes, that Harley-Davidson, which got out of the business in the early 1980s.

 

The collector

Wilde also has put together an impressive collection of his own, with several of the vehicles stored at the companies’ office on U.S. Highway 101.

 

He has a particular interest in collecting the electric “micro-cars” that were built and sold between the mid-1940s and the mid-1960s. That includes a circa 1960 Electric Shopper he recently restored for an exhibit at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. His is the only electric car in the show, which runs through Feb. 4, 2014.

 

Wilde earned his nickname, “Wildman,” the hard way. In 1993, he entered his first electric car race held at Phoenix International Raceways. In the interest of saving his life in an electric Mazda woefully short on safety equipment, he settled for a second place finish. But he was hooked.

 

He started experimenting, “hopping up the Mazda” and beginning his career as an electric drag racer.

Those who think “Prius” when they think “electric car,” are missing the point.

 

In March 1996, Wilde found himself lined up next to General Motors’ new electric “Impact” — the prototype for the EV1. It had earlier been clocked at 183 mph at a track in Texas.

 

Wilde left the Impact in the dust.

 

Toward the museum

Wilde said getting the Electric Vehicle Foundation’s website online is just the latest step toward building the museum. He first put together a board of directors, including some of the electric vehicle world’s best known names.

 

They plan to collect vehicles from around the world for display, including “very rare early electric vehicles for transportation as well as delivery vehicles for commerce,” Wilde said.

 

“We want to tell the whole story of electric vehicles.”

 

Next step: financing the museum.

 

Wilde said the foundation’s first fundraising campaign will be conducted through the crowd-funding website Indiegogo. Wilde notes the website has a strong history, including a recent campaign that successfully put together the cash needed to purchase Nikola Tesla’s last laboratory and property at Wardenclyffe in New York. It’s now the Tesla Science Center.

 

Where the electric vehicle museum is built may depend on the financing, Wilde said. It could be anywhere in the world. But he also noted that most of the members of the board are from the Pacific Northwest. If it ends up here, all the better.

 

He’s hoping to hear if there is local interest in such a project.

 

“We want to make it happen,” he said. “There’s no doubt it’s going to happen. It’s the most important project I’ve done in my life.”

 

For more information, or to lend a hand, drop Wilde an e-mail at roderick@hevf.org.
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