|“What a day, sparks all over the place,” said Leo Cirino, president of the Westport Electric Car Club, at the club’s EV Road Rally here, where on Saturday some 33 electric and plug-in hybrid cars took part in an approximately 40-mile drive.
If the event had been a straightforward race, it would likely have seen a victory by one of the dozen Teslas that participated. But it was the odometer and not the speedometer that mattered, as drivers followed a set of sometimes arcane directional clues and tried to stay on a circuitous route.
Each car had a driver and a navigator. My original plan was to gather color for the article by riding in the back of a Chevrolet Volt driven by Leo Karl III, a New Canaan Chevrolet dealer, but he was short a navigator, so I somewhat reluctantly volunteered. Some of the directions were a bit cryptic — the “street made famous by Chrysler Corp.” was Imperial Avenue – But we managed to stay on the route.
The first-place winner was Bruce Becker, an architect and developer who lives in Westport, driving a BMW ActiveE with Dennis Andrews as navigator. Mr. Becker’s team covered the route in 37.5 miles, which Mr. Cirino said was close to the ideal distance. “I followed the course very, very precisely and made sure I didn’t take any unnecessary detours,” said Mr. Becker in an interview.
The second-place winner was, surprise, Mr. Karl and myself, with an odometer reading a few tenths of a mile off that of Mr. Becker and his co-pilot. It helped that I grew up in Westport and live in Fairfield, so the roads were familiar. In the interest of full disclosure, I took home nothing more than a T-shirt (though Mr. Karl got a restaurant gift certificate).
“It was mind-boggling to see that many electric cars in one place,” said Mr. Karl, who has sold from 65 to 70 Volts at his dealership.
The rally took off from the eastbound side of the Westport train station. Steven Smith, a town building official and a founding member of the car club, was a force behind the 27-kilowatt solar array on the station building’s roof, as well the four electric vehicle chargers connected to it.
“They’re all in use right now,” he said.
The rally attracted entrants from beyond Fairfield County. Gary LaChance, a dentist of Guilford, brought his Tesla Model S, which was equipped with a 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack, the lesser of two setups offered by Tesla. Despite the car’s E.P.A.-certified range of 208 miles, Mr. LaChance, who took delivery in February, said in an interview that he had successfully completed a round trip to Washington recently, stopping along the way at Tesla Supercharger locations in Connecticut and Delaware, and at the Tesla Store in White Plains.
The rally included a stop at Fairfield’s Earth Day celebration and ended at the Blu Parrot restaurant in Westport, where Dragone Classic Motorcars had displayed two antique electrics – a very tall and two-toned 1913 Broc and a 1907 Columbia.
“The main thing is to raise awareness that electric vehicles are here now and here to stay,” said Scott Thompson a Fairfield-based environmental engineer who entered in his Nissan Leaf.