The Connecticut 5,000,000 Watt Man
(Click for lots of cool photographs)
The 5,000,000 Watt Man
by Megawatt Motorworks News & Reviews
Bob Rice is one of the EV community's most supportive and experienced
advocates. While pump suckers and eco-pinheads gab about electric
transportation like some idealistic dream, Bob just does it. It works, and
he's been doing it one way or another for over 40 years. In fact, this man
commutes 200+ miles a day without burning a drop of gas.
At a young 60-something Bob has gained fame as the outspoken big guy with
the really big EV. You see, Bob's workday begins with a twist of his trusty
electric VW Rabbit key in Killingworth, CT. Twenty-eight gas-free miles
later he arrives in New Haven, CT where he's employed as a train engineer
with Amtrak. Here Bob jumps onto his "other electric"-- a Swedish-built 2
million dollar ASEA-AE7 "Meatball" locomotive. With over 7,000Hp (5.3
Megawatt) on tap, the AE7 has the highest horsepower to weight ratio
(70hp/ton) of any train on the tracks. This electric marvel easily shuttles
the 400 ton train with about 200 passengers back and forth between New Haven
and New York City at speeds up to 90MPH. This high-power jaunt adds another
150 electric miles to his daily commute, and every year about 250,000 people
board Amtrak in New Haven. Electric transportation works!
Each day winds down with a joy ride home in his juicy Rabbit, which is
usually recharged at the train station while he's away. "I run 120 volts and
a 9" motor in a VW Rabbit, yeah, a tad overweight, 3100 lbs, but I hava
tough 56 mile RT commute. I can charge at work, but I still can get home if
I can't," said Bob.
When he's not talking trains or listening to his 78RPM music collection
you'll find Bob wherever any electric vehicles are gathered. Right now he's
making his yearly pilgrimage to the NEDRA Nationals in Woodburn, Oregon in
his Hunter Green 2001 Toyota Prius. On the way there he stopped by Colorado
and spent some time with a few of us from the local EV crowd.
Monday morning kicked off with a quick trip to John Bidwell's in Ft.
Collins, where Bob drove an assortment of electric 2-wheeled rides before we
headed back to the ranch. At noon Steve Ciciora dropped by to visit and try
out a few more EV toys. Later we traveled to David (Battery Boy) Hawkins in
Lyons and had the chance to play around with three more electric cars,
including Steve Newton's vintage 1983 Unique Mobility Elec-Trek.After the
ride Bob snapped, "Why the hell did they stop making them?" With regard to
the visit David Hawkins said, "It was indeed a thrill and an honor to visit
with Bob. This man is such a colorful character who possesses an amazing
wealth of EV information."
Later in the evening we enjoyed watching a recording of the Discovery
Channel's Sucking Amps, after which Bob whipped out his video camera and
showed footage of his electric VW, his unique daily electric commute to NYC,
the VEVA event, the Illinois Train Museum, Warfield Motors / NetGain, The
Power of DC, and more. It was a whirlwind tour of the area. We saw a lot but
still wish we could have visited a few more people and places.
EV enthusiasts are scattered across the country, and Bob Rice knows how to
find them. One stop prior to Colorado was with David Roden of Akron, OH.
David is another very active member of the EV community and moderator of the
EVDL. He also enjoyed the visit and said, "Once again we gabbed well into
the wee hours - about everything, EVs, cars, trains, politics, and life. One
of the things I really like about Bob is that he knocks people's stereotypes
for a loop. People see this big, simple, plain-spoken guy and jump to
conclusions, not expecting him to be a well-educated, cosmopolitan person.
Wrong! There's almost nothing that Bob doesn't know at least something
about. He's been lots of places and had lots of experiences. He's helped
build Mars IIs and Citicars. He's a walking EV history book. It's a real
treat just to talk to him."
After Akron, Bob toured the EV factory at Meyers Motors in Tallmadge, OH.
There he got to chat with the people who bought out the Corbin Sparrow line,
drive a Sparrow, and see a few more in various stages of assembly. He
reported that another 70 or 80 were ready to be put together. Bob has high
hopes for all involved.
Last night Bob was nearing Portland, so you can bet your bottom dollar that
he'll be in Woodburn this weekend. Next year Bob hopes to retire from train
service and make the cross-country trek in his electric rabbit!