AltCar Expo in Santa Monica showcases electric, alternative fuel cars

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- A recent run-up in gas prices probably has a lot of drivers unhappy and maybe has them looking at other ways to get around, which makes the timing of this year's 12th annual AltCar Expo in Santa Monica pretty good.

"When we did this 12 years ago, it was mostly homemade cars, somebody tinkering in their garage and leftovers from earlier years by car companies -- cars that they were required to make," said Rick Sikes, one of the original co-founders of AltCar Expo.

But it was a different story at the expo on Friday, as there are plug-in cars from many automakers.

Nissan's all-electric LEAF is now heading into generation two, after selling over 300,000 of the first generation version worldwide. They're improving on that success for 2018 with a new look and more driving range.

"It's definitely an upgrade for us, for sure. There's more power, and we've kept the starting price point under $30,000, which is pretty exciting," said Jannelle Grigsby, a spokesperson for Nissan North America.

Chevrolet was at AltCar with the Bolt and Volt.

And Honda brought its Clarity, available as a electric, a hydrogen fuel cell and soon as a plug-in hybrid. All three were available to test drive during the AltCar Expo.

All this choice has more buyers considering ditching the gas pump.

"I think it's a combination of people being more conscious of them and the price point dropping a bit to make them more accessible so that people like me can actually consider them as an option," said Melissa Goodman of Santa Monica, who was checking out some of the cars with her young son.

California leads the country in EV sales -- partly because automakers are required by law to sell them in the state -- but interest in electric and alternative fuel vehicles is actually growing all around the world.

The big Frankfurt Motor Show is happening in Germany, and electrified cars are the stars. Mercedes-Benz even rolled out a hybrid that works on battery power or hydrogen. It's a response to some European cities planning bans of internal combustion vehicles in the coming years.

China is dealing with a huge pollution problem, so it, too, is talking about banning conventional engines someday. Auto makers are eyeing China as a huge potential market for electric vehicles in the coming years.

But in Santa Monica, the automotive future is actually unfolding, electrically, right now.

The AltCar Expo runs through Saturday.
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