Electric vehicle enthusiasts dedicated a charging station at the Deep River Public Library Saturday to the memory of two local pioneers who built their own electric cars decades before the major automakers.
Jack Gretta of Deep River and Bob Rice of Killingworth were early Connecticut members of the New England Electric Auto Association (NEEAA). Gretta and Rice converted conventional gasoline-powered cars into electric vehicles that they drove to work and around town. Gretta died in 2005 and Rice in 2011, but not before inspiring other area residents to build their own electric cars.
“While many of us were still driving our gas guzzlers over the last several decades,early pioneers like Jack Gretta and Bob Rice of Killingworth were out there challenging the status quo of gasoline,” said Dave Oliveria, NEEAA president and a Deep River selectman.
In remarks during the dedication ceremony, Oliveria recalled the day Gretta “lit the lightbulb in his head” and inspired him to build his own electric vehicle as they were leaving a Deep River Historical Society event.
“We stopped at Jack’s MG and he began explaining the benefits of electric and what it took for him to convert the little car over,” Oliveria said.
With the help of Gretta and Rice, Oliveria converted a 1998 Ford Ranger into a fully electric vehicle that runs on 24 batteries. Oliveria regularly drives the pickup from his Deep River home up Route 9 to his engineering job in Middletown.
Watch Oliveria commence the ceremonial “first plug”
The charger, installed at the Deep River Public Library, can accommodate two vehicles. One can charge with a 220V connection, the other can plug in to a standard 110 outlet.
The unit was provided at no cost to the town by Connecticut Light & Power as part of an electric vehicle study. A number of other municipalities have also installed similar units throughout the state. The town will pay for the electricity, with the cost of which will vary by vehicle. A Chevy Volt costs about $1.50 to fully charge.
A plaque on the charger acknowledges the contributions of Gretta and Rice, calling them “early pioneers in EVs, leading the way for the rest of us.”
In a 2009 interview with LocalOnlineNews.TV, Rice wore a “who killed the electric car” T-shirt as he passionately expressed his frustration with the slow rate of progress on bringing electric vehicles to the consumer market.
“We cruise down 95 at 65 and 70 with the AC on . . . everything’s right with the world,” Rice said, “Why isn’t everybody doing this? If everyone could have this experience there’d be a revolution. People would be pounding Toyota’s doors — ‘I don’t want another Prius, I want a real electric car.’”
Watch the 2009 interview:
On Saturday Rice’s son, Eric, plugged the newly installed charger’s cord into a Chevy Volt. The Volt, along with the Nissan Leaf, were both released just a few months before Rice died.
While doors aren’t being pounded down just yet at the major automakers, Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Tesla each have each brought production electric vehicles to market along with GM and Nissan in the last year and a half.
That revolution Rice was hoping for just may be about to begin.