Out and About: Electrify Expo Packs Plenty of Thrills for Inquisitive Families

Electrify Expo - photo: John Frost
photo: John Frost

Electrify Expo is the largest electric vehicle festival in North America, showcasing many of the leading brands, and it has started its 2024 season with a stop in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) through March 17, 2024.

Attendees had the unique opportunity to test drive an array of electric vehicles, including cars and trucks, as well as get experience riding electric bikes, motorcycles, scooters, and skateboards.

Beyond the vehicles themselves, the festival offered a food truck park, musical entertainment, an area dedicated to children’s activities, and a ton of vendors from which to learn about all things electric.

A respectable number of attendees gathered at the event, which was bustling but not excessively crowded. Arriving right at opening time paid dividends allowing me to participate in four different EV demos before queues began to form.

If you didn’t need to ride the most popular car model, you could keep waits short until around 1pm, when longer lines were everywhere.

Electrify Expo - photo: John Frost
photo: John Frost

I adopted a strategy that entailed beginning at the most distant manufacturer within the EV Demo District and gradually making my way back. This approach proved to be effective.

At each stop, manufacturers required a signed disclaimer and a presentation of a driver’s license before permitting a test drive. Accompanied by a representative in the passenger seat, attendees had the opportunity to drive on a 10-minute course while the representative explained the details and amenities of the cars to them.

The following automakers presented a mix of vehicle models for test driving: Rivian, Tesla, Ford, BMW, KIA, Toyota, Volvo, and Lexus. Additionally, Ford featured a ‘Thrill Zone,’ an area where participants could navigate through an obstacle course at elevated speeds.

The demo route went from the north concourse of the OCCC, extending onto Universal Boulevard, and continued for approximately two miles before making a right turn and circling back to the convention center.

This course offered a variety of driving experiences, including maneuvering through turns, executing stops, accelerating, and navigating through traffic. Overall, the experience provided a comprehensive insight into the daily driving performance of each vehicle.

After getting in all the demo rides I wanted, I proceeded to explore the booth section of the Electrify Expo at a leisurely pace.

Electrify Expo - photo: John Frost
photo: John Frost

There were several e-bike, e-scooter, and e-skateboard vendors, most offering the opportunity to ride around a long track around the convention center parking lot. This feature drew considerable interest, notably due to the accessible minimum age requirement of 16.

Emphasizing safety, the organizers required helmets, and staff members were readily available to assist participants in understanding their vehicles’ drive and safety capabilities better.

Every automaker also had a pavilion with vehicles on display, most were outfitted with various accessories. Many were left open to allow attendees to step inside, offering a sense of the vehicle’s interior, cargo capacity, and passenger comfort.

Electrify Expo - photo: John Frost
photo: John Frost

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Some negatives

The Expo layout required visitors to zig-zag their way through a long maze to get to the EV demo district. You had to walk even further to find the kid zone, food, and restrooms. Moreover, given the event’s location in the convention center’s parking lot, the absence of water fountains was notable. Considering the day’s sweltering temperatures, the organizers should have planned for water stations.

The absence of a broader array of brands was also noticeable. In previous events, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Polestar, and Volkswagen had all showcased their vehicles, but they were absent in Orlando. General Motors also failed to bring any EV automobiles from any of its brands.

Also, it was mentioned online that the Rivian R2 SUV would be on display today, but we were told it would only be available to see tomorrow.

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Driving the cars

Before today, I had never been behind the wheel of an electric vehicle. So this was a perfect event for me as I was able to see a wide variety of different takes on EV design and operation.

Automakers exclusively dedicated to the production of EVs, such as Rivian and Tesla, seemed somewhat alien, especially when it came to how the driver’s cockpit was organized. The concept of single-pedal driving, which harnesses braking to regenerate energy, initially struck me as uncomfortable. However, after a brief orientation, I found myself acclimating to this innovative approach after a couple hundred meters of the course.

Electrify Expo - photo: John Frost
photo: John Frost

Most of the EVs on display featured driver compartments that mirrored the design and handling of traditional automobiles. However, a select few offered a more hybrid experience, providing the option for drivers to engage in single-pedal driving should they choose. Notably, none of the vehicles demonstrated possessed autonomous driving functionalities.

I also noticed several of the showcased cars were models from 2023 instead of 2024.

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Event Details

Parking at the OCCC was in the South Concourse (enter off International Drive or take Tradeshow Rd off Universal Blvd to the South Concourse toll booth.) Parking was $10.65 and no cash is accepted.

The hours are from 10am to 5pm, and Sunday is the last day to check it out. There is a bag check, so arrive early to allow time to park and clear security.

As i mentioned, Orlando was the first city to host the Electrify Expo this year. There are 7 other city stops between now and November 9-10 in Austin, when the season ends, so if you’re outside of Central Florida, you may get this event closer to you in the near future.

Electrify Expo - photo: John Frost
photo: John Frost

Reflecting on the day’s adventures at the Electrify Expo, it’s evident that the event succeeded in demystifying electric vehicles for many, and ignited a spark of enthusiasm for what’s to come.

The festival-like atmosphere, EV demo district, and an array of other electric mobile devices, made learning about electric mobility an enjoyable experience.

Tickets are still available if you want to check it out before it leaves Orlando on March 17th, at ElectrifyExpo.com. Save 25% off tickets with code EE24ORL25.

If you get a chance to attend the Expo, let us know what you think of this opportunity to see how our electric automotive future is taking shape.

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