The year is 2022. The place is Walla Walla. And the streets are filled with electric-powered scooters, bicycles, motorcycles, trucks, cars and even tractors in what could become the world’s premiere electric vehicle festival: the Electric Revolution.
That’s the vision of Paul d’Orleans, who came before the Walla Walla City Council on Monday, Aug. 23, to pitch the Electric Revolution, a three-day festival and showcase that would take place Memorial Day weekend in 2022. The council agreed to sign a non-binding letter of intent to host the festival, which, if successful, could become an annual feature of Walla Walla.
A historian specializing in motorist culture, motorcycle history and electric vehicles, d’Orleans has worked as a curator for the last four years at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, one of the world’s largest automotive museums. He is also the founder of The Vintagent, a digital magazine exploring the imagery and stories of the world of motorcycles.
He has also put on festivals before, mainly smaller multi-day events in California. But with the Electric Revolution, d’Orleans said Monday that he’s dreaming big. The proposed three-day event would feature racing, art displays, live music at the Range Amphitheatre, and a world-class concentration of electric vehicle technology.
“I’m interested in how stories move culture, and I’m interested in creating a big story about electric technology and vehicles that isn’t being told,” d’Orleans told council members Monday. “Electric vehicles are actually really fun, they’re really powerful, and they have the potential of being incredibly green.”
That’s the story d’Orleans wants to share with a wider public, by bringing together the bleeding edge in EVs from around the world to one area to showcase not only technology, but the enjoyment the future of transportation could bring. The Electric Revolution wouldn’t just be about comparing charging speeds and battery life, d’Orleans said.
“No one has ever done, let’s say electric drift racing, or electric motorcycle racing, and there is no electric bicycle racing,” d’Orleans said. “Looking at all of these different areas where competitions exist, almost none of them have an electric component yet.”
“And they will, but wouldn’t it be cool to be the first in the world?”
The festival’s entertainment and competition could also extend to the community’s youth, d’Orleans suggested. Instead of a soap box derby, local schools could be given specifications on a low-powered engine that all competitors could use, build the car around the engine and then race each other.
The opportunities to show off new technologies wouldn’t be limited to commuter vehicles either. With significant producers of agricultural equipment like John Deere making commitments to electrify their vehicles, there are opportunities to highlight electric vehicles in the agricultural sector amidst the rolling wheat fields of the Walla Walla Valley, d’Orleans added.
“We’re looking on bringing the complete spectrum of electric vehicles from one-wheeled monos and skateboards to bicycles and dirt bikes and mountain bikes and sports bikes and cars and 4x4s and excellent agricultural equipment,” d’Orleans said.
But why Walla Walla?
“Walla Walla is a small town in the middle of nowhere,” Mayor Tom Scribner said Monday. “Why in the world would you want to do something that’s not been done anywhere in the world in Walla Walla?”
Nearer to a big city, d’Orleans explained, a large multi-day festival can be a logistical nightmare — and “I’m not a big fan of suburbs either,” he said. The event would need a lot of space for attendees to test drive electric vehicles, which is more available in a rural area like Walla Walla. The town’s world-class wineries and restaurants, of course, don’t hurt, d’Orleans noted.
“Walla Walla is a world-class destination now,” said d’Orleans, who has passed through the city during motorcycle tours since the 80s. “We’re simply piling on to the good fortune of your incredible soils.”
While the Electric Revolution’s first year, scheduled to take place in one West Coast city in the Fall of 2021 and in Walla Walla in the Spring of 2022, is already ambitious, d’Orleans said Monday that it has the potential to grow significantly year after year. After all, the festival’s lineup would evolve as the technology it highlights evolves.
“There aren’t enough electric monster trucks in the world for us to have an electric monster truck rally right now,” d’Orleans said. “But in 2023, I’m certain there will be.”
With the right locale and some elbow grease, d’Orleans said, the Electric Revolution could be, well, revolutionary.
“It’s such a novel concept,” d’Orleans said. “There’s nothing like this in the world right now.”