Make Mine Electric founder, partner create Blue Sky Center for startups

SEBASTOPOL – May 30 will mark the grand opening of a cluster of startup electric-vehicle companies in a former Ford dealership.

Blue Sky Center will be what the organizers say is the first incubator for new electric vehicles in the U.S., perhaps the world.

“If the model works here, we’d like to expand it to other areas of the country, said co-founder Peter Oliver, owner of Make Mine Electric and instructor at the Santa Rosa Junior College, the Solar Living Institute and Real Goods Solar.

He also builds and races electric vehicles. Within a couple of weeks, Make Mine Electric will begin selling his vehicles, which have a range of between 30 and 200 miles between charges.

His partner is Brian Hall, who merged his own EV company, ThunderStruck Motors of Santa Rosa, with Mr. Oliver’s. He builds and sells electric motorcycles.

The two leased – with an option to purchase – the 10,000-square-foot Sebastopol Ford dealership on Sebastopol Avenue, empty for two years. Already they have attracted two new startups to share the premises: eMotors, a dealer of electric bikes, scooters, motorcycles and cars, and K-Tech Automotive, a one-woman repair service for foreign cars and, soon, electric vehicles.

“We have two or three more startups in the wings, but I can’t talk about them yet,” said Mr. Oliver.

The Blue Sky Center will also be an education center where people can learn about EVs in general or be trained in EV technology.

“Real Goods plans to give conversion classes here, and we’ll offer our own training on how to convert gas-burning cars to EVs,” he said.

According to eMotors owner Ross Randrup, the cluster hopes to work as a team to develop conversion kits that make it affordable to remake a car into an EV in one or two days. “People can buy the kits and do the conversion here where we can mentor them,” said Mr. Randrup.

Mr. Oliver’s vision goes beyond persuading people to buy or convert to EVs. He wants to jump-start the EV industry as a source of clean-tech jobs.

“This is strictly a grassroots effort. We have a welding shop and a metal lathe and fabrication tools, which we can provide as resources, and expertise to share. The time has come for EV dealerships, designers and repair shops. We want to make that possible.”

Real Goods is interested in putting a carport solar-powered EV charging station on the property, so the cluster can offer training in setting up clean-powered charging stations as well.

Both Sonoma and Marin counties are looking to build a network of EV charging stations before a wave of electric cars hit the road.

The grand opening of Blue Sky Center and eMotors, to be held on May 30 at 6791 Sebastopol Ave., will start at 10 a.m. and feature a look at eMotor’s line of electric vehicles, a tour of the facility, a talk on electric-powered transport and a Q&A session. There will be live music and refreshments.