Countdown to Second Annual National Electric Car Celebration
As the second annual National Plug In Day approaches on September 23, the public’s perception of EVs is in flux. In some respects, the future of electric cars is more uncertain than it was a year ago. National Plug In Day (NPID) is sponsored by Plug In America, the Electric Auto Association and the Sierra Club. NPID’s mission is to coordinate volunteer organizers in cities across the country to introduce EVs to the general public, to spread awareness, and promote the various assets of electrified personal transportation.
The first such national EV awareness event, held on October 16, 2011, coincided with the introduction of the first 21st century production electric cars. These EVs, such as the pure electric Nissan LEAF and gasoline range-extender Chevrolet Volt, were just beginning to show up on the streets of the 29 cities that participated in last fall’s Nattional Plug In Day. The mood then was positively giddy. Factory-produced EVs were now a reality (again) and we wanted to let everybody know about it.
Here in Tucson, the novelty was such that our first NPID party, named Tucson Plugs In 2011, centered around a parade. We perceived then that this was probably the most effective way to demonstrate to naysayers that EVs, in fact, actually moved through the streets with the same speed, reliability and finesse as their gasoline-powered counterparts. We had smiles on our faces that day as we rolled by, with an air of confidence that 2012 was going to be the turning point for electric cars.
The EV in the Year of the Dragon
But the subsequent year has been topsy-turvy for EVs. Both the LEAF and Volt were subject to media criticism. LEAF sales have slugged along below projections throughout 2012 and probably won’t spike again until this December, when a dedicated North American version—presumably more competitively priced than its Japanese-built predecessor and (hopefully) with a more heat-resistant, longer-range battery—rolls off the Smyrna, Tennessee, assembly line.
Public charging infrastructure remains a chicken-or-egg-first conundrum. The federal government’s EV Project main contractor, Ecotality, took much criticism for an exceptionally long rollout of their Blink Level 2 EVSEs earlier this year.
Even those who don’t spend every idle moment keeping up with EV-related news have probably noticed by now that EVs are an election year campaign issue. The Republican presidential challenger singled out EVs (and renewable energy technology in general) as superfluous. If elected, a Mitt Romney administration’s could eliminate federal funding for the EV Project. The second term of an Obama presidency, conversely, anticipates a continuation of its current EV policy and, if anything, an increased emphasis on renewable energy.
The Planning for Tucson Plugs In 2012
While it might still be novel to see a caravan of 18 or more LEAFs traversing Tucson’s streets, the public is much aware of electric cars. Latest estimates (compiled via phone from both local Nissan dealers) indicate that 130 LEAFs have been sold here and a recent newspaper article mirrors a newly released statistic that The Old Pueblo, factoring population, is eighth in the nation in regards to publicly-deployed EVSEs.
After weighing options the summer, our NPID planning committee came to the conclusion that this year’s event should allow participants to get up close to these cars and not simply see them drive by. We’ve concluded that it’s more important to allow participants to ask questions of both dealers and private owners as to how well these vehicles work in real world scenarios and if they might be the right choice for the next family car. The not-so-subtle catch phrase would be to “get butts in seats.”
But where to do it? One of those above mentioned Blink EVSE installations that seemed to pop up out of nowhere mid year is located at a beautiful 1930s era lodging establishment in midtown Tucson, The Arizona Inn. It didn’t take us long to conclude that this downright scenic location would be the place to put on our show.
Another difference this year is formal ties made with a local government entity. One of the factors positively influencing wider EV adoption and better than average EVSE deployment locally is efforts expended by the Pima Association of Governments (PAG) Clean Cities Coalition. Our volunteer organizers have graciously accepted PAG’s assistance with local media promotion and event coordination for 2012. Also on board, with renewed enthusiasm for greater public outreach this year, is the Tucson Electric Vehicle Association, TEVA2, a private coalition of EV owners who have been active here since the 1980s.
Just One Event of Many
Tucson’s National Plug In Day story for 2012, while possibly unique, is just one tale among many. As of this writing, 62 separate NPID 2012 events are planned to occur on or around Sunday, September 23rd. In addition to Ontario, Canada, Washington DC and Maui, Hawaii, 24 states in the lower 48 will be represented. NPID is a prime opportunity for those wanting to know more about EVs, especially potential car buyers concerned with environmental and energy independence issues. Please check to see if there will be a National Plug In Day near you on September 23—and make it a point to attend with friends and family.
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