National Plug In Day: Bigger Than Ever, Lots of Butts in Seats

By · September 30, 2013

Nissan LEAFs lined up at National Plug In Day 2013 (Photo: Corine van Deventer-Geljon

National Plug In Day, held over this past weekend, included events in nearly 100 cities across the world. It drew nearly double the number of attendees compared to last year, even with heavy rain at some events. A wide array of electric vehicles, not just from the current era, were on display—including gas cars converted to run on electricity. Most importantly, thousands of people had their first experienced driving an electric car. Judging from the NPID event held in Silicon Valley, the growth of the event gave compelling evidence of expanding EV sales numbers.

The 2013 Silicon Valley NPID event in Cupertino had approximately 2,000 attendees with nearly 300 vehicles on display, including 20 from major automakers. The Los Angeles rally, held in Long Beach, had more than 245 vehicles on display, and a "60 minutes" crew did some filming. Based on Facebook postings, other events were also well attended across the country. Seattle's event had heavy rain, but attendees retreated into a large tent to have cozy chats about driving range and EV handling. Early figures from Plug In America said that total attendance was between 40,000 and 50,000 people.

The Silicon Valley Electric Auto Association EV Rally was in its 41st year for the 2013 National Plug in Day. For most of its existence, this rally—like many other long-running EV rallies—featured conversion vehicles because, until recently, the only way to own an electric vehicle was to build it yourself. That has clearly changed.

Cars on display: Toyota RAV4 EV, BMW ActiveE, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, Chevy Volt, Think City, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and Corbin Sparrow, among others.

The primary elements of each event was showing the cars and giving test drives. Many advocates believe that familiarity is the key to acceptance. At the Silicon Valley event, the test drive fleet included Toyota RAV4 EVs, Nissan LEAFS, and Tesla Model Ss. Most were brought the event by individual owners, who spent a busy day answering questions.

Silicon Valley, the home of America's start-up culture, hosted a couple of new EV companies, including Lightning Motorcycles, which displayed its bike that won at Pikes Peak in early July.

Wrightspeed, another start-up, brought an Izuzu delivery truck used as a test mule. It was configured as a series-hybrid, with a 30-kilowatt Capstone microturbine that can run on diesel, natural gas, or propane. The drivetrain is a pair of motors connected to the rear axle in place of the normal differential. Acceleration was astonishingly quick, especially for a truck.

Wrightspeed's Izuzu test mule

"The third annual National Plug In Day proved once again that Americans—and drivers abroad—are hungry for vehicles that are fun to drive and use no or little gasoline, keep our fuel dollars local, cut down on cancer, asthma and other diseases, and shore up our national security," said Plug In America spokeswoman Zan Dubin Scott, who helped launch the event. "The market for EVs is exploding and we can't wait to see what next year's celebration brings."

“Thanks to the continued drop in prices, plug-in vehicles are now within the reach of millions of Americans. Many are now driving 'for free' because their car payments are equal to or even less than they paid for gasoline,” said Plug In America president Richard Kelly. “Our aim is to raise awareness of this affordability and the many other benefits of EVs.”

California Governor Jerry Brown chose National Plug In Day as the opportunity to sign six EV-related bills into law.

For those who missed last weekend's event and want to learn more, most of the events were organized by local chapters of the Electric Auto Association. Its website has listings of local groups, most of whom have monthly meetings.

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