The Fuse

Electric Vehicle Ownership Broadens, Crosses Political Boundaries

by R. Kress | September 15, 2015

In an effort to boost awareness and ownership of electric vehicles, 165 cities around the U.S. and the world will participate in National Drive Electric Week from September 12 through September 20. The event is now in its fifth year and will now include participants in Hong Kong, New Zealand and Canada as well as 41 states in the U.S.

National Drive Electric Week (NDEW) first began as National Plug In Day in 2011, which held events in 29 cities in the U.S. With an expanded reach, the event is better able to implement one of its top goals: Educating consumers about EVs, especially in areas where these cars are not as common.

With an expanded reach, National Drive Electric Week is better able to implement one of its top goals: Educating consumers about EVs, especially in areas where these cars are not as common.

“The vast majority of Americans drive 40 miles or fewer every day,” explains the event’s co-founder Zan Dubin Scott, who is also the Communications Director for Plug In America. “So most Americans could be driving [EVs]. And we’ve found time and time again that people go out and buy these cars after testing them out at National Drive Electric Week.”

The key for further penetration is providing curious customers with access to existing EV owners—consumers who can discuss their experiences as EV owners and vouch for the fact that these cars are reliable and fit into their everyday lives.

“We love the dealerships because that’s the point of sale but no one has more of a real authentic experience with driving and living with these cars than people who have owned them,” Scott says. “That’s a tremendous benefit [of National Drive Electric Week]. And there’s no sales pressure to buy a car.”

Using Experiential Marketing

consumer education gap is still a major hurdle for the EV industry to overcome—particularly outside of major cities like New York or Los Angeles where electric vehicles are fairly commonplace. Most Americans have never gotten behind the wheel of an EV, but with a diverse and wide-ranging geographic reach, National Drive Electric Week aims to change that. The program also reaches regions that have experienced slower rates of early adoption.

A consumer education gap is still a major hurdle for the EV industry to overcome—particularly outside of major cities like New York or Los Angeles where EVs are more common.

We’ve got ten red states participating,” Scott tells The Fuse. “And eight of them have all done National Drive Electric Week before. People have stereotypes about who drives these cars and this event blows that out of the water.”

National Drive Electric Week will hold an event this year in Oklahoma City. It is co-organized by John Gallagher, who drives an 18-wheeled oil transport truck. Co-founder Scott says that of all the cities to come on line this year, Oklahoma City is her favorite because of Gallagher: “He’s a perfect example of someone who you’d think would be supportive of oil but he’s passionate about EVs because he thinks oil is old fashioned. He thinks these cars are just better: Less maintenance, you can charge them at home while you sleep, they’re fun, they’re fast and they’re convenient.”

Gallagher sees EVs and solar power as a vital next step in producing what he calls a “trickle-down energy revolution.” As a self-described libertarian, he’s come around to EVs because he believes this technology is common sense and it will have a positive, worldwide impact both economically and politically. “We don’t want to be involved in wars for oil. We don’t want foreign nations to have so much control over the world economy. A crazy dictator can’t control the sun,” he says.

During this week, Gallagher will be behind the wheel of an EV for the first time. As for his colleagues who also work in the oil industry, Gallagher says he has no trouble reconciling his livelihood with his support for electric vehicles. “All my co-workers know what I’m about and they’re not anti-EV. They have their concerns about how good they are or how expensive they are,” Gallagher says.

Initiatives in Colorado and Orlando

While NDEW offers a national education program for a single week, two EV deployment projects—Drive Electric Northern Colorado (DENC) and Drive Electric Orlando (DEO) are putting drivers behind the wheel of electric vehicles all year round. Both initiatives are also involved with NDEW this year.

DENC is a partnership with the Electrification Coalition, the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland, and Colorado State University. Since the program launched in 2013, the Northern Colorado region has consistently been well above the national average for EV adoption rates—in fact, it is on track to double the national average this year. “During the first weekend of NDEW we were able to give almost 300 people in the region a chance to personally experience an EV,” said Ben Prochazka, Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Electrification Coalition.

Northern Colorado boasts 17 workplace charging partners which provide over 12,000 commuters with access to chargers while at work.

A notable success of DENC has been encouraging more employers to provide charging stations for their workers. Currently, the region boasts 17 workplace charging partners which provide over 12,000 commuters with access to chargers while at work. One of the newest partners, Resurrection Fellowship church in Loveland, has installed a charging station this year for its members and staff, another sign of how electric vehicles continue to cross into new demographics. “I understand that EVs are a great option for transportation, and represent a way to decrease our impact,” said Pastor Jonathan Wiggins, Lead Pastor at Resurrection Fellowship. “EVs also offer the ability to power our transportation with fuels made here in the U.S., helping to increase our national and economic security.”

Meanwhile, Drive Electric Orlando is an EV rental car program in partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the Electrification Coalition. By working with more than 35 area hotels and theme parks like Disney and Universal, DEO is putting thousands of people behind the wheel of an EV for an extended test drive while they stay in Orlando. “More than 50 partners that are providing incredible incentives to EV renters, like free parking or charging at area hotels,” continued Prochazka.

DEO will be participating in NDEW with a special announcement on Friday about how the program will increase its impact and demonstrate the city’s continued commitment to EVs. Tourism is a major component of Orlando’s economy, and with more than 60 million visitors annually, Orlando is becoming one of the best places for electric vehicles to reach new audiences.

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