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October 18, 2011

Kiss an Electric Car: Highlights from National Plug In Day

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This past weekend, National Plug in Day was celebrated in 29 cities across the country. There were hundreds of electric vehicles on display, and thousands of people learned how a switch to EVs will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and help break the U.S.'s costly dependence on oil. The Sierra Club was pleased to organize these events in partnership with Plug In America, Electric Auto Association, and many local partner groups.

In Los Angeles, at least 170 plug-in electric vehicles participated in the largest (and quietest) EV parade in history. Congresswoman Janice Hahn of California proudly drove her brand new Nissan Leaf in the parade and spoke at the press conference, as did Sierra Club member Tim Goodrich, an Air Force veteran who drives a Nissan Leaf. Plug In America, Electric Auto Association, and the Sierra Club were recognized with a Certificate of Achievement from California state Senator Fran Pavley (a hero in the vehicle emissions reduction world). The director of the films Who Killed the Electric Car? and the soon to be released Revenge of the Electric Car Chris Paine and actor Ed Bedgley Jr. spoke on the importance of quitting our addiction to oil by switching to electric vehicles and renewable energy.

The Austin EV Club, Apollo Alliance, and the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter displayed a wide array of electric vehicles and EV infrastructure. The 200-plus attendees in Austin were able to explore 22 vehicles, two charging stations from Coulomb and GRIDbot and one Actacell lithium ion battery cell. They were also given the opportunity to chat with a Ford Motors sustainability expert and test-drive their two 2012 plug-in models on site: the Focus Electric and the Transit Connect Electric.

In Davis, CA, two city council members led the EV parade, and at the Cool Davis festival, more than 1,500 attended and wandered through displays on energy use where electric cars and motorcycles were displayed and Mitsubishi provided electric test-drives.  At the San Francisco Plug In Day event, the group Adopt a Charger announced that Chrissy Field will be home to one of the country's first EV charging stations at a National Park, and the company PlugShare promoted its popular app to let EV drivers know where they can share EV chargers with other EV owners.

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Tennessee represented great enthusiasm for electric vehicles through events in Nashville, Knoxville and Kingsport. The Knoxville EV Show reached a crowd of almost 300 people.

Denver's Plug In Day was a great success –- even in a state where people are just now gearing up to be able to purchase electric vehicles. They boasted 300 attendees, 15 EVs, four charging stations, one film screening of What is the Electric Car?, one expert panel Q&A moderated by a representative from the EPA (Region 8), and emcee weatherman Mike Nelson from Denver’s Channel 7 News. There were also government officials there from the Govenor's Energy Office and the City of Denver.

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In New York City, the Sierra Club, the Electric Auto Association, and others put on an electric tailgate party with dozens of EVs on display at the trendy Pier 54. Meanwhile, in Orange, CA, at least 70 plug-in vehicles participated in a "Tailgate without Tailpipes" where the city’s mayor spoke, and the EV drivers in attendance added up their "oil-free miles driven" with a result well over 1 million and counting.

In Washington, DC, Plug In Day made some noise in front of the Capitol building. Ten electric cars, e-bikes, e-scooters, and solar charging stations were on display. A honky-tonk band sang songs about dirty fossil fuels, and their sound system was even powered by a Prius PHEV that its owner had converted to electric, with supplementary solar panels on the roof. I was pleased to join alongside the good folks of the Electric Vehicle Association of DC and speak about the dangers of oil and the benefits of switching to electric.  

_bceec21b48_mIn Concord, the New Hampshire chapter of the Sierra Club and other local groups displayed in front of the Capitol Building seven electric cars plus several electric bikes and motorcycles. They also hosted a panel discussion and showed off an electric charging station. Meanwhile, the Sierra Club's Hawaii Chapter, Plug In America, and other local partners put on "EVs charging across the island" events in Honolulu and surrounding areas.

And these are just some examples of so many exciting events that took place nationwide.

The day after National Plug In Day, I was thrilled to accept the invitation by White House officials to drive to the White House in an electric vehicle (thank you to Diane Davidson of Maryland who drove us in her Nissan Leaf!) and hand-deliver on a flashdrive the signatures of more than 52,000 people who signed a Sierra Club petition to President Obama applauding his stated goal of getting 1 million EVs on US roads by 2015.

-- Gina Coplon-Newfield, Sierra Club’s Senior Campaign Representative for Electric Vehicles. This blog was also written by EV Campaign Intern Sarina Sawyer.

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