Friday, October 15, 2010

From Protest to Plug-Ins: Plug In America celebrates 5 years of activism

Five years ago, this motley crew known as "", fresh from protests to stop the crushing of the Ford Think, Ford Ranger, GM EV1 and the Toyota RAV4 EV, met for a celebratory weekend retreat at the Mariposa County ranch of Dave Raboy and Heather Bernikoff. We needed to relaunch what had been a grassroots protest group, grown from the burning desire to prevent thousands of great electric cars from being destroyed by the very companies that built them, into an advocacy group that could help rebirth the modern EV. We really didn't know how we were going to do it, but we knew it had to be done. With the addition of a few key board members with very good strategic skills, we earned some serious clout within the federal and state legislative process, created a very effective outreach and education program, and to some degree, we convinced the car makers themselves that plug-in cars were part of their future.

Shown here are Ron Freund, Linda Nicholes, David Lane, Heather Bernikoff, Jennifer Krill, Sherry Boschert, Paul Scott, Ted Flittner, Lisa Rosen, Dave Raboy, Paul West, Mike Kane, Marc Geller, and Kevin Lyons. Not shown is Chelsea Sexton who unfortunately could not attend that weekend, but was Plug In America's first Executive Director.

We endured many frustrations along the way, but eventually, there were successes.

Of singular importance was the premiere screening at Sundance of "Who Killed the Electric Car?". Exiting the hot crowded theater into the freezing Park City night, the realization that we had such an amazing tool to use in getting the word out about electric cars gave me shivers above and beyond the cold air.

(This picture was taken minutes before we saw WKTEC? for the first time. Shown Left to right: Sherry Boschert, Marc Geller, David Lane, Howard Stein, Dave Raboy, Heather Bernikoff, Paul Scott, Zan Dubin Scott, Mike Kane, Ted Flittner, Jennifer Krill, Linda Nicholes, Colette Divine, J. Karen Thomas, Alexandra Paul, Dave Freeman, (?? Please help??), Butch Pash, Chelsea Sexton, Lynda Pash, and Earl Cox)

We knew this film would change things, but we didn't imagine it would become one of the most popular documentaries of all time. The EV movement owes Chris a lot for creating such a fine film, and we'll no doubt go deeper in debt when "Revenge of the Electric Car" releases in the spring.

Through Chelsea Sexton, we found a donor from the east coast who paid for hundreds of WKTEC? DVDs to be sent to all 50 Governors and all of the members of the House and Senate, including the staff of George Bush's White House. This was a significant donation that no doubt contributed to some key Representatives and Senators supporting plug-in vehicle legislation once Obama got elected. Jay Friedland's strategic legislative work helped seal the deal on $14.1 billion dollars in federal support for plug-in vehicles.

This is some of what Plug In America has done for the movement.

We continue to focus our efforts on dispelling myths about plug-ins and educating the public on the importance of this technology.

Virtually all of the reasons we need to make the transition to electricity and away from oil fall into three areas.

The Economy.

From the point you get your EV, unless you drive a lot of long distances, you will never give the oil companies another dime of your money.

Let that sink in.

Consider that you spend between $2,000 - $4000 every year for gas. Sixty percent of that money leaves the U.S., and 90% leaves our respective communities. We spend a billion dollars every day for foreign oil. This constitutes 45% of our national foreign deficit. A thousand million dollars every day, leaving our country instead of staying here, creating jobs and wealth for us.

When you get your EV, your part in that ends.

Think what good your money will do when it is instead spent on local goods and services, creating jobs for your friends and family instead of helping some freaking Saudi Prince buy a freaking palace.

When you get your EV, your part in that begins.

Health and the Environment.

Now, I know there's a lot of "controversy" over climate change, but the science is very clear that our atmosphere is warming, and energy (heat) added to the atmosphere causes more frequent and more intense storms. The only "scientists" in opposition to this position are paid by those who are heavily invested in maintaining the status quo - staying dependent on dirty carbon-based energy.

The costs of Katrina-type events, combined with record heat waves and snowfalls, will only increase.

With global population increasing by 85 million each day, the pollution problem grows right along with it. India and China are rapidly industrializing, building millions of cars and hundreds of coal plants. Peak oil is pretty much here, and its effects will likely be felt within two to three years. You can argue those time lines, but you'd be a fool to not plan for the worst.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, for every gallon of gas burned, there are 28 cents in health and pollution costs generated. University of Southern California Cancer Center published a report that documented thousands of cancer cases along the freeways and downwind of the refineries in Southern California.

None of these costs are paid by those who buy the gas.

National Security.

According to a recent RAND study, we annually spend about $75-$80 billion to protect and gain access to foreign oil. This figure is exclusive of the war in Iraq.

When you buy a gallon of gas, you pay nothing for that.

We have never fought a war over electricity and we never will.

Broadly speaking, these are the reasons we have to transition from oil to electricity, the sooner the better. Making this happen is Plug In America's central focus. All of our efforts are geared toward expediting this transition.

This is why you need to support us by coming to our party and helping us celebrate the historic moment when the transition begins. We want to share this moment in history with our friends and supporters who have been there to help us when we needed you.

We have a great evening planned with several examples of the first wave of new electrics, including the Volt and LEAF situated next to the pool, the Ford Focus EV, Think EV and Chris' Tesla in front as guests walk in, and fresh from winning its category at the Automotive X-Prize is the super efficient, and super fast 200 mph E-Tracer. We'll have it in the interior courtyard where Stefano Paris will be keeping a close eye on this one-of-kind world's best electric motorcycle.

For tickets, go here.

And best of all, the long awaited debut of the seven mysterious Plug In America PSAs. Based on the popular Mac vs. PC ads from Apple, our "Gas Vs. Electric" spots are the ultimate in "edutainment" for the EV world. You don't want to miss these.

Our creative team of director, Eric Swenson, editor, Jeff U'ren, along with producer Alexandra Paul will be showing these slick and funny public service announcements for the first time anywhere. Our entire board is anxious to see them as even we have been kept in the dark. We're told to expect greatness:~)

Sorry for the length of this post, but today was a rainy Sunday in Santa Monica, and so I couldn't go to the rings. It was a perfect day to plop down on the sofa and crank this out while playing with the kittens.



Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chelsea Tells it like it is, and starts a great comment war

For those of you unfamiliar with the writing of Chelsea Sexton, her blog on GM's creation of a Volt Customer Advisory Board is a must read.

First of all, no one not named Dan Neil is as articulate as Chelsea on the subject of plug-in cars. Her command of language is something many professional writers would envy. And those who have heard her speak on the subject of plug-in cars would say that was her forte. I won't argue that, she's very good at both.

I wanted to send this out to my readers because of the remarkable turn around GM has taken in their EV program. As Chelsea states, "The Volt team is intensely earnest, and I’ve seen several of the executives go giddy over it. But those things will not be enough; the last generation of EV’s didn’t suffer for lack of good cars or sincerity."

Chelsea makes the case for a truly new and improved GM, at least as far as the electric vehicle is concerned.
From crushed EV1s to the remarkable Volt! Solid proof that GMs current management "gets it".

Be sure to read the comments. About half way through, there is some pretty funny repartee from readers assuming various personna.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Testing LEAFs in Santa Monica

This weekend was the first stop on Nissan's public test drive extravaganza. The lead off venue just had to be the 5th AltCar Expo in Santa Monica given its history of teasing us with the potential of "some day soon" production EVs. I spent the previous four iterations of this early October expo in a Plug In America booth with veteran PIA board members and a legion of well educated volunteers dispensing our brochures and telling folks of the coming alternatives to oil. My prediction after last year's AltCar that the next one would herald the dawn of the new EV age was spot on. The 2,000 or so lucky people who got a chance to drive the LEAF and Volt would agree.

In addition to the LEAF, the expo had the winner of the Automotive X-Prize, an incredibly fast motorcycle, the E-Tracer, ably demonstrated by Plug In America's own Stefano Paris. Both the Coda and Volt were there available to buy, although delivery for all of these cars would be toward the end of the year. I heard many people have been talking to dealers about putting in orders.

Ironically, this was the first year Plug In America didn't have a booth since Zan and I, who usually take the lead in organizing the booth, were instead working for companies displaying vehicles for sale. Zan was helping AC Propulsion with PR for their part in supplying the drive train for the ultra-fast E-Tracer, and I spent both days assisting the Nissan folks demonstrate their LEAF.

As much as I love informing people about the coming EV revolution for Plug In America, it was vastly more exciting to actually ride with people in an EV that they not only could buy, but one that many of them had already purchased. Well over 500 LEAFs have been sold as Nissan makes its way through the 20,000 "hand raisers" who have deposited $99 for a place in line. Quite a few of my friends, who had never driven an EV, and who bought a LEAF having never seen it, much less driven it, were there to confirm they'd made the right decision.

To a person, they were all excited about the performance of the LEAF. Even the old timers who have driven EVs for years were impressed.
Here's Doug Korthof, the EV movement's bulldog, giving the LEAF a thumb's up after his test drive. Those who know Doug will understand how significant this endorsement is.

One of my favorite customers is ex-Fox News producer, Bob Tarlau seen here displaying his "EV grin".

Steve Factor, my co-worker at SolarCity expresses his disdain for the effluent coming from the tailpipe of a soon-to-be-extinct gas burner. Not soon enough for us, but they will go away eventually.

Last night, after the final test driver had left the lot in Santa Monica, I watched as the crew dismantled the elaborate glass "tents" and loaded the LEAFs on transport trucks. I was suddenly struck by the similarity of this view to that of March 2005 when GM workers loaded the last of the EV1s onto similar trucks and hauled them into the Arizona desert where the jaws of an industrial crusher sealed their fate. Instead, these gleaming LEAFs were being carefully treated by the crew so that at the next stop on the LEAF tour, a few thousand enthusiastic Americans would get to slide behind the wheel and glide through their first experience in a quality EV.

It's my goal to ensure that when this young man is old enough to buy his first car that there will be nothing but plug-in vehicles in the market. He and his friends deserve a world with clean air, a strong economy, and no wars over oil.

Photos courtesy Nissan.