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.


  1. This is so very exciting. There's no going back now. Forward and steady we go. Into the Nation of Electric Powered Atomobiles- and away from the grossly outdated fosil fuel powered automobiles. The time has finally come. And the majority of the people are ready and waiting to embrace the new.
    The rest will follow. I can hardly wait to buy my first 100% Pure Electric, Battery Powered Car.

  2. Great to see you down there, Paul. You are SO in your element explaining the virtues of the Leaf to a nation of hungry prospects who have waited long enough.

  3. Great article, Paul! This is coming together even faster than I ever imagined... I can't wait to start seeing these things on the road. How exciting!

  4. At first I was worried about a lack of hydrocarbons at this event, but upon entering the first holding pen I was almost knocked down by the fragrant odor of dead dinosaurs. Apparently, the dust-control matting they used for carpet was brand-new and the morning sun was causing them to out-gas like mad. I saw more than a couple of people waving their hands in front of their face and complaining about the sweet perfume of a true industrial nation wafting all around. It almost made up for the disappointment of all those emission-free vehicles. Thank goodness the VOLT still burns gas. You know, like a REAL car:^O

  5. Big Oil might have obscene amounts of money -- what they don't have is the grassroots energy, optimism, hope and determination of folks like Paul, everyone at Plug In America, and the growing group of people joining the plug-in movement, in the U.S., and around the world!

  6. Indeed, if even the highly colorful Doug gives it a thumbs up... He still hasn't accepted my invitations to see his EVs :)

    Joking apart, AltCar Expo is my favorite show and driving the Leaf and the Volt was fun. It was also fun to see Paul in the limelight under bright TV interview projectors.

    You go Paul!

    Nick, Electric

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