One of the Central Florida projects that Align Public Strategies manages is Drive Electric Orlando.
What was merely an idea for a pilot project to leverage our world-leading tourism industry as a mechanism to expose Americans to electric cars and advance their adoption nationwide two years ago — is now a full fledged operation. This week, we will be making some big announcements about an expanded fleet and a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
This morning, the Orlando Sentinel profiled the local effort to encourage EV adoption and included quotes from the leadership of our partner and client in creating the Drive Electric Orlando Initiative – Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) and the Electrification Coalition.
Drive Electric Week turns Orlando users into educators
By Marco Santana Orlando Sentinel
SEPTEMBER 13, 2015, 9:00 AM
Thron Crowe rarely goes a week without becoming an educator.
The 34-year-old Orlando resident says when he pulls up to a charging station in his 2013 Nissan Leaf, it often leads to a chat about electric cars with others.
Crowe enjoys expanding awareness about electric cars and did so Saturday at Valencia College’s celebration of Drive Electric Week, which started as National Plug In Day in 2011. The Valencia College event featured local renewable energy experts, including city officials, educators and industry advocates.
“Every year it’s the same kinds of questions, which is great because it means more people are learning about it,” Crowe said. “They recognize the car and it’ll be either a five-minute or one-hour conversation. Next thing you know, they say they are getting one.”
As more become aware of electric cars, mainstream manufacturers have been building and selling electric cars or hybrid vehicles by the millions.
According to Electric Drive Transportation Association data, the industry is on pace this year to sell about 16.7 million electric cars. That would surpass the 16.5 million sales last year and is about 60 percent higher than the 10.4 million sold in 2009.
Experts say reasons for that include the drop in price, minimal maintenance costs and a growing acceptance of the vehicles, which has led to improved infrastructure and an increasing number of charging stations.
As electric car use increases, more businesses have installed charging stations, with some benefiting from tax rebates.
According to the Orlando Utilities Commission, more than 300 charging stations are available in Central Florida. That includes several Walgreens locations, which is one of the largest retailers in the U.S. to offer charging stations, about 400 total. So far, officials say, they have been received well.
“Consumer interest and enthusiasm has been incredible and we’re excited to provide locations to charge up in neighborhoods and along major commuter routes across the country,” Walgreens spokeswoman Emily Hartwig said.
Along with business acceptance, more manufacturers have rolled out their own all-electric cars like Nissan’s Leaf or hybrid models like Chevy’s Volt, which can charge electrically but also has a fuel tank as a sort-of backup system.
Tesla Motors unveiled its first Roadster to the public in July 2006 and recently Tesla owners have become evangelists for the brand.
9/14/2015 Drive Electric Week turns Orlando users into educators – Orlando Sentinel
Ben Prochazka of the hotel, rental car and tourist attraction partnership Drive Electric Orlando says his organization has a partnership with Enterprise to let vacationers and travelers know they can rent electric vehicles during visits here.
In addition, the group has partnered with travel agents to do the same.
Prochazka would not say how the 2-year-old program has been received, declining to share usage data for the program.
He compared electric vehicle use to the growth of smartphone use, which had early adopters often sharing them with friends and family.
Drive Electric Orlando is “an extension of what Tesla and others have figured out,” he said. “We give them the opportunity to experience an electric car. Through that test drive, we hope to turn those renters into buyers.”
The challenge has been changing minds on an industry that, essentially, has had more than a 100-year head start, Prochazka said.
But the more people drive electric vehicles, the more they become part of the conversation.
“We have been driving (non-electric vehicles) a long time and they are a significant part of our cultural fabric,” Prochazka said. “In almost every instance, when people experience the benefits of electric cars directly, it creates that commitment in people. They realize it’s a better vehicle and they get to drive with their conscience, too.”
That has been the case for Valencia College’s Lisa Macon, who has owned a Chevy Volt since May and said she has yet to use the fuel tank.
Macon helped organize the local event, which featured about 25 vehicles and more than 100 people people in attendance. She says her experience has mirrored Crowe’s, with students often asking her about the car when she arrives for the day.
“The level of recognition remains low throughout the town and on campus,” she said. “But I went to Discount Auto Parts looking for a keychain and ended up spending 30 minutes explaining it to the guy behind the counter.”
Macon said she now more frequently visits businesses that have chargers available with her husband.
“It’s almost a game for us,” Macon said. “There are options to choose from but we choose to buy at places considerate enough to put chargers in.”
As does Crowe, whose first experience with an electric car came when he bought his father’s, which had 100,000 miles on it.
He said he and his wife added another 150,000 miles on it before buying a new one. Chief among Crowe’s reasons for buying another: the environment.
“At its very core, it comes down to my take on my way of life, which is sustainability,” he said. “Part of that is knowing what it’s like to sit in traffic, on the corner of Goldenrod and Colonial, with the windows down begging to die because of the noise and the smell.”
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