03.03.2010 - by Plug In America
Empowerment

Electra drivewayA few weeks ago while cleaning out some hideously cluttered household drawers, I happened upon an old greeting card that my daughter Robin gave me years ago when she was a little girl. What really struck me about this long-forgotten card, though, was the card’s Hallmark message: “If You Empower Yourself, No One Can Unplug You.” That sentence didn’t have much meaning or significance to me at the time.

But now as I turn it over in my hand, it touches an old activist nerve and gets me reminiscing. I start thinking about what an absolute pleasure and privilege it’s been to drive an electric car for going on ten years now. The best part, of course, is the actual DRIVING of the thing. Once you experience the seamless, Jetson-like, powerful way an electric car moves, the lapsed trips to the gas station, the lapsed trips to ye old dealership or repair shop, or Jiffy Lube or the muffler shop — it’s then that the sly simmering smugness invariably sets in. I don’t even fight it any more.

However, the unfortunate reality is that electric cars, or plug-in cars of any sort, are still rare as hen’s teeth in 2010 in America and around the globe. Simply being able to drive your own electric car into your own garage has historically taken persistant, dogged determination and a sort of come-hell-or-high-water stubbornness against the odds, the automakers and the oil cartel — at least in this country.

I recall yet again that once I actually got my eager green mitts on the electric car of my dreams — a 2001 Toyota RAV4 EV — once I convinced my husband Howard to lease that baby through his optometric business — I had to fight like a beast from Dante’s hell just to keep the darn car. And it never should have been that hard. I also remember for the zillionth time how fortunate I am to still have “Electra” in my garage. I am grateful to have accidentally stumbled across my daughter’s ancient Hallmark card. The empowering message reminds me again of how necessary it was back in 2005 to engage with automakers in a very public, even rancorous way to avoid getting “unplugged.” Take the very successful Toyota, Don’t Crush Linda’s Car campaign, for example. With lots of herculean help from my buddies at www.dontcrush.com. (The precurser to Plug In America) not only did I get to keep my own electric ride, but fleet managers and electric vehicle drivers all over the country did too.

Once engaged in the struggle to keep Electra, I ended up in the middle of an electric storm — one I never planned on when Howard and I first leased the RAV. I only knew I was determined not to have a personal transportation “power outage”. Strange how I had always defined myself as a meek, mild-mannered court reporter (ala Clark Kent?) right up to the time of taking a “dontcrush” stand, along with hundreds of other activists, against GM, Ford and Toyota. But I’ve noticed that the experience of driving an electric car often does refashion people into card-carrying, persistant activists. And maybe that, after all, is what the automakers and big oil fear the most. Because suddenly a driver really gets that there is a better way. The lights go on; the jig is up. The automakers sense that some people (just like Howard and I) will not willingly give up superior personal transportation just because of small-print clauses buried in a stack of dusty lease papers that allow for no purchase or extended leasing terms simply because a particular car is electric.

At least that is what happened to me — to us — back in 2005. My newly-found activism meant I was suddenly organizing and participating in protests in front of southern California Toyota dealerships. My determined resistance must have been catching, too, because my normally reserved husband Howard was quoted in the Daily Breeze newspaper from Toyota’s Torrance headquarters during a dontcrush protest:

Howard: “Read my lips. This car is not going back!”

My own “unreasonable” resistance involved following a Toyota transport full of RAV4 EVs, partially dismantled and slated for crushing, into the night and over at least four freeways the following day — which was briefly touched upon in the film documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?

For me the personal lesson gleaned from past EV wars is that sometimes saying no to power is the right thing to do — no matter how big the opposing force may be. Howard’s defiant declaration in that Thursday newspaper edition proved to be prophetic: The car he spoke of did not, in fact, ever “go back.” …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… We’re still driving that RAV today. Keeping JUST ONE zero emission vehicle on the road means that approximately 40 tons of carbon dioxide (as well as a witch’s brew of other pollutants) have not gone through a tailpipe and into the atmosphere in the intervening five years. Think of it! And that one car is truly zero emission because it’s been plugging into residential solar during that time span.

Many of us have old war stories about saving cherished electric vehicles. Some of us have engaged in heroic efforts to keep those vehicles; GM EV1’s, Chevy S10 pickups, Ford Ranger pickups, Think City cars and more. My well-worn point is that it hasn’t been easy for anyone to obtain — let alone KEEP — an electric car. But that’s about to change. Almost every major automaker in the world is now planning on producing electric cars. There truly is electricity in the air . . .

And that’s precisely why we all work so hard here at Plug In America. Most of us have been fortunate enough to be electric vehicle first-wave adopters. We continue to trudge along so that our friends and our kids and their kids will be able to walk into dealerships, simply point and say, “I’ll take THAT one. Yes. That EV over there”, write a check or present plastic and drive a reasonably affordable car running on electrons right off the lot and keep it to end stage.

Clearly, Robin’s tattered greeting card had more meaning than either of us could possibly have imagined at the time she gave it to me. “If You Empower Yourself, No one” — not all the Toyotas or Chevrons in the world — “Can Unplug You.”

Robin Empowered

Robin ocean

 

Posted by Linda Nicholes

Photos Courtesy of Stefano Paris and Robin Lieberman

3 comments on “Empowerment”
  1. Great account! But I don’t share your optimism about all the “coming” EVs. If auto makers wanted to allow EVs, they would have already done so. Just up to their old tricks, that’s all.

    Behold, Bob Lutz and many of the VOLT-hoax crew are jumping ship like rats smelling water rising in the bilges!

    The Nissan Leaf, our best chance, uses the wrong battery; perhaps it will work, but their ads seem designed to turn people away. Why don’t these supposedly avid car companies allow someone like Linda to write their ads?? Like, “sail past gas stations”, “pay for your solar system”, “decline to be part of the reason for the war in Iraq”, and so on.

  2. sherry.boschert@gmail.com says:

    I can’t believe I’d never seen that Toyota RAV4-EV advertisement! (The one in the 3rd link of your post.) Thanks for the history refresher, and the new/old slogan — Empower yourself, and no one can unplug you. Love it.

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