National Plug In Day: An Accidental EV Wrangler

Alexandra Paul and her Chevrolet Volt, July 28, 2011

Special for Plug In America by Alexandra Paul

I have a lifelong phobia of organizing get-togethers. I avoid anything more complicated than having my book club over for a potluck.

So what did I say when Zan Dubin Scott, Plug In America’s Communications Director, asked me to recruit EVs for National Plug In Day’s Santa Monica parade?

I said yes, of course.

Did I mention she wanted to make it the biggest assembly of plug-in vehicles in the world?

I still said yes, because my love of EVs makes me brave and gets me out of my comfort zone. And because National Plug In Day is too cool a thing to pass up. More than 26 cities coast-to-coast are staging celebrations for the largest grassroots EV event in history, which Plug In America is organizing with the Sierra Club and the Electric Vehicle Association. There will be parades, parties, panels and plug-in test-drives from Honolulu to New York and Austin to Detroit.

We expect between 200-400 plug-in vehicles in our Santa Monica parade, National Plug In Day’s flagship activity. These will include LEAFs, Chevy Volts, Codas, Plug in Prius, MINI Es, Teslas, and legacy RAV4 EVs. We hope to include a 2012 RAV and a Fisker Karma. We also have several iMiEVs, a Smart ED, a Ford Ranger, an electric bus, a bunch of Brammo and Zero DS motorcycles, an MR2 Spyder, Smith electric trucks owned by Staples, a couple Wheego Lifes, a Chevy S-10 EV, and a ZERO SOUTH PHE-PTV. More will be confirming!

Speaking at the press conference before the parade will be folks whom I admire very much. They include Chris Paine, director of Who Killed the Electric Car and the upcoming Revenge of the Electric Car; Ed Begley, Jr., one of my heroes, who helped me find my first electric car in 1990; and Paul Scott, a more committed EV activist you will not find.

Among our parade participants will be Fabio, who appears in a Plug In America PSA and artfully defended electric cars on FOX TV.

My beautiful Volt will be festooned with red and green garlands and my even more beautiful husband, Ian (Zan s editorial comment there .), will drive his RAV 4 EV. Each parade vehicle will sport a sign in its window proudly proclaiming its total gas-free miles, and the Southern California Air Quality Management District has measured the air quality on the parade route and will compare that to the air quality on that street during our parade. It will be a Sunday morning party with a strong message that plug in vehicles are here now and here to stay.

I love that activists have been working closely with car companies to get the word out about the National Plug In Day events. What a difference from five years ago! The local Title Sponsor of our Santa Monica parade, the event’s flagship activity, is Chevy Volt. Our other local parade sponsors include the City of Santa Monica, Nissan USA, Recargo, Leviton, and Collaborative Project Consulting.

We all want the same thing: to get EVs on the road.

It has been a challenge reaching Volt and LEAF owners to let them know about the event, since many of these drivers are not as plugged in to the EV community (pun intended) as the sturdy band of early activists from Plug In America and Electric Auto Association. But word has gotten out through the EV forums and websites, and I have leafleted regularly at charging spots around LA to find these new drivers (LAX, which has free parking for EVs, has been a great spot to flyer). They have responded enthusiastically and I am tickled at how devoted they are to their cars.

So yes, recruiting vehicles for Sunday s parade is a bit stressful, but it is also incredibly rewarding. Not only do I get to work alongside Plug In America activists like Zan Dubin Scott, Paul Scott, William Kostman, Brian Deming, and Colby Trudeau, but this parade is going to set a world record for the greatest number of plug in vehicles ever assembled. How neat is that?

Just don’t expect me to organize any dinner parties. Unless you bring a dish and an EV.

PS: We need parade spectators in Santa Monica, so come on down around 9:30 a.m. Main Street, between Pico Boulevard and Marine Street, has lots of great places for coffee and breakfast.


— Alexandra Paul

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