10.13.2011 - by Plug In America
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

7 comments on “National Plug In Day: An Accidental EV Wrangler”
  1. Jodi says:

    We accidentally happened upon the Santa Monica EV parade last year while biking and absolutely fell in love! It was surreal and beautiful. Please have more! Holidays are a great time to congregate. Maybe a “EV Or Turkey” parade near Thanksgiving ?? If you do this every year regardless of turnout, you’ll get bigger and bigger turnouts through awareness! Thank you!!

  2. Fred Galluccio says:

    I lived in Huntington Beach for just over 20 years and have been in a cpl of the 4 July Parades. It is quite a large event and I think a good venue for PIA to enter. Any interest in this? Anyone live in HB? I moved to a neighboring city 3 years ago.
    This could be a nationwide event, as many cities have parades like this day. What do you folks think?
    I am new to this grp…literally just joined. So forgive me if this is not the correct place to put up ?’s like this.
    (I did go to the Orange County event last month. It was great!!!)

    1. Alexandra says:

      Wonderful you went to the OC Tailgate with No Talipipes celebration on National Plug In Day, Thank you for joining PIA. You are now a member of the largest, most progressive EV non profit in the world.

      Having EVs in parades is a great idea! Brian Deming (PIA supporter and mega volunteer at the SM parade) suggested this just yesterday, so it is funny I should read this comment today. I suggest writing to events@pluginamerica.org and reiterating your great idea! I have also floated the idea with the Outreach & Education committee and they are going to discuss it at their next meeting. Cannot hurt to push the idea, though!

      Can you get information on your local July 4 parade? Since PIA is a volunteer organization, please onsider organizing some EVs in your area to participate. Our bandwidth is stretched thin as it is, so self-starting EV enthusiasts and their follow through on great ideas (like yours) is vital. Linda Nicholes has her awesome Tesla and there are Leafs and Volts and RAVs in your area, as you know from the OC event last month.

      Thank you for writing in and we really appreciate you being a member.

    2. Richard says:

      Fred, we have a good group of members in the HB area. We’ve done the HB Green Expo for 4 years now. I suspect the HB 4th of July Parade would require a different approach. I haven’t been in a while, but from what I remember, it’s more of an oldie/cruiser crowd. What could we do to get the Plug In America message across in a way that will be received well by this group? Not sure if the Shriner’s are still at it, but at the very least, we could present a counterpoint to the little toy cars.

    3. Linda says:

      As a Huntington Beach resident, I like the way your mind is working, Fred! I’m also delighted that you enjoyed National Plug In Day in Orange County!

      I agree with Richard that the usual HB 4th of July parade participants are a more traditional breed — “cruisers” as he put it. But maybe it’s time for Plug In America to shake this particular car culture up a bit. IMO it would be great to have an electric car contingent in the annual Huntington Beach 4th of July parade. We could emphasize the theme of patriotism, national security and why electric cars are a boon to both.

  3. Sharon Sarris says:

    The Santa Cruz, California area joined together with the Electric Auto Association-Central Coast for National Plug In Day. Hundreds of people enjoyed the sunshine while talking to the owners of various electric transporation options: 2 Chevrolet Volts, 6 Nissan Leafs (including the Santa Cruz Nissan dealer who provided test drives), 2 Zero Motorcycles, 2 electric Trikkes, 1 electric scooter, Green Vehicles’ Moose NEV, Wildfire NEV, 2 legacy Toyota RAV-4, a Honda conversion and the T-Zero. The local Sierra Club chapter and the Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Alliance (MBEVA) supported the event that was held downtown in the Ecology Action/Cruzio parking lot which has 3 dual-outlet Coulomb ChargePoint charging stations, partially funded by ChargePoint America.

    Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties are working together to promote the adoption of electric vehicles throughout the region. For example, more than 50 charging stations are planned for the 3 counties and 9 of those (funded by the California Energy Commission and the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District) are currently operating.

    Submitted by: Sharon Sarris, Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Alliance (www.MBEVA.org)

  4. Chad Schwitters says:

    Alexandra, thanks so much for all your work. I organized the Seattle event with only had 80 cars–I can’t imagine how busy you must have been!

    The Seattle event was at Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island, which is a very pretty setting. We parked most of the cars around a circular walking path with views of the lake; the remaining cars were in the parking lot giving rides. The sun didn’t break through, but at least it didn’t rain. PSE brought some snacks, and there were some speakers in the center of the circle. Pictures are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/npid2011/sets/72157627911773298/ and http://gallery.me.com/stevenslough#100294. There is also a synth from before the event started at http://photosynth.net/view/7c1e9ad3-88c4-4f22-bfdf-2b29a4337029.

    For vehicles, we had the following (representing about 700k all-electric miles):

    42 Nissan Leafs (some giving rides)
    12 Tesla Roadsters (some giving rides)
    2 Mitsubishi i-Mievs (one giving rides)
    2 Chevrolet Volts
    A Wheego LiFe
    3 plug-in Prius conversions
    7 older factory vehicles: Lectric Leopard, Toyota RAV4-EV, Ford Ranger EV, Chevy S10 EV
    7 home conversions – small cars, race cars, a truck with a range trailer, and a Ford F250 4WD club cab
    2 Corbin Sparrows
    A Vectrix maxi-scooter

    Attendees included the following organizations ready to answer questions:

    Puget Sound Energy
    City of Mercer Island
    Plug In America
    Sierra Club
    Seattle Electric Vehicle Association
    Charge NW, with a Coulomb Chargepoint charging station
    Ecotality, with a BL!NK charging station
    Seattle City Light
    Representatives from a few local plug-in dealers: Stadium Nissan, Mitsubishi, Cycle Barn, MC Electric, Pacific EV
    Clean Cities Coalition
    Metro Van Pool (with their electric Leaf for carpools)
    AAA had information on an EV response truck

    Speakers were:

    Chad Schwitters, Vice President of Plug In America
    Anastasia Schemkes, Washington Beyond Oil Organizer for the Sierra Club
    Stephen Johnsen, Vice President of Seattle EV Association
    Mike Grady, member of Mercer Island City Council
    Patrick Leslie, Puget Sound Energy
    Tonia Buell, Washington Department of Transporation

    Steven Lough, President of Seattle EV Association: History Of EVs
    James Billmaier, author of JOLT!: Why EVs are Important for America
    Steve Marshall, Fellow of Cascadia Center: Policies to help EV Adoption

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