Plug In America Spotlight: Executive Director Joel Levin
07.16.2020 - by Silvia Gonzalez
Plug In America Spotlight: Executive Director Joel Levin

Get to know Plug In America’s staff and board! This week’s spotlight is on Executive Director Joel Levin. He is focused on continuing to build Plug In America as the leading independent voice for electric vehicles in the United States.

What is your role at Plug In America?

I am the Executive Director. I have been in this role for five years. Because we have such committed and talented staff, my role is more like an orchestra conductor with a group of highly skilled musicians much of the time. I just try to make sure they are playing from the same page of music and have what they need to succeed.

What is your favorite part about being part of Plug In America?

I always enjoy talking with EV drivers at events and hearing their stories. EV drivers form a bit of a secret society in nearly every country (but without any secret handshakes or rituals). EV associations seem to form naturally in corners all over the world, from Glasgow to Bangalore to Kalamazoo because EV drivers all feel like they have discovered this secret that no one else knows and they want to share it and talk about it. EVs are just BETTER and the drivers want you to know it—as do I.

What drew you to Plug In America?

On its face, the mission of Plug In America seems like a modest little thing, to promote awareness of EVs and accelerate their roll-out. But in fact, what we are trying to accomplish is revolutionary, and I do not use that word lightly. If all transportation was electrified, the world would be a very different place. Petroleum is the world’s most widely traded commodity and mostly it is burned for transportation. The business of producing, refining, shipping, and selling petroleum has a vast environmental and economic footprint that reaches to every corner of the earth. Numerous wars are funded by it. The list of countries corrupted by oil is a long one. Imagine if you could swap it out for locally-produced renewable energy as a transportation fuel that everyone can cheaply produce on their roof, installed by local electricians.

Then, of course, there are tremendous environmental benefits to driving vehicles with no tailpipe and very low carbon emissions. Finally, there are the benefits to drivers of using a simple, elegant technology that is much more energy-efficient, runs on fuel you can produce yourself, and is simple to maintain with few moving parts. The consumer decision to buy an electric car is a bold vote for a different world, more sustainable and with a more local and decentralized economy. And on top of that, it’s more fun to drive.

That’s why I like working at Plug In America.

Tell us about your experience as an EV driver. What vehicles have you owned? Why do you like driving electric?

I drive a 2015 Nissan LEAF and a 2012 Chevy Volt. Both are great cars and well within the price range of most drivers. I love bringing them to events as conversation starters for people who are nervous about the cost of EVs and think that they are only cars for rich people. The combo of a LEAF and a Volt is a pretty common one in two-car households. An older LEAF is a great car for getting around town, zippy, and really fun to drive, but it’s not a road trip car. We probably put 95% of our miles on the LEAF. But when we go out of town and need the extra range, we can take the Volt.

My favorite thing about the experience of driving electric is merging onto the freeway, especially when the on-ramp is sloped uphill. A gas car might complain about the quick acceleration, especially on an uphill incline, but the LEAF just zips right into traffic.

Describe a memorable moment from your experience with Plug In America.

As mentioned above, there is a kind of connection among EV drivers, a shared experience. I manage to run into EV drivers almost anywhere I go. (Just ask my wife!)

We conduct a ride and drive event every spring on Capitol Hill for U.S. Senators and their staff. I have had the good fortune to meet a few senators over the years, and there are a couple of them who are EV drivers and absolutely get that EV gleam in their eyes and love to talk about their cars. Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon, for one, was on his second Chevy Volt when I last spoke with him and had used it for some major road trips.

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