Santa Monica, California drew the stars and cars early on Sunday, Oct. 16 to help celebrate National Plug In Day. The event, a joint effort between Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association, was held in 21 cities, with electric vehicle owners participating in parades, tailpipe-free tailgate parties, and other festive grassroots events. "It's wonderful to see all these cars with plugs," raved actor and eco-activist Ed Begley, Jr. at the Santa Monica parade. "I've had a Rav4 electric for ten years come February and [it has] 94,000 miles."
Begleyjoined by "Revenge of the Electric Car" producer Chris Paine, former "Baywatch" actress Alexandra Paul, model pitchman Fabio, Los Angeles Congresswoman Janice Hahn, and Air Force veteran Tim Goodrichsnapped photos and spoke to a crowd at Santa Monica's city hall before sending 188 eco-friendly vehicles down the road.
"It was so quiet as we drove that we could talk to people along the route," says parade participant Deb LaCusta, who steered her new bright blue Nissan LEAF alongside her husband, actor Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer on "The Simpsons"). "It was fun to be involved and get the message out."
Iraq war vet Goodrich delivered an exceptionally poignant message. "While serving in the Middle East, I quickly realized that America's involvement had a lot to do with our need for gas and fossil fuels." Eventually Goodrich grew opposed to the war and returned to America after his tour to champion electric vehicles.
Not that driving electric makes for an easy cause. Critics are quick to point out the obstacles: they often lack power and run on expensive lithium batteries that only last for several years. Batteries need to be constantly recharged, and the cars aren't great for long distances. "We talk about range anxiety and plugging in, and what happens to batteries," admits producer Paine, "but what really changes people is the experience of driving an electric car."
For longtime electric vehicle advocate Paul Scott, it is America's overdependence on oil and the resulting economic impact that's tantamount. "We import 60% of our oil. So 60 cents on every dollar you pay for oil leaves our economy," the Plug In cofounder explains. "Just in the first months of this year, the oil industry made billions in profits. Electric vehicles are powered by domestic electricity, so every cent we spend to run them stays in America."
Electric cars have a global humanitarian appeal as well. "After Japan's tsunami, we gave 90 electric vehicles to the disaster relief program," says David Patterson, Los Angeles Mitsubishi General Manager. "Because all the gas stations were devastated, [Japanese officials] put quick charge stations in strategic areas so all the government officials and doctors were able to drive the electric cars where they needed to go."
Alongside the shiny new Nissan LEAFs, Chevy Volts, Codas, Teslas, Fisker Karma, MINI Es, Smart ED, Wheego Lifes, and Zero DS motorcycles were electric service trucks. Like a Smith electric truck owned by Staples, Santa Monica City maintenance vehicles, and a Coke beverages delivery truck. "It gets 100 miles per charge out of it," says the Coke truck driver. "With the weight that it carries, you get a lot. You're saving on fuel and getting all the customers taken care of. No maintenance. No oil changes. No fueling up anywhere."
Now that's a message that delivers.
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