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USA: Steve Scauzillo: Electric car owners’ tell stories

AQMD Engineer Jeanne Villacorte charges her 2011 Nissan Leaf, an all-electric plug-in car at the charging station during the California Community Plug-In Electric Vehicle Readiness Workshop hosted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District in Diamond Bar on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. (SGVN/Staff photo by Watchara Phomicinda)
ASK anyone in automobile-centric L.A. and they will have a story to tell about their car. But oh boy, ask electric car owners and you will be entertained.
I did so last week at a plug-in electric car (PEV) readiness conference at the South Coast Air Quality Management District in Diamond Bar.

There I met Curt Gibbs, one of two owners of the new, all-electric, Nissan Leaf.

Gibbs bought the car for his wife, who passed away from a terminal illness before she got a chance to drive it. It was her dream to make a difference by ditching the gasoline car for good.

“My Nissan Leaf is like her parting gift to me,” said Gibbs, who told me the story in an alcove of the meeting room where he had just finished speaking about “Living with a PEV.”

His wife died Nov. 18. It was just before their new Leaf had arrived. But she and her husband test drove a similar model together and had agreed to make the switch from gasoline-fossil-fuel car to all-battery plug-in.

The former development officer with the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency told me he had just lost his job – since the state ended redevelopment agencies. He is now the founder and executive director of, a website listing happenings in L.A. and how to get there.

You might say he is embarking on a triple whammy of a journey with a new job, an electric car and being a widower.

Driving a Leaf means always


having to plan, the owners told me. Finding the next public charging station is like striking gold. Gibbs can tell you what malls have public charging stations and which ones do not. Ask him which downtown L.A. garages have charging stations. And airports? Ask him about airports and he smiles. They are an electric car owner’s dream since the re-charging is free.
When you talk nuts and bolts of driving a car that goes about 75 miles between charges and has no back-up engine, you need to meet Jeanne Villacorte, an engineer with the AQMD.

She has plug-in readiness all figured out.

Villacorte bought her Nissan Leaf about a year ago mostly for the drive from her home in Irvine to work in Diamond Bar and back. I caught up with her Tuesday at the charging station in the AQMD parking lot.

I asked her: How much does owning an electric car save you?


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